Brain, Body, And Business


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We’re living in an extraordinary momen, time of enormous change:
- What does it take to be in shape for continual change?
- To lead others to thrive in a shifting environment?
- To minimize the suffering around change, and leverage the opportunity to contribute more?

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  • Brain, Body, And Business

    1. 1. Brain, Body, & Business Want to be Fit to Thrive in Any Economy? © The BestWork People 2009
    2. 2. We’re living in an extraordinary moment <ul><li>A time of enormous change </li></ul><ul><li>What does it take to be in shape for continual change? </li></ul><ul><li>To lead others to thrive in a shifting environment? </li></ul><ul><li>To minimize the suffering around change, and leverage the opportunity to contribute more? </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    3. 3. We humans make our living in exchanges <ul><li>Exchanging with others is in our biology – it’s an essential part of being human </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    4. 4. Commerce is based in vulnerability <ul><li>The roots go back more than 3 million years: walking upright made birthing increasingly difficult; babies were born increasingly immature </li></ul><ul><li>Cooperation was essential </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    5. 5. Commerce and the brain evolved together © The BestWork People 2009   Brain Body Business Lucy 3,200,000 yrs 160,000 gens 500 cc Male 5’ 100# Female 4’ 50# Walking upright, arched foot Sloped forehead Cooperating and Coordinating Primitive tools Language? Communities in Africa 1,000,000 years 50,000 gens 1000 cc Heavy brow ridges Less sloping forehead Good cutting edges Communities in Asia, Africa, maybe Europe 25,000 years 1,250  gens 1500 cc Modern Pre- Frontal Cortex (PFC) Male 6’ 150# Female 5’5” 120# Fully modern Trading over thousands of miles Art Elegant tools Herding Communities in Asia, Africa, Australia, and maybe the Americas 10,000 years 500 gens X X Horticulture, towns 5,000 years 250 gens X X Cities, warfare, taxes, writing 600 years 30 gens X X Italian Renaissance, banking Can exchange without seeing each others’ eyes 230 years 11 gens X X Industrial revolution, modern cities People become ‘consumers’ & ‘pairs of hands’
    6. 6. Commerce is as old as the first human community <ul><li>Developed over more than 200,000 generations </li></ul><ul><li>The brains of early hominids are about 1/3 the size of modern humans </li></ul><ul><li>The brain reached it current size about 1300 generations ago </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    7. 7. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re alive </li></ul><ul><li>We seek pleasure as part of the life force </li></ul><ul><li>We experience pain and fear to protect the life force </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    8. 8. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>  Because we’re mammals </li></ul><ul><li>We love feeling like we belong and we hate feeling left out </li></ul><ul><li>Some social mammals retain into adulthood, eg dogs, dolphins, humans </li></ul><ul><li>Among social mammals, when with our group, part of our brain is dedicated to concerns about status (part of belonging) </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns about status stress the brain – nothing new is possible </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    9. 9. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re mammals cont </li></ul><ul><li>When young - when not stressed - brains are plastic: can learn, can make new moves, </li></ul><ul><li>When confronted with a threat , we flee, freeze, or fight (we do not think, we do not learn, we cannot see anything new) </li></ul><ul><li>We can only take in a small bit of new stuff, then we need to rest or we’ll lose part or all </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    10. 10. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>  Because we’re primates </li></ul><ul><li>Belonging is the single most powerful driver: “A lone baboon is a dead baboon” </li></ul><ul><li>Status is a big concern: determines whether and what we eat, have sex, get beaten, get groomed </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    11. 11. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re human </li></ul><ul><li>Our brains remain plastic into adulthood </li></ul><ul><li>When not stressed, we can learn, we can make new moves, accept new questions, consider new possibilities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can even alter the brain’s ‘natural pathways’ ! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We experience belonging intensely </li></ul><ul><li>We love contributing and we hate not being able to contribute </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    12. 12. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re human cont </li></ul><ul><li>We love being thanked </li></ul><ul><ul><li>contributed to; gratitude is a powerful emotion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most of us feel ‘right’ when we’re doing stuff the way others do, and we can easily feel ashamed when we don’t know the ‘rules’ </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    13. 13. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re human cont </li></ul><ul><li>Exquisitely sensitive mirror neurons tell us how to fit in and whether we can trust </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I vulnerable with you? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you know me? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you care about me (do you get me and my concerns? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Are you in my tribe (automatically a safe trading partner?) </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    14. 14. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re human cont </li></ul><ul><li>Do I know you? (Did your mama know my mama?) </li></ul><ul><li>If so </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is my status with you/ your status with me? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you OK? How can I take care of you? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What kind of trading partner might you be? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How might you contribute to me and mine? </li></ul></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    15. 15. The brain’s powerful wiring <ul><li>Because we’re human cont </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For what can I rely on you? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In what domains are you competent? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you do what you say you’re going to do? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you say the same to me as to yourself/others? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When we’re in good shape, our large Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) is capable of remarkable feats </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    16. 16.
