The Brain-FriendlyWorkplace5 Big Ideas From NeuroscienceThat Address Organizational ChallengesErika Garms
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ContentsPreface . vPart 1: Convergence of Challenges Within the Workplace. 1Chapter 1: Upheaval in Management. 7Chapter 2: New and Different Employee Motivators. 23Chapter 3: Diversity. 29Chapter 4: Maintaining Civility in the Workplace. 41Chapter 5: COAT: Continuous, Overlapping, Accelerated Transition. 51Part 2: Five Big Ideas in Neuroscience and How toMake Them Useful. 67Chapter 6: Neuroplasticity. 73Chapter 7: SCARF Model of Human Motivation. 79Chapter 8: Recruitment of the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC). 97Chapter 9: Your Brain on Change .113Chapter 10: The Gift of Mindfulness.125Part 3: From Information to Application.133Chapter 11: A Look Inside Award-Winning Organizations.137Chapter 12: Putting the Science to Work.151Appendix: Brain-Friendliness Indicator: SELF Version.161References & Resources.163About the Author.169Index.171iii
Part 1Convergence of ChallengesWithin the WorkplaceORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGES ON THE HORIZONWORK OF THE FUTUREUpheaval inManagementNew Civility in dTransition
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Convergence of Challenges Within the WorkplaceTransformation of Work and How It’s DoneIt is an understatement to say that these are difficult times to be a part of theAmerican workforce. It is difficult for an employee enduring the many seismicshifts in the work that is done, the way that it is done, or who it is done in collaboration with. Is it also challenging to be an employer facing daunting challengesin one of three realms: hiring, training, retaining, and managing employees new ways of working and of being an employer reconceiving of, and redefining the work the organization will do.We are living in a time of the unprecedented the unimagined and untried.Mary O’Hara-Devereaux in “The 8 Macro-Drivers and Trends TransformingWork” (May 6, 2013) refers to this rapid transformation of what work is and howit is done as a collaboration of macro-drivers and trends, with the outcome being“ to sculpt a new landscape for work of the future.”This is big change. No longer incremental, these are game-changing, trulytransformational drivers and trends. Though individual thought leaders havetheir own viewpoints on specifically which factors will make the workplace ofthe near future particularly challenging, consensus does emerge across the voices. Are they technological advances or new product design methodologies thatare a complete departure from the methods we’ve become accustomed to? Wecan’t say these will not be among the most impactful factors. Will they includewildly innovative organizational designs and structures? Here also, early indicators would say that these are among the major factors. For the most part, though,the most significant are about people.To a certain extent the most significant are about intrapersonal challenges—managing one’s stress in the face of multiple, continuous transition, forexample. They also relate to the interpersonal. As O’Hara-Devereaux noted, itis not as much the technology itself or the sources of the disruption that demand3
Part 1our response, as it is our need to make choices about how we integrate theminto our lives. All at once, we are called upon to operationalize our raw intelligence, our emotional intelligence, and our learning agility—our IQ, EQ, andLQ. No wonder the words we use to describe our experience of present-daywork include “crazy,” “nuts,” “overwhelming,” “turbulent,” and so on.A human resource professional could cite big data as a major change driverfor the next five to 10 years. And he would be right. A hospital administratormight point to new health insurance policy structure as a major driver. Andshe would also be right. The workplace challenges that will be addressed in thisbook include those that closely rely on and affect people in work and that can bepositively affected by brain-friendly strategies. They are: upheaval in management motivating new employees diversity maintaining civility in the workplace managing more change faster creating new designs for work and organizations.Part 1 of this book will explore the above challenges ahead. Part 2 will thentake five big ideas from neuroscience—not the only five, and not the biggestideas from neuroscience—just five fundamental understandings that can easilybe used in the workplace to make things better. One more clarification should bemade (especially for those readers who look for logic, reason, detail, and thingsthat line up): the list of workplace challenges above do not map directly to thefive big ideas. The lists will not be a one-to-one match. There are great suggestions and relevant information from all of the big ideas that you can apply to allof the workplace challenges.4
