Management Lessons From Neuroscience (Part I) ASSOCIATIONS NOW, September 2009 Management mainstays such as feedback and data

-based decision making sound great, but it turns out the human brain is wired against them both. Advances in neuroscience are showing that many of our trusted management methods simply don't work. By: Interview by Joe Rominiecki The brain's internal wiring is vastly complex, so it's no surprise that managing your fellow humans can be tricky. Advances in neuroscience, however, are teaching us new lessons on leading people and winning minds. As it turns out, we're all wired against many of our traditional management methods. (Titled "Tangled in Your Head Wires" in print version.) As advanced as we humans have become as earthly creatures, we still have a fairly nascent understanding of how our own brains work. With every new discovery, however, we are gaining new insight into the machinations that drive perception, emotion, and conscious thought, all of which, of course, play a constant, daily role in the workplace. Associations Now recently spoke with Charles Jacobs, author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons From the Latest Brain Science, about how the tendencies of the human mind must be accounted for in management. In Part I of the interview, below, Jacobs explains how the brain is wired against constructive feedback and how change managers must succeed in physically altering the brains of those they lead (with words and actions, of course, not scalpels). In Part II of the interview, Jacobs delves deeper into the inner workings of the brain's decision-making process and the role that storytelling plays in winning minds. Associations Now: Early on in your book, you focus on the basic idea that every human being's brain is literally wired differently, every person understands the world differently, and every person sees a different reality. What does this mean for even the most simple of human interactions? Charles Jacobs: All of management, all of "People respond to us not logically, business, is about human interaction. So we can not objectively, but based on their deny that people play a role in business, but it's emotions, on how they feel." — people that formulate the strategies, that implement Charles Jacobs the strategies, that buy the products, that manage the business. So this is all about how people deal with one another. This idea that we walk around with our own versions of reality means that we can never believe necessarily that others are seeing things the way that we are or that we're seeing things the way that other people are. So, while we may logically expect certain results from actions that we take or from words that we say, those aren't necessarily going to be the results we get. It's compounded by the fact that

we either just ignore it or change it. for instance. because it's so difficult to change the self-image we've built up over a lifetime. we reduce it every chance we can. not objectively. but dissonance that can't be reduced is "When we take an idea that's a new idea. like somebody walks up to you and says." Our initial response isn't to have this nice warm glow and to say. particularly when one's own beliefs don't match with external inputs.people respond to us not logically." or your boss says. my first response isn't necessarily to go. reward." Our initial response is going to be emotional. the same thing is basically happening at a very physical level. how we feel about ourselves. On the one hand. "Oh. When we encounter any information that is in conflict with that. but based on their emotions. we have to compare it to our memory of similar situations in order to recognize it. My first response is instead to discount what she's saying: "Well. if it's really powerful for us. The brain is responding primarily to patterns that we're already aware of. "Oh thanks. and punishment? Whatever comes at us that is in any way perceived as negative to us we are going to rationalize away. So it's almost as if we're living in different realities. So when we perceive something. Can you explain that further? We have this view of the world that is very much tied up with our self-image. What implications does cognitive dissonance have for feedback." —Charles Jacobs change our minds. "Let me give you a little feedback on that. When you watch what happens on the MRIs of the brain. A lot of the management strategies you talk about hinge on the effects of cognitive dissonance. our tendency is to change the information that conflicts with it. am I?" and to stop myself. if I'm in an argument with my spouse and she tells me that I'm downright being unreasonable. "Why don't I give you a little feedback on your performance." I'm always trying to change information to fit the pattern that we carry around in our mind. if there's a shortfall in performance. So there's this kind of double-edged dissonance. what it does is completely change the way we're thinking. because I'm going to learn from it. Or. Ideas have enormous power to change enables us to how the mind works and how we do things. If it doesn't compare to that memory. a . Just think about experiences that you've had. we tighten up. We had bad customers. it changes chemically ultimately what what goes on in the brain. So that's the way we're always responding to this feedback. and it conflicts with our self-image. and when managers give us some feedback. So. So the way that we change it is. on how they feel. we blame it on things external to us." or "Women are too illogical. she doesn't understand what I'm talking about. we could completely discount our entire life unless there is some way that we can change that feedback.

