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HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
HCAMAG.COM
ISSUE 11.11
AUSTRALIAN))
HR)AWARDS
WINNERS)
REVEALED
ONE-ON-ONE))
NBCUNIVERSAL'S-
PAT-LANGER
LOW)COST,)BIG)VALUE)
THE-ROI-OF-EAPs
HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
HCAMAG.COM
ISSUE 11.11
AUSTRALIAN))
HR)AWARDS
WINNERS)
REVEALED
HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
HCAMAG.COM
ISSUE 11.11
HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR: THE NEW NAME FOR HC MAGAZINE
AUSTRALIAN))
HR)AWARDS
WINNERS)
REVEALED
44"|"NOVEMBER"2013 HCAMAG.COM
CHANGE*MANAGEMENT*/*NEUROSCIENCE
As"leaders,"we"are"constantly"driving"and"facilitating"
change, yet research in this area has demonstrated
that 70% of change initiatives fail. Why? How can
we make change easier and more successful?
The neuroscience of change, and understanding
how our brains function, is vital to managing and
coping with change.
BRAINS ARE WIRED FOR SURVIVAL
Our brain functions as a survival tool by helping
us avoid danger. A part of the brain called the
amygdala helps monitor our responses and tells us
when to run from danger or towards safety. It also
tells us when to step towards a benefit or away
from a threat.
When change is happening around us in our
society, relationships and workplaces, we can feel
threatened, and that activates our amygdala. We
feel outside our comfort zones, triggering fear
and anxiety.
While this is good for our safety, it does come at
a cost. When our brain is in safety mode, protecting
Sonia"
McDonald
us from a perceived threat, it cannot function well
as a problem solver or creativity generator. In
the workplace, the fear of change causes people to
rely on tried and true routines, rather than create
new strategies to move forward. In effect, the
brain shuts down the part that is really needed at
that time.
Basically, the amygdala of your brain has been
hijacked and this is not the best time to make an
important decision.
Now you see why 70% of change initiatives fail.
By understanding how the brain works we can
manage change resistance and develop strategies
to maximise change potential. Additionally, it
gives us insights into how people learn, engage
and remember, as well as manage emotions.
BRAINS ARE LAZY
Considering that our brains weigh around 1.5kg and
absorb around 20% of our body’s energy, our brains
are not particularly energy efficient and are actually
pretty lazy. Our brains prefer comfy habits, as these
REWIRING THE BRAIN
HCAMAG.COM
FOR
CHANGE
NOVEMBER"2013"|"45"!!HCAMAG.COM
HUMAN*RESOURCES*DIRECTOR
Sonia&McDonald
require a lot less energy. They don’t really like to
learn new habits or ways of doing things, as this
takes effort.
The design of the brain is not always helpful.
The part of the brain that is responsible for
thinkingandhigh-orderprocessing(theprefrontal
cortex) requires a lot more energy to function than
does the part of the brain that deals with emotion
(the limbic system). That means it’s a lot harder
for us to cope with change than to return to our
tried and true habits.
How can we break habits and form new ones? In
his book The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr Norman
Doidge tells us that the brain can be changed by
our thoughts and actions. They physically alter the
structure of the brain itself, which in turn changes
the way it functions. This is the most important
breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries.
This ability of our brain to change and make
new connections, rewire itself and even grow
new brain cells as a result of experience is called
‘neuroplasticity’. Change is about forming new
wiring, habits and behaviours. Yes, we can teach
an old dog new tricks!
How can we harness neuroplasticity of change?
By tapping into the emotions…
BRAINS ARE AFFECTED BY EMOTION
We know that often our behaviour is controlled by
emotion rather than common sense. What that tells
us is that the limbic system in the brain has some
control over the information that is passed onto the
cortex,whichcontrolsourdecision-makingsystem.
