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

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

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

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

and the bigger ideas are the ones that are tied in with our sense of wanting to do something that's important. it ends up giving us a tremendous power of people who want to sign up and support us just based on that. Those are just powerful. What this really means is that ideas have enormous power to change how the mind works and how we do things. they change the way the brain works. When we think those ideas. This is actually mind boggling. it's just going to make it much easier for us to accomplish what we need to accomplish. 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. and when we physically change the brain. and the bigger ideas are the more powerful ones. the way that we think. ideas physically change the brain. for so much of management. but if we look at what happens when we take an idea that's a new idea. If we keep that in mind. The way that we do that is with ideas. In other words. I would also piggyback that with one other piece that we haven't yet talked about. So. but ideas will change that world. that's for the good of community. So I guess those are the two that I come down to: The world is just in our head. we've been focused on behavior and technique and tools and what are the things that we should do. .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. it changes chemically what goes on in the brain. when we live those ideas.