Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Thu 16 Mar

This month, KnowledgeBrief clients were joined by Cognitive Neuroscientist, Dr Marcello Malavasi, to discover new leadership strategies to enhance collaboration, aspiration and innovation in everyday situations, by exploring the brain and the mind of the people in their organisation.

The biggest assets of companies are their people. And the biggest assets of people are their minds. But how do we understand the ambiguity of the most complex object in the universe?

Dr. Marcello Malavasi, Cognitive Neuroscientist from Ca’Foscari University of Venice and Learning Solutions Lead at KnowledgeBrief, shared his research at this month’s Innovation Day to provide a better understanding of how the brain learns, generates new ideas and connects with other brains.

When you understand the mechanisms of the brain, it becomes easier to understand people. From there, you can achieve shared objectives and aspirations, and stimulate engagement, creativity and innovation in your organisation.

Here are some key insights of this month’s Innovation Day to start getting a better understanding of the brain and how this knowledge can be useful to leaders.

The brain is a social machine

When the brain is not performing a task, research shows that it is constantly thinking in relation to other people such as our spouse, friends, family, or colleagues. Metaphorically speaking, when we are not performing a task, our brain is on Facebook.

For this reason, it’s important for leaders to create the cognitive platforms for employees to connect and share. Bring connections to life through inspirational coffee areas, informal internal communication networks, or monthly social events. Create spaces for the mind to play and find passion and purpose.

Support your employees’ thinking

The exchanging of ideas is the fundamental way of how a brain works. Creativity will happen by externalising our thinking so we can connect ideas easier, spot mistakes and share solutions.
One way to encourage this is to ask your employees to take time for reflective thinking and to use ‘pen and paper’ when doing so. Push them to visually capture what they are thinking. Also, take a participatory approach through coaching, design-thinking and co-creation to make employees share their thinking, collaborate ideas and engage in the projects.

Pain and pleasure

The area of the brain reacting to physical pain and social pain respectively is almost exactly the same. This means that the brain doesn’t distinguish between the two sorts of pain. In fact, research in neuroscience has proved that social rejection feels the same as physical pain to us. Interestingly, in the same way that social exclusion feels like pain, social inclusion feels like pleasure.

Understanding what is pain and what is pleasure to the brain makes it possible for leaders to adapt their leadership and management styles. For example, organisational change can feel like pain to the brain but you have the potential to massively decrease the inflicted pain. Communicate with employees and colleagues to establish why they are finding the change ‘painful’ and deal with it accordingly. Build certainty and control over what is happening.

These are just some key highlights taken from this month’s Innovation Day. Each month, clients of the Innovation Programme receive a full ACT report, summarising the opportunities and challenges for leaders, why it matters, and the implications and next steps to apply back in the team and organisation.

Next month, Innovation Programme clients – including Virgin Media, Sunderland City Council and PDSA – will explore why leaders should adopt a resilience mindset and the resources they need to do so. For more information, please view the Innovation Day page.

Make people, not process, the centre of your strategy.

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