In other words, our thoughts and actions are
coloured or skewed by the emotion that we are
feeling. You’ve heard of rose-coloured glasses, the
phenomenon that makes certain things look better
than they really are. That’s an example of the limbic
system influencing our beliefs and perceptions.
When people are afraid, as they usually are at
the thought of change, our limbic systems colour
our perceptions with threat and fear. People only
see the negative side of change because that is all
their brain permits. If the change is brought about
for positive reasons, then people will accept it and
be ready to involve themselves in making change
happen.
MAKING THE BRAIN WORK FOR YOU
So, we know that our brains are wired for survival,
that they are lazy and will take the easiest thought
out of there, and that every thought is coloured by
emotion. We also know that actions and thoughts
can change the physical structure of the brain.
How can we use that knowledge to make the
brain lead us towards supporting change rather
than running away from it?
There are two key solutions.
First, you can use neuroplasticity to your
advantage and provide opportunities for people to
develop new thoughts and practise new actions and
behaviours, thereby rewiring the brain.
Second, you can make the limbic system work
for you by creating positives around change,
especially to reinforce behaviour and thought
changes.
We need to build organisational change systems
that capture the important role of emotions
in determining behaviour, particularly in the
contexts of engagement, resistance, cooperation,
and commitment. What that means in the
workplace is that every small step forward needs to
be acknowledged.
Change leaders are essentially helping people to
develop new connections within their brains. Our
role should involve creating opportunities and
interventions that give people the chance to trial
new behaviours in a safe environment. We should
allow them to take the ‘risk’ of doing something
uncomfortably new and succeeding at it. The more
fun we can build into the experience, the more
people will become involved in it.
Positivereinforcementisessentialtohelpembed
the new thoughts and behaviours and to show the
limbic system that this change is nothing to fear.
The more often we can encourage people to
repeat the new actions, the more comfortable their
brains will allow them to feel. When people are
comfortable, their high-order thought processes
resume functioning and their creativity and
decision-making skills start firing again.
If you are leading change in your organisation
you can create the right atmosphere for change by
building a safe and positive environment for your
team and identifying ways to acknowledge and
reward new actions or behaviours.
The fear of change causes people
to rely on tried and true routines,
rather than create new strategies
to move forward

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Why Change is Hard - HRD Magazine by Sonia McDonald

  • 1. HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR HCAMAG.COM ISSUE 11.11 AUSTRALIAN)) HR)AWARDS WINNERS) REVEALED ONE-ON-ONE)) NBCUNIVERSAL'S- PAT-LANGER LOW)COST,)BIG)VALUE) THE-ROI-OF-EAPs HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR HCAMAG.COM ISSUE 11.11 AUSTRALIAN)) HR)AWARDS WINNERS) REVEALED HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR HCAMAG.COM ISSUE 11.11 HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR: THE NEW NAME FOR HC MAGAZINE AUSTRALIAN)) HR)AWARDS WINNERS) REVEALED
  • 2. 44"|"NOVEMBER"2013 HCAMAG.COM CHANGE*MANAGEMENT*/*NEUROSCIENCE As"leaders,"we"are"constantly"driving"and"facilitating" change, yet research in this area has demonstrated that 70% of change initiatives fail. Why? How can we make change easier and more successful? The neuroscience of change, and understanding how our brains function, is vital to managing and coping with change. BRAINS ARE WIRED FOR SURVIVAL Our brain functions as a survival tool by helping us avoid danger. A part of the brain called the amygdala helps monitor our responses and tells us when to run from danger or towards safety. It also tells us when to step towards a benefit or away from a threat. When change is happening around us in our society, relationships and workplaces, we can feel threatened, and that activates our amygdala. We feel outside our comfort zones, triggering fear and anxiety. While this is good for our safety, it does come at a cost. When our brain is in safety mode, protecting Sonia" McDonald us from a perceived threat, it cannot function well as a problem solver or creativity generator. In the workplace, the fear of change causes people to rely on tried and true routines, rather than create new strategies to move forward. In effect, the brain shuts down the part that is really needed at that time. Basically, the amygdala of your brain has been hijacked and this is not the best time to make an important decision. Now you see why 70% of change initiatives fail. By understanding how the brain works we can manage change resistance and develop strategies to maximise change potential. Additionally, it gives us insights into how people learn, engage and remember, as well as manage emotions. BRAINS ARE LAZY Considering that our brains weigh around 1.5kg and absorb around 20% of our body’s energy, our brains are not particularly energy efficient and are actually pretty lazy. Our brains prefer comfy habits, as these REWIRING THE BRAIN HCAMAG.COM FOR CHANGE
