BRAIN TRAIN: As leaders, we need to be ‘thinking about our thinking’, says Tara Neven.
BRAIN TRAIN: As leaders, we need to be ‘thinking about our thinking’, says Tara Neven. Thinkstock

Rewiring our brains necessary to cope with change

IT seems change is constant and becoming more increasingly difficult to cope with in businesses.

I would like to share with you how an understanding of the brain can help to facilitate sustainable change, and give you some tips to get started.

It's important to understand the context within which we're operating if we are to facilitate lasting and sustainable change, and if we want to support environments where innovation is valued and encouraged.

Many of our current change efforts are failing because we haven't factored in this increasing complexity.

Just think about it: the human brain is required to deal with far greater levels of complexity on a daily basis than even 30 years ago.

As we make the transition to this new world, there are bound to be some bumps along the way.

Perhaps an important first step is to replace the language we use when we speak about change.

The words innovating and rewiring better encompass what we mean when we describe change in today's increasingly complex world.

According to Jeffrey Schwartz, Pablo Gaito, and Doug Lennick habits are hard to change because of the way the brain manages them.

The brain is an energy-conserving organ that resists change because it takes cognitive effort and uses up valuable sources of oxygen and glucose.

Combine this resistance with the way the basal ganglia functions to reinforce habits and it becomes clear why change is so difficult.

When we face a change, our brains automatically calculates the reward and the risk involved in order to determine whether or not it is worth doing.

If we perceive the reward to be less than that of the risk, we are unlikely to engage in change.

So what are some tools to support change agility and resilience.

In change processes, we often focus too much attention on the problem.

One of the most important factors in facilitating change is to move away from focusing attention on the problem and instead focus on the solutions.

Why is this so critical?

Simply put, the more attention we pay to a problem the more we strengthen the circuitry and neuronal connections around the problem.

As leaders, we need to be "thinking about our thinking" and noticing when we, or others, are paying too much attention to a problem rather than focusing on a solution.

We strengthen what we focus on.

By being solutions-focused, we develop and strengthen new neural pathways associated with a goal or an intention.

Tara Neven is director of neuresource group, situated in Tank St. Phone 4972 5007 or 1800 704 320 or Tara specialises in organisational learning and development.

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