" or whatever it may be. With managers. This is all tied up in the idea that we just don't like being controlled by others. and asking questions so that employees set their own goals and self-evaluate. you don't have all this emotion invested in the relationship. and it ends up ultimately working for you. you did that wrong. it gets much easier because all of a sudden. whatever it may be. that they don't like dominance displays. "It's a considerably more difficult way to manage. We literally don't even register it. Instead. "Well. You're not fighting against the psychological dynamics. Read more about how the easy for me to say. what does he know?" or "She's grinding an ax. Initially it becomes a challenge in two ways. You can see in our closest relatives. So my approach is to play the odds." says Charles Jacobs.bad market. think about what kind of questions I can ask. that's a pretty easy thing to do. Let human mind works in "Management me tell you why. the psychological dynamic is against it working. we've got to ask them "Our decisions are being made unconsciously first through emotions. because it is sort of different. try to get people to give feedback to themselves. ." being Socratic. Assume the feedback coming from someone else isn't going to affect performance." dispassionately. I mean then subsequently we come up with this if I see an employee do something wrong. Let's try the best we can to make feedback work. The second thing is." So what are the keys to doing it well? If the odds are against feedback that comes from a third party. The first way is ask them questions and not sound like a prosecuting attorney. but for the most part we don't. They want to be the ones that are dominant. "Okay. A lot of people believe that life is simply about trying to establish your dominance over other people. I've seen managers do that in workshops. Initially. what are the follow-on questions where you can really get people to the point where they are going to take a look at themselves unemotionally and realize how they need to improve? So." I can say it probably Lessons From Neuroscience (Part II). and lay out a strategy to get the person to literally give feedback to themselves. You recommend "turning the management relationship upside down. You do. or we discount the source of the feedback. I have to step back if I'm going to ask questions. though. but that doesn't mean that the employee will respond to it that way. it's a little bit uncomfortable because it's really such a different approach. and therefore. chimpanzees. and questions. bad employees. We don't want people to control us. So that's why when feedback comes at us from other people. it's difficult. it's really logic supposedly to justify that. I'd like to think at times that I can do it. Over time. let's play the odds. not going to work. We ignore it. So. initially. and that means that we get people to do self-feedback. that it's not going to be effective. sort of a series of them. admit in the book that. what we need to do as managers—or parents or Read More just simply human beings—when we want people to change what they're doing. There are some people I suspect that are healthy and take feedback and know how to respond to it.

something that says the world really is different. Now. you somehow have to alert people to the fact that the world is going to be a different place going forward." or whatever we're changing today. is there a single-greatest lesson that the last couple decades of neuroscience has taught us about management? . I've seen this happen when managers eliminate reserved parking spaces and all the executives' perks symbolically. what this really did to him was to stop him. That says the world is a different place. the other hemisphere of the brain starts to fire—the left hemisphere. He didn't seem to take anything seriously. in organizations.Sometimes a radical "paradigm shift" is what's necessary to break through a person's strongly held beliefs and encourage that willingness to change. something unexpected. He was a playboy. Any way that you send the message that things are going to be different. When you see other views and are willing to accept one including the fact that you may not be infallible. that says the world is a different place. If you can pick one. and then all of a sudden he finds himself with polio. I've done enough change initiatives in organizations to see how incredibly resistant people are. when we encounter something that doesn't fit our current view of the world. I've heard the term "initiative du jour. He was a guy who was just a zero early on in his life. that's a pretty strong marker to people. [this] then opens people up to the idea that they need to change as well. rather than the right. There are people that are just so used to it that it just rolls right off their backs. He cheated on his wife. Managing change is a huge challenge for any leader. it makes us stand back and see that there are other views possible of the world. Or if you bring in new leadership. he breaks out in a sweat because the effort required is so enormous. Anything we can't process logically through rationalizing it or through discounting it is going to literally stop the automatic processing of our brains. So. If he stands and gives a speech. Obviously. change his view of the world. Short of a catastrophe in the business or new leadership. and enhance his understanding of people. and a guy that also wanted to be seen as attractive by ladies. rotating leadership. He is so paralyzed that he can't stand without locking his metal braces in place. What exactly does it mean to create a paradigm shift. if the business is failing like what's going on with General Motors. you will also then be willing to entertain that lots of people see the world in different ways. Well. When we encounter something novel. what managers need to do is somehow send a strong message to people that things are different. It really just makes you much more aware of what's going on. That's the hemisphere that's responsible for holes without having seen the big picture. He was a real active guy. and what effect does it have on a person's mind when you're trying to influence him? Let me just start for a moment with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. but instead you establish a marker. You couldn't imagine what this meant to this guy. I've seen it happen when managers all of a sudden change the way they run staff meetings and have other people running the meetings.

