Neuroplasticity is a bit of a buzzword in psychological circles right now, the term describing the changes that can occur in the brain, not just through trauma but through deliberate development. So what can this ‘brain science’ tell us about our capability to manage organisational change?
In his book ‘Your Brain at work’, David Rock provides a very accessible and readable overview of some the recent research into the brain’s functions, capabilities and limitations. The part of the brain that detects changes is situated close to the deeper regions that drive some of our basic fight or flight responses. When these regions are stimulated, energy is diverted away from the higher intellectual functions of the prefrontal cortex, so our responses tend to be more driven by emotional and impulsive forces. So the fear and uncertainty of change is, quite literally, deeply experienced.
So neuroscience supports the views of Harvard change expert John Kotter and others that change cannot be effectively implemented by engaging in a purely intellectual exercise of persuasion. As Kotter states in ‘The Heart of Change’: “Changing behaviour is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts, than helping them to see a truth that influences their feeling”. So what do the neuroscientists have to suggest on how we go about changing our brains to meet new challenges?
Rock outlines his model of ARIA (Attention, Reflection, Insight and Action) as a practical technique for increasing insight when we are faced with dilemmas. The crucial first step of focussing attention is key to helping the brain cope with challenges; as we shift our attention to new solutions we engage a new network of brain cells that literally begin to re-wire themselves. The aim here is to allow the deeper regions of the brain to focus on the issues and not to allow the intellectual prefrontal cortex to get involved and over-complicate matters. One way to facilitate this could be to define the challenge in as few words as possible, reducing ito a simple statement. If we can then reflect upon our own thinking processes from a more detached level, we frequently find new insights come flooding in, in much the same way as ideas come dreamily flowing to mind from a state of reverie. At a physiological level these insights are visible from electrical and chemical changes in the brain, stimulating our sense of attention and excitement.
Training ourselves to use the capacity of our brains in a different way may provide us with new capabilities to manage change. Thinking about how we think can often throw up profound insights, in a way that days of logical analysis may never achieve.
Leading Bold Change ™ is a leadership programme based on the work of John Kotter. The programme allows learning and application of world-class change leadership principles in a fun, engaging, stimulating environment based on a best-selling parable about change. Leading Bold Change encourages these approaches and combines them with a pragmatic planning tool; asking us to step back, look at things differently, notice how we are affected by the changes and working with powerful metaphors that enable new perspectives. The resulting actions are ones that may really take us to the heart and mind of change - don’t you think?
To find out more about Leading Bold Change, visit http://www.flint-consulting.com/leading-bold-change.html and click on some of the resources you will find there. Alternatively, call us on +44 (0) 191 240 4050 or email email@example.com.
Business & Coaching Psychologist and Leading Bold Change Facilitator.