Workplace Neuroscience: How the Brain Works at Work

Change is hard especially at work and studies now show that because we are reluctant to change we are also programmed to fail.  In 1995, seventy percent of all major changes in an organization failed.  In 2008, we are still sitting at a thirty percent rate of success.  The rise of importance and use of change management as well as tactics, strategies, and theory hasn’t changed a thing.

As humans we are reluctant to change.  We yearn for instant results, and that is purely the fault of evolution.  Except that evolution can be used against us or maybe to better understand ourselves.  The choice of which is up to you.

Enter Marketing Neuroscience and Neuromarketing

You may have heard of the growth of scientific field of Neuromarketing.  I first read about this new emerging field of marketing in late 2011 after picking up a copy of Fast Company.  Researchers are using brain scans and other data to develop a direct correlation between brain function and consumer behavior.  I immediately wondered if the science of how the human brain works could be applied to human capital management practices like hiring, candidate science, and the workplace.  After all, isn’t this why big data is so important at work?  We want to improve our odds in business.  Improve our company’s success and impact the bottom line.  Hire, better, faster, and be more productive….yes.

Workplace Science Drive Organizational Change Management

Workplace neuroscience experts, like Reut Schwarz-Hebron say yes.  Using the increased technology and recently breakthroughs on the science of the brain, we are gaining an understanding in how different parts of the brain function.  More importantly, how do we prevent failure at work?

The solution according to brain science lies in the development of new neuron pathways.  This development of these pathways requires reinforcements of these new behaviors.  I see this similarly to starting a new exercise or workout program.  You have an established response or routine that is defined by a pathway.  Maybe it’s easier to eat fast food or to avoid working out.  It’s comfortable for you because of the neurons in your brain.  In fact, it’s your go to our default response.  And to change your routine of exercising and eating better involves the creation of a new habit and pathway requiring learning, planning, interacting, positive recognition, and executing.  These are also things managers need to actively do to reinforce and positively effect change at the organization and by their employees.

Managers Leading Organizational Change

This reprograming involves more than a standard email communication or memo from the CEO.  According to brain science and workplace neuroscience for organizations to succeed and their employees to embrace change, organizational leaders must focus on their employee and help create new neuro pathways for their employees in everything they do.  In fact neuroscience training is a growing trend for the workplace.  Human resource professionals and company managers must focus on the science of organizational change in everything they do from launching a new training program, workplace process, or employment video.

In short, add neuroscience expert to the long laundry list of manager and leadership skills and qualities an effective manager must now have in their toolkit to be an effective, dynamic, and successful leader for the organization.  Are you ready?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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  1. Jessica:
    I recently read the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” (Author Charles Duhigg) that tracks a theory similar to the neuroscience training concept explored above. I found the book interesting and compelling, especially as to consumer buying. Now every time I get a coupon from Target when I go through the checkout line, I see it from a different perspective.

    Keep up the good work on the blog.

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