Charles M. Schulz wrote “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
What’s this to do with business (even if one of the most commercial holidays – Valentine’s Day – is just around the corner)? A lot – all to do with the human brain.
Martin Lindstrom (in Brandwashed, 2011) writes about the typical human response to smart phones using the same associative neural pathways that make “other compulsive behaviours” like gambling so addictive. Just as with drugs or any other addiction, a person’s conditioned focus on his or her smart phone is driven by the neurotransmitter Dopamine – a natural narcotic. You’re left craving the sight of another message. Experiments show subjects get visual, not just auditory, neural associations when the phone ‘pings’, releasing a flurry of activity in the brain’s insula which is connected to feelings of love and compassion. “It may not be addiction in a medical sense but it is true love.”
These are the same brains that ‘clock in’ to work. While each person is unique, the human brain is remarkably consistent across age and culture in reactions to workplace demands and ‘management’. (The brain structures for pleasure and those for fear and dread are too close for comfort.) Human drive and achievement really is a matter of chemistry. Is it true love between worker and work…..organisation and employee? Soul mates? Or just ‘living together’?
Addicted to love
As most drivers of human behaviour are subconscious, logical (rational) management approaches simply don’t work to harness human attachment and activate a complete and whole-hearted brain response – Engagement.
Experts agree that the emotional brain matters most when it comes to human behaviour; many point to neurotransmitters – the ‘chemistry’ of attachment and achievement. Significant too though is the midbrain’s role in super-performance. This core of the human brain is associated with long term memory, mobilising physical response to a threat, love reactions, rituals associated with addiction and a person’s sense of what is MOST important in life; what they pay MOST attention to above all else…..and what will literally activate the formation of SMART neural pathways in pursuit of priority ideals.
Most people would not put themselves at imminent risk of death for mere money but do so in a heartbeat, showing extraordinary strength and inventiveness, for a fundamental belief (or ‘attachment’). Beliefs are held in the heart of the brain and this midbrain system and the right side of the cortex (outer bark) work in remarkably similar ways. (Dr Luiz Machado in The Brain of the Brain. 1992)
The relevance for business owners and boards
Unless employees believe what they do matters (counts in some meaningful way i.e. not to make more money, achieve budget or reduce costs), a fraction of their intelligence and drive (smarts and ticker) is applied.
The corollary is also true: when a human being believes something is fundamentally significant – in a bone-deep way – then, brain reserves (normally unused) are activated. While this latent capacity is being bought with each pay run, it is largely unused….neural inventory getting dusty in the storeroom of the organisational collective brain.
Pick up lines
An organisation’s sense of its purpose ‘speaks’ to that core of the brain that has no words. This part of the brain, without language (words and numbers) responds to an awareness of ‘something’ that can’t quite be described: a concept, idea, sensation, hunch, inkling. It is an urge experienced as an inarticulate ‘knowing’. (Love at first sight?)
To tap into latent human reserves for super-intelligence and drive, communication must involve symbolism, metaphor, visual expression of ideas and other forms of multi-sensory expression with a particular use of semantics. This has the power to activate the organisational ‘mid brain’, and with this, currently unused reserves of intelligence and drive. (Dr Georgi Lozanov in Suggestology and Outlines of Suggetopedy. 1978).
Engaging people fully requires communication that involves:
- Mid-brain and right brain for purpose (WHY this? WHY now? WHY you? WHY me? and WHAT strategy to achieve this purpose?)
- Left brain for execution – WHAT now, specifically for me/us, and HOW?
When purpose is appropriately expressed and understood (as a collective effort – ‘decrees’ are viewed with suspicion), a powerful drive is evoked, mobilising latent capability to realise organisational purpose that goes beyond employment contracts, work hours and normal supplier-customer transactions.
When the chemistry’s not right
Costly and frustrating organisation deficiencies hurt for customers, staff, management and suppliers alike:
- The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing
- Decisions make no sense and are poorly executed
- Errors and miscommunication eat into profit
- Legacy, outdated procedures are protected for apparently no reason
- Staff feel they are forced to produce work outcomes perceived as impossible
When Love is in the air
Working in sync with the human brain – tapping into all the brains on the payroll – you score:
- One cohesive team driven by purpose (not controlled by job descriptions)
- People compelled to create the organisational response that’s needed to fulfil its purpose
- A high-performance, aspirational, self-correcting culture
- Smart, simple ways to coordinate effort across an organisation and beyond
That’s worth celebrating with or without chocolate. The gift that keeps on giving.