In the online-only Part II of the interview. The way that we do that is with ideas. Jacobs explains how the brain is wired against constructive feedback and how change managers must succeed in physically altering the brains of those they lead (with words and actions. So I guess those are the two that I come down to: The world is just in our head. it's just going to make it much easier for us to accomplish what we need to accomplish. author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons From the Latest Brain Science. In Part I of the interview. I think what we ought to be focusing on is how we manage the way that people think and make sense out of the world. that's for the good of community. below. ideas physically change the brain. Associations Now recently spoke with Charles Jacobs. they change the way the brain works. it ends up giving us a tremendous power of people who want to sign up and support us just based on that. about how the tendencies of the human mind must be accounted for in management. and when we physically change the brain. This is actually mind boggling.I think the key lesson that we're learning is that the world that exists in our heads isn't the necessarily the same for all people. So. In other words. Jacobs delves deeper into the inner workings of the brain's decision-making process and the role that storytelling plays in winning minds. but if we look at what happens when we take an idea that's a new idea. September 2009 Author Charles Jacobs sheds more light on managing the human decision-making process and why associations are well suited to the mind's framework for telling stories. If we keep that in mind. What this really means is that ideas have enormous power to change how the mind works and how we do things. and the bigger ideas are the ones that are tied in with our sense of wanting to do something that's important. online-only interview with author Charles Jacobs. Those are just powerful. By: Interview by Joe Rominiecki Learn how to deal with other people's complicated brains and how emotions—not logic—guide human decisions in this additional. but ideas will change that world. when we live those ideas. it changes chemically what goes on in the brain. Associations Now: So it's a mistake to forget that employees are people too and not just cogs in a machine. we've been focused on behavior and technique and tools and what are the things that we should do. But is getting better results as simple as trying to see things from someone else's point of view? Is that all there is to it? . of course. When we think those ideas. not scalpels). Management Lessons From Neuroscience (Part II) ASSOCIATIONS NOW. for so much of management. and the bigger ideas are the more powerful ones. the way that we think. I would also piggyback that with one other piece that we haven't yet talked about.

know everything there is to know. of course. at nine and ten. When you encounter a similar set of circumstances. So if you've done something in the past that has worked." The current belief by most scientists working in related fields is that our brains evolved to enable us to deal with other people. if I can't get a point across to them. as we'd like to think they do. most aware of their ability to not necessarily read situations correctly. and so they continued to make gambling decisions in a way [that] would ultimately bankrupt them. and this was a gambling game that he did with people. it's not their fault. it's mine. and therefore ended up making better decisions. but with my daughters. and how we need to change. An experiment you mention early in the book showed how people make decisions based on emotions. we can get a pretty good sense of where people are coming from and we ought to be able to make sense out of what's the best approach we should take in dealing with other people. António Demásio. it's got an emotional charge that goes to it. the major lesson that I learned was because I have two young daughters. What he found is that the people [with] a lesion in the brain in the area that connects the emotional input coming from the amygdala into the prefrontal cortex—and therefore didn't have access to their emotions—never learned from past experience. Read More . For me. If you've done something in the past that doesn't work. It comes back to the idea of "mirror neurons. it's got a negative emotion. it brings up that memory along with the associating emotions. So we have these mirror neurons. most aware of their ability to not necessarily read situations correctly. learned from past experience. and mirror neurons mimic the firing of other people's neurons. That's what's complicated. They're going to surprise us all the time." —Charles Jacobs But the more I can anticipate where they're coming from. if we focus our minds on them. who didn't have these lesions. not logic. Why is that? The key experiment is by this neuroscientist. because we can't expect [other people] to respond the way that we're going to respond. I think the best managers are the ones that are most aware of their own fallibility. but I think that there's more to it. When you experience something that gets filed in your memory. moved [away] from the cards that they thought were going to pay off the most but in reality didn't. I find that they're not really good at listening to things that I say because they. I think that that's the first step. the easier it is for me to figure out how to say what I want to them in a way that they'll accept and a way that they'll act upon. The more that we get an understanding of how other people feel. What this really means is that our emotions mark our past experiences. People who were normal.Charles Jacobs: Well. "I think the best managers are the ones that are most aware of their own fallibility. the better we're going to be in figuring out how we need to act. I can always assume that other people are wrong or misreading me. it's got a positive emotion. What that means is that if we pay attention.

