10 Ways Understanding The Brain Helps Us At Work

10 Ways Understanding The Brain Helps Us At Work

PA’s are increasingly using neuroscience to better understand behaviour, thoughts, habits and ideas giving them an edge and holding the key to greater success and a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Understanding our brain and neuroscience helps us in many ways including:-

  1. Enhance thinking, learning and memory through neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to learn, change and adapt according to life experiences. We improve our neuroplasticity by strengthening important networks and leaving less important information to fade. We make new connections and alter, reorganise or remap existing connections through our experiences as well as learning, repetition, trying new things and practising.  By expanding our neuroplasticity, we are doing something similar to updating our computer software to make sure we have the most up-to-date system possible. 
  1. Focus better. Multitasking takes attention and involves us constantly switching between tasks which can lead to mistakes, agitation, fatigue and affects our memory and our ability to learn.  Ironically, western culture thinks it is highly admirable to be able to multitask but there is always a cost, and we are not achieving as much as we think and it often wastes time and money.
  1. Demonstrate consistent, concise & effective communication. Our brains complete missing information by filling in any gaps based on our beliefs and experiences, as well as input from others (who may well be ill-informed or have bad intentions).  So if your method of communication is clear, honest, based on integrity and supported by your actions and role-modelled, the chance of miscommunications or poor messaging is lessened.    
  1. Improve reward systems: Different rewards affect different people in different ways. Neurotransmitters like dopamine are activated by distinctive rewards depending on the person’s perceived value. These rewards may be extrinsic such as money or gifts, or intrinsic such as mastering a skill or experiencing enjoyment or successfully moving beyond their comfort zone.  Other factors are influential such as cultural norms, novelty, personality traits, upbringing, and life experiences. This understanding can help us align with an individual’s long-term goals rather than merely short-term gratification. 
  1. Have greater emotional and cultural intelligence. When we are more aware, empathetic and sensitive to other people’s opinions, emotions and needs, this leads to more positive working relationships and opens the door to increased diversity. When we recognise unconscious bias more and actively try to regulate ourselves this will positively affect our business relationships.  Conversely being overly emotional means that rational thinking, logic and empathy are put on hold in that moment. Our beliefs, thoughts and emotions impact our behaviour, but they may also impact others.  It is always possible to improve our emotional and cultural intelligence, even when it is also often innate. 
  1. Know when to use intuition.  The prefrontal cortex excels at foreseeing and forecasting consequences, but knee-jerk reactions should usually be avoided in favour of relying on the cognitive control functions of the brain.  However, intuition has its place and following our gut feelings means we can make quick, intuitive problem-solving decisions, when necessary, using subliminal processing and leveraging data from our past experiences, memories and beliefs. The more experience we have, the more we can rely on intuition to resolve problems quickly.
  1. Make analytical decisions. When we are making a thought-out choice the stimuli in question alert the neurons which travel to the prefrontal cortex to ascertain if any further information is needed to make a decision and to activate rational thinking. The amygdala in the meanwhile processes emotions and makes risk assessments. Acknowledging the difference between intuitive, fast and analytical, slower decisions helps us to make appropriate decisions in different circumstances and contexts.
  1. Replace habit with agility and quick decision-making. Whilst we need to stay true to ourselves and our business’s purpose and values, leaders who are nimble and flexible and can adapt to individual, local, national and global changes can throw off habits and pivot. Those who are dexterous and responsive change the structure and functionality of their brain for the better.  
  1. Build rapport, confidence and trust. Oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) is produced in the hypothalamus, released in the pituitary gland, and is deeply influenced by trust and sociality. When we actively and deeply listen to a colleague (junior or senior), customer, client, or peer, we are more likely to build a connection, build trust and instil confidence. Both non-verbal and verbal communication are important cues.  Trust means more oxytocin, less stress, better performance and greater engagement.
  1. Manage stress. Some short-term stress does little harm and can even improve our performance but when cortisol is continually secreted for overextended long periods, it can detrimentally affect our physical, mental and emotional health. When we effectively manage our stress we feel more in control of our emotional reactions and impulses and can more ably focus on priorities. This in turn means we will feel calmer and more engaged and are less likely to become involved in conflict or become burnt out.

Online Programmes – Neuroscience Professional (drlyndashaw.com)

Cognitive Psychologist, Neuroscientist and C-suite mentor Dr Lynda Shaw


About The Author


WORKSMARTPA – NEW IDEAS, NEW FRONTIERS The year 2021 sees our business celebrate 21 years of pa-assist.com - a community supporting office professionals since our very first newsletter way back in May 2000. As we look forward to greet a new world of change beyond the pandemic, we are extremely excited to announce a new brand; a new look; and some new directions for our much loved, long-standing pa-assist.com web site and communities to explore. It is time for change. To better reflect now what we do best for you, we have a new brand, web site and activities – a new name and web site that will be full of new ideas for a new business age and new working trends as we all seek to grow, expand and explore new frontiers.

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