Use Brain Science to Drive Change

 -  4/23/13

Utilizing brain-based change methodologies can result in businesses being able to apply change deliberately — increasing the predictability between effort and outcome.

Neuroscience findings on how to impact a person’s ability to adapt and change can be a powerful tool for managers trying to implement change. Here are two applications and examples of how companies applied concepts from brain science research to their change initiatives:

Unlearning is different from learning. What brain science tells us is that people must first “unlearn” in order to “relearn.” It also tells us that the resistance that most change management processes try to avoid is actually necessary to rewire our brains and change how we respond. By creating predictably around resistance and equipping people with new responses to change, the process becomes simple, seamless and quick.

The experience of snack manufacturer Snyder’s-Lance Inc. illustrates how this can be applied to a major change initiative. The company’s CEO initiated a major organizational change to move from a more traditional, top-down culture to a servant-leadership culture. A 180-degree, value-based change proved difficult as the management team had been in place under the old structure for decades. Some managers bluntly refused to change. The company’s director of manufacturing felt it was important that all managers were on board. The goal was for direct reports and indirect internal clients of specific managers to notice changes in managers’ behavior to include attentive listening, caring and improved results through the development of people. They focused on senior managers and employed a change effort that utilized neuroscience concepts and a diagnostic process that included an assessment of basic response patterns.

Taking unlearning into account means predicting and pre-empting resistance by identifying not just the way people respond to a new culture, but also the way people will resist as part of unlearning. Snyder’s-Lance zeroed in on the ways managers were expressing resistance and encouraged it early in the process to help them “unlearn” the response patterns that were prohibiting them from accepting the new cultural requirements. The consultant and top management identified the response patterns that were getting in the way, and those that were required by the organization to be able to quickly understand and embrace the values of the desired culture. With guidance and facilitation, managers were able to practice, acquire and sustain new ways of thinking.

Article Keywords:   change management   executive transition   change  

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