and that's not just using logic or not just using emotion. How does this power of storytelling also relate to winning the minds of volunteers. What we're really doing is attaching a greater positive emotional charge to the pros. and then making decisions." says Charles Jacobs. Take a look at the development of children. You say that stories are the mind's natural way of understanding the world. "When we take an idea that's a new idea. and then subsequently we come up with this logic supposedly to justify that. but my thinking would be that it would be easier to pull off most of this given the fact that there is a strong cause [at associations] that's meaningful to people. Like Native American Indians had very different kinds of stories than the ones we were traditionally told in the Western world. So you look at what ties them together. it's because of this process of cognitive dissonance where we reduce what we don't want to know about. and potential members and donors? Well. and we ignore any evidence to the contrary of what we believe.It's then those feelings that end up ultimately driving what goes on in your decision-making process. you try to make sense of it. and as we look at them over time. They're both. but it seems this is how it works. it changes chemically what goes on in the brain. very strongly cause related. By the way. Ideas have enormous power to change how the mind works and how we do things. what's the theme or whatever it may be. If we're all honest and stand back and think about it. we're also going to apply to other people. Stories also utilize all of the brain. A lot of associations and nonprofits are. so that the same thing plays out logically. how many times in your life have you found yourself making a decision that you believe is logically the right thing to do. They want to have an effect on other . Nobody that I know has ever loved a job that they show up at simply because they get paid at the end of the week. that pattern that we use. we find that their first attempt to explain the world comes across in stories. the stories can be radically different [from] culture to culture. Why exactly is that? Why do stories seem to fit the brain's mental processing so well? Well. donors. of course. our decisions are being made unconsciously first through emotions. I'm sure that this is naïve and I'm sure that your membership could tell me differently. I mean people are really looking for something that's meaningful in their lives. Because we're telling ourselves a story or we're trying to make sense out of our lives. We're also unconsciously ignoring information that may disagree with the decision that we want to make. They're experience and they are emotion. wasn't that a stupid decision? How could I think that was logical? Well. where we believe that we actually go through a process of weighing pros and cons. So you're not necessarily always going to have the stories being the same. there are a number of things about stories. So the real problem here is this lack of awareness we have around how decisions are made." Therefore. One thing is that we have a series of experiences moment to moment. members. Read more about the human mind and management in "Management Lessons From Neuroscience (Part I). and then shortly thereafter you realize. Stories also are very much our notion of who we are in the world.

the way that I come at it is that that's exactly why our brains evolved. The really distressing thing about this is often we're manipulating ourselves through our brains. because the theme of the story. If we have integrity and we believe that what we're going out to accomplish is the right thing not only for ourselves but for other people. Then all we're asking people to do is to accept us as who we are. So I think what becomes moral and what becomes the issue here is: what is it you're trying to accomplish? Are you trying to manipulate people into buying a product that's a lousy product and overpaying for it? Are you trying to manipulate people to dedicate their lives to an organization that is not worth their time and energy? What is it that you're trying to accomplish? That should ultimately be the measure of whether your behavior is moral behavior or if it is immoral behavior." — We're looking for a cure for a disease or we're trying to help make our membership become more Charles Jacobs successful and have better lives. the odds are it is going to be the right thing. We deceive ourselves into believing certain things. It's what has made us successfully evolve. to listen to the case that we're making. That's just the way the mind works. Nature isn't necessarily moral. especially this nitty gritty stuff with neuroscience and psychology. and often people will say. Our brains evolved so that we could manipulate social relationships because they're so important to us. or we're trying to raise money for a political campaign.people. Whatever they may be. and nature isn't necessarily fair. supposedly to justify that. is what you hear from the very beginning. and then to make their own decision based on that. "But isn't that being manipulative?" Well. and then subsequently people. do they run the risk of being caught as being manipulative or playing mind games? We've got some good data on what works and what doesn't work. These are really kind of hard-wired into us. and whether we believe what we're doing. this desire for meaning and purpose and a cause. These are very deep-seated things that have evolved in our species because it's what ties our species together. So I think the real test of whether you are moral and immoral has to do with your own integrity and your own belief in what you're doing. So when you have an organization that is focused "Our decisions are being made on a given cause. and tries to use it with their employees. If a leader gets a better understanding of how the mind works. the import we come up with this logic of it. . I also think that what this ultimately comes down to is whether we have integrity as managers or leaders. We're not aware of things that we should become aware of. to sign up to support us. and whether it is good not only for yourself. I think it's much easier to create a unconsciously first through story around that that's going to really involve emotions. these are things that people can plug into much easier than they can asking people if they want fries with their order. They want to contribute to the community. but for other people.