NeuroScience for BusinessPeople

You don’t need to be a tech geek to use today’s advanced technologies, and you don’t to be a brain surgeon to apply current neuroscience principles to business.

That’s because both the technology and science communities appreciate that the power of their developments and discoveries is a function of the pace and scale by which they are distributed to the general population – the more people using them, the greater the benefit to individuals, organisations and society overall.

This is great news for business people and human resources professionals because neuroscience has, indeed, shed a new and powerful light on what really makes humans tick. If you’re in a leadership or management role, or for that matter, if you work with people in any capacity, there are insights here you cannot do without.

Such as:

  • Threat and reward responses drive behaviour.
    • Neurochemically-induced: by cortisol and adrenalin in the case of threat; dopamine and serotonin in the case of reward.
    • Subconscious: automatic and beyond your control – at least initially.
    • Highly compelling: the sense of concern or fear caused by threat, or the warm pleasant sensation caused by reward, is unmistakeable, immediate and immersive.
  • Patterns and associations interpret our experience.
    • Pattern recognition: is the default pathway taken by the subconscious brain to determine, Have I seen this before? How is it different? Is it good or bad?
    • Heuristics: these patterns and associations create analysis short-cuts and make us unwittingly prone to stereotyping and unconscious biases of all types.
    • Energy conservation:limited daily conscious cognitive processing capacity causes us to rely on subconscious patterns and associations – taking the ‘easy road’ to problem solving and decision making and creating the illusion that we are actively thinking.
  • Social connection is hard-wired into our psyche.
    • Safety and security: in evolutionary terms, survival of the human species has relied on social infrastructure that protects our young and supports groups and communities. So critical is this that significant neural real estate is dedicated to our social standing and relationships.
    • Relationships trigger threat and reward: many of our experiences are dependent on or involve other people. The social network that surrounds you – family, friends, work colleagues and other associates – have a substantial bearing on how you feel about yourself and your connection to these people.
    • Social pain mirrors physical pain:social pain, such as being bullied or belittled for example, has been shown in the lab to activate many of the same brain regions that are triggered by physical pain. It hurts. Studies have even shown that, as a result, mild social pain responds to a paracetamol tablet similarly to mild physical pain.

What does it mean for leaders and HR?

Are you trying to attract talent to your business?

The culture of your team and organisation reflects the social offering that internal and external candidates are evaluating. Does your environment foster a great place to work? Most of the time, is your team engaged, energised and successful? Or just tired, cynical and coping.

Evaluate your culture by social measures. Do your people:

  • feel valued and respected?
  • have clarity and certainty about their roles and the organisational direction?
  • feel empowered to influence matters that impact them?
  • have constructive and rewarding workplace relationships?
  • trust you, and feel decisions are made fairly and people are treated equitably?

If you are able to answer an unequivocal ‘yes’ to all of the above, congratulations – you have built a rewarding workplace culture. If not, take heart – most teams and organisations have some way to go on these measures – select one you can start on today.

Are you trying to develop the capability of your talent?

Great. Most people are keen to learn and grow to achieve their potential. All learning implies the extension or addition of new neural pathways and connections. Building on the foundational abilities of people is best achieved by:

  • immersing them in experiences that embed the required knowledge and focus their attention on the content.
  • presenting opportunities for self and team directed problem solving to generate creativity and powerful insights – aha!
  • making it human – add a dash of play and fun, or for more sober content, bring it to life through case studies that journal a personal story of success or failure.
  • respect the daily limits on cognitive load – present new learning content in stages, interspersed with mental breaks over time to allow absorption of the material and its integration with existing neural networks.
  • create rewards that recognise achievement and reinforce the learning.

Are you trying to retain great talent?

This may be every organisation’s biggest challenge in future, as great talent will seek mobility and new opportunities.

  • Ride this wave, don’t fight it. Accept that great talent is often the product of broad and varied experience – there for you to tap and nurture for a period, but not yours to keep.
  • The best retention strategy is simply to:
    • deliver on the promise you made at the point of attracting this talent, and
    • develop talent to unveil potential and support future aspirations.

None of it rocket science.

Just neuroscience.



Want more?

Consider an inhouse Executive Briefing on NeuroScience for BusinessPeople.


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