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Neuroscience of Change

Featured Best Practice on Psychology

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Some innovations are truly spectacular, but consumers are slow or just refuse to adopt. In fact, over 70% of all new products fail in the marketplace--and innovative, new products fail at an even higher rate. Why is this the case? And, how do companies overcome this? This document discusses [read more]

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Business Transformation initiatives are typically undertaken to solve a pressing issue, bring about improved performance, or to serve customers better.  A critical element of the success of such initiatives entails transforming the existing behaviors of the employees across the organization.  However, this isn’t a straightforward task.

Attitudes and practices get reinforced in people by following established routines day in and day out.  Such practices become a part of an Organizational Culture over time.  These ingrained behaviors and practices aren’t considered burdening until the organization’s performance keeps declining considerably over time.  That’s when the leaders think about changing these beliefs and habitual actions.

Psychology and Neuroscience can help enterprises change the deeply embedded attitudes and practices of people and replace those with new beliefs and practices.  Leading organizations are using psychology and brain research to induce successful Organizational Transformation.

The practices that these organizations employ to engender Transformation are based on the following 6 core Principles of Neuroscience:

  1. The brain is hardwired to hold on to habits, making it difficult to change them.
  2. Connections in the brain—even deeply embedded thoughts—are quite flexible to transform.
  3. Concentrating on new ways of thinking can overhaul individuals thinking habits.
  4. Don’t tell people what is wrong, just focus on drawing their attention to the positives.
  5. Encourage the ability to reject negative cerebral impulses.
  6. The competence to focus attention has to be created bit by bit.

Let’s dive deeper into these first 3 principles of Neuroscience.

Principle 1 – The brain is hardwired to hold on to habits, making it difficult to change them.

Our thinking patterns are stored in circuits by brain parts—including the habit center (basal ganglia), amygdala (emotion center), and hypothalamus (which manages hunger, thirst etc.).  These brain parts, especially the basal ganglia, process info unconsciously and the activity feels rewarding to the individual.  This activity makes stronger neuronal connections with other areas and gets the activity reinforced.

For the desired behaviors and practices to get embedded, the organization need to make stronger connections with the entire workforce’s’ basal ganglia to enable deep rooted neuronal circuits.  The practices ingrained this way are difficult to remove.

Principle 2 – Connections in the brain—even deeply embedded thoughts—are quite flexible to transform.

People with obsessive compulsive disorder keep deliberating on their impulse to wash hands to ensure cleanliness.  This fortifies brain circuits in the basal ganglia, which takes over their behaviors.  However, Neuroscience reveals that even the most well-established notions can be altered.  This can be done by making the individuals aware of what they are thinking and where their focus is in a given moment.

Training and directing people to think about their thoughts can make them conscious of their undesired behaviors, disengages brain areas notable for causing distraction, and adopt new behaviors.

Principle 3 Concentrating on new ways of thinking can overhaul individuals thinking habits.

The 3rd principle highlights that persistent focus on unfamiliar, desired thoughts and objectives activates the habit center of the brain, which turns these desired thoughts into habits.  The mechanism according to Neuroscience is such that basal ganglia’s caudate nucleus region processes…

Interested in learning more about the other principles of Behavioral Transformation?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on 6 Core Principles of Neuroscience here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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