After more than 30+ years of research, the management world begins to harvest on the findings. This month we will share about managing change from a brain perspective and some practical implications

Short review: The brain function as a network of communication. Together this network controls and operate all our physical and mental functions. The brain weigh about 2% of our body mass, but consumes approximately 20% of energy. In order to manage the constant constraint of energy, the brain is structured to run all its functions as efficiently as possible. It organizes memory in so called neural network after the principle that “what fires together wires together”.

Neural Network 100 billion neurons that on average is associated with 10,000+ other cells adding up to more than 10,000,000,000,000,000 nerve connections and approx. 175,000 km of nerve area (enough to reach 4 times around the world)

Hereafter a lot of autopilot is happening which can be described as thought patterns and emotional patterns. And to manage change is actually to manage these patterns – and by default, change becomes a difficult issue.

Here maybe the most important discovery since the penicillin brings us help: The brain is plastic and under constant construction. It constantly forms new cells and prone others, and the cells constantly form new pathways – neural network. These network are formed through the input and experiences we get. We become who we are, through what we think and do.

Two dynamics accelerate this formation: Successes and threats. The first dynamic is stimulating network that involve our logical and emotional part of the brain and the result is that of well-being, happiness, energy and curiosity with the aim to have more success. The second dynamic is stimulating the instinct part of the brain and the result is that of fear, avoidance, reluctance and caution.

Practical implications: One researcher has compared the neural network with a trail in the wood. The more you walk that path the clearer and accessible the trail will become.

As managers we are given two insights regarding to change:

1) The brain need to work a lot for the neural network to adopt to new things. Therefore,

a. We need patience and time to adjust.

b. We also need information and rationalities to process.

c. The most efficient way to process is to share and discus with others!

2) When we manage change, we manage the formation of neural network. Here you have two ways:

The productive and the counterproductive way:

a. The most effective and sustainable way is by focusing on “what you would like to see more of”. That is done most efficiently by appraising those new behaviors and attitudes you would like to see. The more you do it the more you build a sense of success and that accelerate building new neural network.

b. When we focus on failures and corrective feedback research show us that the brain has a tendency to react more from the instinct part of the brain. The tragic in that is that this actually reinforce those old neural network that we would like to change.

Henrik Julin, Senior partner EuroAcademy