xxxxxvi) Neuroscience

Need to understand concepts of neuroscience (the study of anatomy and physiology of the brain) and its integration with other disciplines, such as psychology (the study of the human mind and human behaviour). This helps explain why organisational change, etc can be so difficult. For example

- change is pain as it provokes sensations of physical discomfort

- behaviourism has limited long-term application if it is based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick approach)

- humanism has limited application in engaging people if it is practised using an empathetic approach of connection and persuasion

- focus is important as the act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in the brain

- expectations shape reality as people's preconceptions have a significant impact on what they perceive

- attention density shapes identity as repeated, purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution

In summary, neuroscience states

"...Is the answer to all the challenges of change......on solutions instead of problems, let them come to their own answers, and them the focus on their insights? Apparently that's what the brain wants..."

David Rock et al, 2006

Successful management practices, such as "open-book management", continuous improvement like TQM, etc use this approach.


"...there are four elements of brain function that are deemed most applicable to business leadership: the ability to think more creatively and use intuition by improving attention and changing thinking habits; the ability to interconnect......which is enhanced when we have lower frequency brain waves to slow down our thinking......and the need for positive feedback to help create and reinforce new ways of operating; the health effects on the entire body from the brain working under chronic stress and with excess adrenaline...evidence from magnetic resonance imaging of the brain which shows that, far from being born with a fully wired brain, we progress through life with our grey cells constantly making new connections..."

Catherine Fox, 2007m

"...if we want to hard wire a new behaviour we just need to give our new mental map enough attention over enough time to ensure that it becomes embedded in our brain. So if business management wants to improve people performance......our job is to support employees finding different ways to approach situations, giving them time and plenty of positive feedback along the way..."

David Rock as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2007m

" offers a deeper understanding of the reasons people find change so unsettling and insight into the way people approach new tasks or manage upheaval. It also helps us to understand how the human brain uses mental resources to deal with ambiguity, resolve conflict, or find creative solutions to complex problems..."

David Rock et al as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2007m

. Not understanding how the brain works. This means the need to by-pass the preferred initial limbic, survival response to change, to the cognitive part of the brain so that a more reasoned, rational response occurs. An example of the limbic response is when walking along a path and you see something that resembles a snake. Your initial limbic, survival response is to jump/run away as fast as possible. On further investigation (cognitive response), you notice that object has not moved and is a stick. Thus one of the challenges in change is to get beyond the limbic response to the cognitive one. Remember:

- the part of the brain that registered physical pain is the same part that change impacts on

- we are hardwired for 50,000 years of cave man living where change was more than career threatening - it was life threatening.



- exercise is important

"...The brain appears to be designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment, and to do so is in nearly constant motion..."

John Medina, 2009

- research has shown that regions of the adult brain are just as malleable as a baby's and thus at any age, connections can be created and existing connections strengthened. It is "use it or loss it"!!!!!!

- the brain wants to save energy and the cognitive thinking response uses considerably more energy than the limbic. Thus the limbic response is the preferred response by the brain.

- Some challenging questions for neuroscience:

i) How do animals know migration routes that they have never individually experienced before?

ii) How does somebody intuitively recover a technique that disappeared years ago?

iii) How do ideas and solutions appear to us as insights in the brain when it is relaxed like when sleeping, doing mild exercise, etc?

iv) How to explain the Eureka moments in scientific discovery?

. Not realizing that resistance has merit. The resistors who have a good understanding of the organisation can provide valuable insights about how proposed changes might be modified to increase the odds of success.

. Not realizing that conflict and resistance are largely the result of unmet emotional needs in people. These emotional needs fuel resistance and defensive responding. On the other hand, they can provide the basis for productive collaboration by establishing a platform of trust by effective and honest communications while respecting other points of view. Part of this involves acknowledging the emotional contract that underlies every rational need.


"...Learn to suspend judgment and to develop an attitude of curiosity. Understanding the cognitive dimensions of empathy helps you to focus on the importance of gathering a sense of what others are feeling, experiencing and intending. By adopting an attitude of genuine curiosity and by suspending judgment you focus on getting to the heart of the other person's experience. By keeping your eyes engaged with the speaker, asking questions for clarification, remaining open and paraphrasing what you hear, you overcome resistance and create the conditions for effective collaboration..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

- need to understand the Hawthorne effect (peoples' behaviours change when they know they are being observed). On the other hand, if people don't know they are being watched, you get more reliable, quicker results. 

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