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A recent Deloitte study has found that the development of culture and employee engagement are the key priorities for organisations around the world. It’s clear that culture is a topic that we can’t really escape. It's something that everyone from the CEO to the receptionist has to address, because a culture is a collection of the behaviours of every person in the organisation.
We could say that behaviour is the manifestation of everything we say and do (following what we think and how we feel). This is, after all, what people notice.
For many years, the focus of how to change the culture of an organisation has been about reshaping people’s behaviours so that the organisation could transform.
Now, with the emergence of brain science, there is enough evidence to suggest that the brain has a lot more to do with reshaping behaviours that we may have originally thought. For example, when the brain is stressed or under pressure, it simply can’t perform to its full potential, no matter how much we try.
On the other hand, given the right conditions, the brain is able to do some incredible things, sometimes beyond what we believe is possible. Once we understand how the brain works in its optimal state, then we can start looking at behaviours and ‘culture’ through different lenses.
A brain-friendly organisation could then be defined as, an organisation that aims to improve the performance of all the brains working within it, in order to increase business productivity and employes’ well-being and engagement.
So where do we start?
To create a brain friendly organisation you need to first understand your own brain - is it healthy or is it in trouble? How it works, what triggers your behaviour and the effect that your behaviour has on others.
Understanding the impact of your actions can be done by seeking feedback (in an appropriate manner) as well as learning to receive feedback from others. Only through self-reflection and feedback can the brain understand what it needs to do to perform at its best, and self-correct if necessary.
The other thing you can do to create a brain friendly organisation is to learn how to manage and create the environment in which the brain can do its thinking in a relaxed state. We know for example, that looking at a computer screen for 10 hours, doesn't actually make the best use of your brain.
Instead, it makes people overly-stressed and the brain starts to function in a chaotic manner. If you can provide an environment where people have enough opportunities for chilling out ,even amidst a busy schedule, they will be more productive and in a better mood.
Companies such as Zappos, Atlassian and Google which are having the most success, pay attention to providing the proper environment to their staff. They are the pioneers, the innovators, who know that most of today’s organisational practises still reflect the patterns of the industrial or the information eras.
Creating a brain friendly workplace where people can become creators or co-creators of how they want to handle their work-flow, so their brains can offer their best thinking, is what will differentiate the best organisations from the average organisations in the years to come.
HR professionals can certainly assist in the development of a brain friendly culture by learning how our brain and biological system functions so they can then assist the business in applying this to their current realities.
We are witnessing a new working era where imagination will be queen and the ideas of the best brains will create value for the economy.
This new understanding of how we best function is here to stay. The sooner we embrace it and share it with others, the healthier the collective will be.
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