    17. 17. The brain can enable/disable us from responding effectively <ul><li>Many aspects of modern life conflict with the brain’s wiring </li></ul><ul><li>We’re natural inclined to avoid uncertainty, unless it’s in the form of play </li></ul><ul><li>We’re extremely disadvantaged doing business in a world bigger than our childhood ‘tribe’ </li></ul><ul><li>Multitasking ensures that we’re on autopilot </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    18. 18. In our world, we are called upon to design important exchanges <ul><li>An occasional event in tribal life </li></ul><ul><li>The Industrial Revolution – and the educational systems it spawned – in which we grew up - drove people away from ingenuity and curiosity </li></ul><ul><li>The global information age bombards us with ‘new’ stuff and demands innovation </li></ul><ul><li>It’s up to us to find ways to be fit. </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    19. 19. Peoples’ concerns are continually shifting <ul><li>“ You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…” but we humans can learn for our entire lives </li></ul><ul><li>We retain Neuroplasticity into adulthood </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    20. 20. We are able to take on new challenges (…invariably demanding new exchanges) © The BestWork People 2009
    21. 21. Reality – as processed by our brains - is social <ul><li>We are designed to consider others: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What they may be thinking and feeling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How they respond to us </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether we are safe with them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether they are safe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ The brain is built for sociality” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Matthew Lieberman, PhD, Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, UCLA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marco Iacoboni, MD, PhD, Neuropsychiatric Institute, UCLA </li></ul></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    22. 22. (c) Matthew Lieberman, UCLA, 2008
    23. 23. The basis of sociality and the basis of commerce are the same <ul><li>Noticing what others are concerned about </li></ul><ul><li>Making reliable promises </li></ul><ul><li>Commerce is in our biology – we’re made for it </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    24. 24. Social animals thrive together – not separately © The BestWork People 2009
    25. 25. We become ingenious when ‘our people’ are vulnerable <ul><li>People mobilized instantly in 18 degree weather </li></ul><ul><li>The mood of the whole country changed </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    26. 26. But the vulnerability we face in modern life is not what the brain is built for <ul><li>Wild predators present short intense moments of stress </li></ul><ul><li>For most of human history, people faced little ambiguity – the rules of living were clear </li></ul><ul><li>They knew their trading partners all their lives </li></ul><ul><li>The pace of change was slow </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    27. 27. <ul><li>“… human cognition, even in its most abstract and sophisticated form, is deeply embodied, deeply dependent on the processes and representations underlying perception and motor action. </li></ul><ul><li>“ We invent all kinds of complex abstract ideas, but we have to do it with old hardware: machinery that evolved for moving around, eating, and mating, not for playing chess, composing symphonies, inventing particle colliders, or engaging in epistemology for that matter. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Being able to re-use this old machinery for new purposes has allowed us to build tremendously rich knowledge repertoires. But it also means that the evolutionary adaptations made for basic perception and motor action have inadvertently shaped and constrained even our most sophisticated mental efforts.” </li></ul><ul><li>Lera Boroditsky Assistant Professor of Psychology, </li></ul><ul><li>Neuroscience, and Symbolic Systems, Stanford University </li></ul>(c) The BestWork People 2009                             
    28. 28. Whatever business you may be in… <ul><li>You’re in the business of generating rich exchanges </li></ul><ul><li>What would your world be like if exchanging with you was the richest experience of peoples’ day…week…? </li></ul><ul><li>When your PFC is not stressed, you can design </li></ul><ul><li>When clients’ and employees’ PFCs are not stressed, they can fully partner </li></ul><ul><li>Our brains are plastic; you can learn to make it happen. </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    29. 29. © The BestWork People 2009
