Organisational change from a brain perspective

Published by Tony Quinlan on

I loved this article in a recent edition of strategy+business.

The Neuroscience of Leadership looks at organisational change and transformation from the perspective of what we now understand about the brain.  Common sense, but so rarely applied.  It’s particularly good at highlighting the failings of some of the more common, mechanistic approaches to change programmes.

I particularly liked:

Managers who understand the recent breakthroughs in cognitive science can lead and influence mindful change: organizational transformation that takes into account the physiological nature of the brain, and the ways in which it predisposes people to resist some forms of leadership and accept others. This does not imply that management — of change or anything else — is a science. There is a great deal of art and craft in it. But several conclusions about organizational change can be drawn that make the art and craft far more effective. These conclusions would have been considered counterintuitive or downright wrong only a few years ago. For example:

    *      Change is pain. Organizational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort.
*      Behaviorism doesn’t work. Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run.
*      Humanism is overrated. In practice, the conventional empathic approach of connection and persuasion doesn’t sufficiently engage people.
*      Focus is power. The act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in the brain.
*      Expectation shapes reality. People’s preconceptions have a significant impact on what they perceive.
*      Attention density shapes identity. Repeated, purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.

I think one of the best ways of summing up the whole article is something a colleague of mine says a lot of the time:  “Where you look is where you go.”  Keep looking there and you’ll keep getting there.