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Change & the Brain

Information on how change affects the human brain. Based on notes from the David Rock keynote address at the 2013 Association of Change Management Professionals.
by

Amy Peters

on 13 September 2013

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Transcript of Change & the Brain

Change is Hard on the Human Brain
3 Levels of Thinking
Delete an email
See a friend
Present
Schedule a meeting
Identify an object
Past
Write a business plan
Comprehend a concept
Future
1
2
3
Simplest
More Complex
Most Difficult
The brain can handle
5 to 6 hours of
level three thinking
each week.
The pre-frontal cortext is responsible for level three thinking

Like a muscle, it gets tired quickly
Good change agents
Respect that
change is painful
Change & the Brain
Based on David Rock's NeuroLeadership Principles
Behaviors exhibited:
Uncertainty
Problem Focused
Avoidance
Tunnel Vision
Data Focused
Disengaged
Human Brains React to
Threats & Rewards
Behaviors exhibited:
Interest
Solutions focused
Willing to Approach
Global View
Connection Focused
Engaged
Brains React to
Threats
More Strongly than
Rewards
Reduced motor function
Red field of view
Reduced working memory
Reduced insight
Increased generalization of threats
Errs on the side of pessimism
Human Brains are Deeply Social
Teams get collectively
smarter
when you add more people
Our best & worst memories are social
Positive social traits trump bad health habits
People are happier who have common areas in their work environment
Five Social Situations Create Threat & Reward Responses:
S
tatus
C
ertainty
A
utonomy
R
elatedness
F
airness
Status
is the perception of where you are compared to others
Physiology:
Three core brain systems evaluate status constantly
The brain treats attacks upon status as pain
Change Agents:
Focus on the
importance
of employees


Elevate each individual's
status
within the change
Certainty
is the inability to predict what will happen
Physiology:
The brain treats uncertainty more seriously than the negative or dangerous
Change Agents:
Create a path of
next steps
(today, tomorrow, next week)
Permit as much structure as possible
Provide perception of
small
improvements (regardless of how small, creates a huge change in perception)
Autonomy
the sense of control or ability to choose
Change Agents:
Permit people to make
choices
, no matter how small
Involve people in the
process
Relatedness
the categorization in the brain of
similar or different
trust or distrust
friend or foe
in the group or out of the group
Physiology:
The brain scans for relatedness constantly
The default is foe
The brain uses different areas to listen to those "in group" vs. "out of group"
(e.g. adults in Charlie Brown)
Change Agents:
Create shared
goals
to build a sense of "in group"
Foster
empathy
through shared goals
Fairness
is the perception that everyone is being treated equally
Factoid:
The percentage of sick leave used by the average employee directly correlates to their perception of how fairly they are treated
Change Agents:
Foster a sense of
fairness

Consider opportunities to be
transparent
Change situations often threaten all
FIVE
of these areas
This makes YOU and your agenda a powerful threat
Often you can't change all five
Pick the ones that provide you the biggest wins
Social influences are generational
Older generations are more influenced by threats or rewards to status
Younger generations are more influenced by autonomy and relatedness
Why does this matter?
Research into change effectiveness helps predict
how our change targets
(e.g. customers, colleagues, etc.) may react and provide possible areas to focus effort & energy.
CM Article: http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2013/03_01_2013/story3.htm
Factoid:
Question:
Name the types of changes humans encounter as a part of their everyday lives.
(e.g., learning to walk, going to college, become a parent)
So why is change at work so hard?
Full transcript