    30. 30. At it’s best, the PFC is capable of extraordinary feats <ul><li>To question </li></ul><ul><li>To invent </li></ul><ul><li>To create </li></ul><ul><li>To interpret </li></ul><ul><li>To communicate </li></ul><ul><li>To choose </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    31. 31. © Kevin Ochsner, Columbia University, 2008
    32. 32. Be aware: brain fitness <ul><li>Exercise and moving </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on an interesting question </li></ul><ul><li>Labels and patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Breaks and rest </li></ul><ul><li>Pictures </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns for status </li></ul><ul><li>Multitasking </li></ul><ul><li>Fatigue </li></ul><ul><li>Stress </li></ul><ul><li>Danger/risk/rejection </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguity/change </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009 Enables Impairs PFC function
    33. 33. Want a brain fit for any economy? <ul><li>Optimize PFC function </li></ul><ul><li>Remove stress from your brain and body: </li></ul><ul><li>Choose a regular practice to ‘empty’ your mind: 3-5 minutes of guided breathing will de-stress the corpus collosum and allow the two sides of the brain to inter-function </li></ul><ul><li>Choose enjoyable moving exercise 3 – 4x/week </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to deeply stretch your body at least 2x/week </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    34. 34. At its best the PFC generates powerful interpretations <ul><li>Interpreting vulnerability </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying opportunity </li></ul><ul><li>Devising ingenious ways to use resources </li></ul><ul><li>Driving innovation </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    35. 35. Leaders can optimize PFC function <ul><li>Reduce perception of risk </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Labeling gives the feeling of being in control </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce ambiguity with clear outcomes, roles, & measures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be inclusive; minimize concern for status </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reduce Stress </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make it hip to rest and take breaks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make it un-hip to multi-task </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use the body (slide 32) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provide focus and meaning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The brain’s primary orientation is social; focus on others’ needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Introduce novelty: new questions and challenges </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Especially about others’ vulnerabilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Encourage play that stimulates the brain </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Encourage Exercise and Moving </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    36. 36. Curiosity is the silver bullet <ul><li>What does it take to operate in curiosity – no matter what? </li></ul><ul><li>Courage </li></ul><ul><li>- To question </li></ul><ul><li>- To see/hear/feel ‘unwelcome’ news </li></ul><ul><li>Fitness </li></ul><ul><li>- Limber body </li></ul><ul><li>- Full breathing </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    37. 37. What makes a question powerful? <ul><li>Provokes curiosity by: </li></ul><ul><li>Introducing a new interpretation, label, or distinction (Novelty drives up dopamine activity) </li></ul><ul><li>Focusing on others’ vulnerability </li></ul><ul><li>Opening possibilities for contributing </li></ul>© The BestWork People 2009
    38. 38. What might be possible if you could leverage the brain’s powerful wiring? © The BestWork People 2009
    39. 39. With gratitude for the teachers and researchers who illuminated the path Marsha Shenk is a veteran consultant, one of the pioneers of Business Anthropology.  Her syntheses of the cultural, biological, and historical influences that impact modern commerce have empowered business leaders for 3 decades. © The BestWork People 2009 39