The Brain’s Emotional & Social Reality

POY 51

It is about time that management teams start to manage their employees in a way that recognizes how the human brain functions. Neuroscience is giving executives insight into the brain with corresponding management and leadership implications.

Some examples of how neuroscience is helping challenge such workplace principles are:

  • Our attention is limited and we do a small amount of quality thinking every day. We are easily distracted but our workplace environments provide a multitude of distractions and little time for quality thinking.
  • We don’t understand the importance of emotions in human communications. Our work cultures tend to emphasize suppressing emotions but neuroscience reveals that this activates our limbic systems and depletes resources from our prefrontal cortices. This makes us less smart, is bad for memory (emotions are important in memory retention) and creates a threat response in others.
  • The human brain is social and huge amounts of the brain are dedicated to social interaction. The same brain network for feeling physical pain is used for feeling social pain. Yet the majority if work cultures deny this reality and work against the five components of the SCARF mode (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness).
  • Attention itself changes the brain. However, the majority of corporate change management initiatives do not focus employees’ attention on the few key priorities.

It seems that the newer generation of companies, unencumbered by decades of management thinking based on early twentieth century work environments, have introduced modern management practices that  not only engage their employees but are instrumental in rallying their workforces to achieve concrete business objectives. Some examples are:

  • Google understands that employees, in order to generate insights that move the business ahead, need to have some down time (thus, their 20% down time policy).
  • Companies like Zappos and SAS have implemented HR policies that recognize the social and emotional realities of the human brain – with excellent results related to employee engagement and business growth.
  • Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, has implemented a series of principles at the company that recognize the need to have employees work collaboratively (leverage their social brains) and accept and even embrace change (recognize the brain’s natural tendency to resist change) – with obvious great success.

When will business leaders in the rest of the business world take notice and teach their managers to lead their employees based on a new understanding of how the human brain functions?

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