Convergence of Challenges Within the WorkplaceDefining “Brain-Friendly”Next, what is meant by “brain-friendly”? Brain-friendly strategies are strategiesthat call upon us to use our brains in the ways they naturally function. Ourbrains have myriad processes and functions that occur in a certain way, in aparticular sequence, and triggered by specific events. Because we know this,we can manipulate our environment—to some degree—to be as conducive tobrain function as possible. This is the path of least resistance. This takes the leastenergy and causes the least dissonance or stress.As we’ll discuss further later in this book, our brains are always in a state wecall “toward” or “away.” In the toward state, a brain is most readily taking ininformation, is curious, seeks patterns or explanation, and can reflect on its ownthinking and awareness. In the away state, our perceptions narrow. The realm ofpossibilities actually constricts in our vision, perception, and awareness; we areaware of less and are less self-aware. We are not positioned for action, forwardmovement, or change. New information is critically judged, so much so that wedo not recognize all the stimuli that surround us. We want brains in workplacesto be in the toward state as much as possible, because this is the state in whichemployees are calm, reflective, focused, and able to do their best and mostcreative thinking and producing.“Brain-friendly learning” is a term and a constructthat has been around for decades. Back in the late1980s and early 1990s, progressive teachers at theelementary, middle school, and high school levelswere using brain-friendly techniques. The sameconcept of applying what we know about how thebrain works, to a particular environment (school,workplace) for better performance is happening here.5
Part 1Here are a few examples of workplace practices that are brain-friendly andthose that are not:Brain-FriendlyNot Brain-FriendlyStructuring meeting agendas in orderto parallel typical attention spansIgnoring limits of attention and focusin designing agendasSetting sales team goals andencouraging all to work togetherto meet and exceed themTelling one’s sales team that theemployee with the lowest close ratenext month will be on probationOrganized communications planis developed to spread the message ofupcoming reorganization; employeesare given multiple ways options forinteracting with others about the newsExecutive management announcesa reorganization that will begin in sixmonths; no details now but they willbe comingBy learning a bit about even a handful of fundamental brain processes, thenadapting the organization’s culture to fit those processes, workplaces can betransformed. They can end up looking like “best places to work” award winnersand “employers of choice,”—ultimately places where employees at all levels feelcalm, confident, and able to do what they are good at.6
Part 2Five Big Ideas in Neuroscienceand How to Make Them Useful
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Five Big Ideas in Neuroscience and How to Make Them UsefulWeathering the StormBy most accounts of renowned futurists and trend watchers, we are not yetdrinking from the proverbial fire hose. These monumental shifts are on coursefor a pileup but what we experience now are symptoms of being on the frontedge of the wave. These are leading indicators that illustrate our discomfort withand subconscious reaction to these trends: skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide drug use chronic disease (heart, cancer) burnout extreme labor shortages in certain niche areas outsourcing to other organizations (and countries).How do we survive or thrive in spite of these challenges in a way thatpreserves and prepares our human capital, improves processes and systems, andsupports organizational growth, innovation, and agility? One small step maybe the application of techniques emerging from recent neuroscience research.Where there is clearly no single panacea to help ease the turmoil, the field ofbrain science (also neurobehavior, neuroleadership, cognitive social neuroscience, and interpersonal behavioral neuroscience) does offer some fundamentalprinciples about brain function that can be adhered to in creating better workrelationships and environments.Increasing Organizational ResilienceUsing the techniques described in this book can improve employee’s work experiences, and therefore, their contribution to the organization. The work unitenvironment, the organizational climate, and the ultimate effectiveness of theorganization stand to improve, in turn, with the application of these “big ideas.”69
Part 2They are: neuroplasticity SCARF model of human motivation use and abuse of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) our brains on change mindfulness.The practices described will not, in and of themselves, create a “brainfriendly” environment, because that is the sum of many parts. It requiresconsistent use of brain-friendly techniques, as well as embedded brain-friendlyinfrastructure, processes, and systems. The practices you read about here, willcontribute to the shaping of a more brain-friendly working environment. Thisbook includes tools to enable an individual to: Benchmark the degree to which the work environment isbrain-friendly. Re-evaluate the brain-friendly measurement over time toassess change. Create an action plan designed to advance the environment towardyour “brain-friendly goals.”You may ask: What is the compelling reason for looking for a new approachto use in the face of these workplace challenges? The U.S. still lags behind other superpowers in labor force productivity. We’ve tried other methods for overall improvement and few madeimpacts; management trends and fads have come and gone, beenrecycled, and fizzled out without making a demonstrable impacton our organizations as a whole. Current management and organization science doesn’t matchpresent and future needs; it doesn’t adequately keep up withchanges and intensity. Brain research offers compelling findings about learning, changemanagement, and maintaining healthy work environments.70
Five Big Ideas in Neuroscience and How to Make Them Useful This new approach complements other frameworks for growingsuccessful organizations (for example, “best places to work”award winners).The chapters in part 2 explain the science