  • 3. NOVEMBER"2013"|"45"!!HCAMAG.COM HUMAN*RESOURCES*DIRECTOR Sonia&McDonald require a lot less energy. They don’t really like to learn new habits or ways of doing things, as this takes effort. The design of the brain is not always helpful. The part of the brain that is responsible for thinkingandhigh-orderprocessing(theprefrontal cortex) requires a lot more energy to function than does the part of the brain that deals with emotion (the limbic system). That means it’s a lot harder for us to cope with change than to return to our tried and true habits. How can we break habits and form new ones? In his book The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr Norman Doidge tells us that the brain can be changed by our thoughts and actions. They physically alter the structure of the brain itself, which in turn changes the way it functions. This is the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries. This ability of our brain to change and make new connections, rewire itself and even grow new brain cells as a result of experience is called ‘neuroplasticity’. Change is about forming new wiring, habits and behaviours. Yes, we can teach an old dog new tricks! How can we harness neuroplasticity of change? By tapping into the emotions… BRAINS ARE AFFECTED BY EMOTION We know that often our behaviour is controlled by emotion rather than common sense. What that tells us is that the limbic system in the brain has some control over the information that is passed onto the cortex,whichcontrolsourdecision-makingsystem. In other words, our thoughts and actions are coloured or skewed by the emotion that we are feeling. You’ve heard of rose-coloured glasses, the phenomenon that makes certain things look better than they really are. That’s an example of the limbic system influencing our beliefs and perceptions. When people are afraid, as they usually are at the thought of change, our limbic systems colour our perceptions with threat and fear. People only see the negative side of change because that is all their brain permits. If the change is brought about for positive reasons, then people will accept it and be ready to involve themselves in making change happen. MAKING THE BRAIN WORK FOR YOU So, we know that our brains are wired for survival, that they are lazy and will take the easiest thought out of there, and that every thought is coloured by emotion. We also know that actions and thoughts can change the physical structure of the brain. How can we use that knowledge to make the brain lead us towards supporting change rather than running away from it? There are two key solutions. First, you can use neuroplasticity to your advantage and provide opportunities for people to develop new thoughts and practise new actions and behaviours, thereby rewiring the brain. Second, you can make the limbic system work for you by creating positives around change, especially to reinforce behaviour and thought changes. We need to build organisational change systems that capture the important role of emotions in determining behaviour, particularly in the contexts of engagement, resistance, cooperation, and commitment. What that means in the workplace is that every small step forward needs to be acknowledged. Change leaders are essentially helping people to develop new connections within their brains. Our role should involve creating opportunities and interventions that give people the chance to trial new behaviours in a safe environment. We should allow them to take the ‘risk’ of doing something uncomfortably new and succeeding at it. The more fun we can build into the experience, the more people will become involved in it. Positivereinforcementisessentialtohelpembed the new thoughts and behaviours and to show the limbic system that this change is nothing to fear. The more often we can encourage people to repeat the new actions, the more comfortable their brains will allow them to feel. When people are comfortable, their high-order thought processes resume functioning and their creativity and decision-making skills start firing again. If you are leading change in your organisation you can create the right atmosphere for change by building a safe and positive environment for your team and identifying ways to acknowledge and reward new actions or behaviours. The fear of change causes people to rely on tried and true routines, rather than create new strategies to move forward