Know Your Brain, Transform Your Performance Part 2

On Monday I reviewed the game-changing book “Your Brain at Work” – by David Rock. The techniques offered in this book are solidly grounded in research, but what makes the book stand out is that the author does such a great job in explaining the neuroscience behind the ordinary working of the brain and the practical impact of it, that these simple strategies seem to arise naturally – and best of all they stay with the reader. Here are a few key takeaways for me from the book:

Surprises About the Brain

  • Every time the brain works on an idea consciously, it uses a measurable and limited resource.
  • The less you hold in your mind at once the better.
  • Switching between tasks uses energy; if you do this a lot you will make more mistakes.
  • If you do multiple conscious tasks at once you will experience a big drop-off in accuracy and performance.
  • Peak mental performance requires just the right level of stress, not minimal stress.
  • It’s astonishingly easy for the brain to get stuck on the small set of solutions to a problem, called the impasse phenomenon.
  • The brain has an overarching organizing principle to minimize danger and maximize reward – “away” or “towards” responses.
  • The “away” response can reduce cognitive resources, making it harder to think about your thinking, make you more defensive, and mistakenly class certain situations as threats.
  • Expectations alter the data your brain perceives.
  • It’s common to fit incoming data into expectations and to ignore data that doesn’t fit. Ie: we hear what we want to hear.
  • Social connections are a primary need for the brain, as important as food and water at times!
  • A sense of fairness is a strong primary reward for the brain.
  • Status is a significant driver of behavior at work and across life experiences.
  • Giving feedback often creates an intense threat response that doesn’t help people improve performance.
  • While human change appears hard, change in the brain is constant.
  • Focused attention changes the brain.

Some Things to Try

  • Think of conscious thinking as a precious resource to conserve.
  • Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking.
  • Practice getting your most important actors (ideas) on stage first, not just the ones that are easiest.
  • Catch yourself trying to do two things at once and slow down instead.
  • Reduce the likelihood of internal distractions by clearing your mind before embarking on difficult tasks.
  • Inhibit distractions early before they take on momentum.
  • Practice being aware of your levels of alertness and interest throughout the day.
  • Take a break and do something light and interesting, to see if an answer emerges.
  • Practice noticing emotions as they arise, then get better at sensing their presence earlier.
  • Practice noticing what your expectations are in any given situation.
  • Watch out for people’s status being threatened.
  • Catch yourself when you go to give feedback, problem solve, or provide solutions.
  • Help people think about their own thinking by focusing them on their own subtle internal thoughts.

5 Replies to “Know Your Brain, Transform Your Performance Part 2”

  1. Your previous post and this one are on a subject that’s my cuppa (green tea). Your other posts are of interest to me, too.

    Newer research is increasingly making this mind and (gray/) matter connection. I found myself smiling at the thought of (my) real life situations and nodding a lot in agreement as I read the pertinent points you have penned.

    >Do yourself a favour and read the book!
    – My schedule does not permit me the (former) luxury of reading as much I would like, so I’m glad you’ve written these nutshell/abridged versions. (Is there a Part 3?).

    Thank you for (inadvertently) doing me this favour!



      1. >Here is a summary of some f themajor findings of the book
        – I’ve saved the condensed version of the book to be savoured when my schedule eases up. And it does, which is why ‘When my schedule eases up’ is a legit time slot for me.

        >(please excuse all the typos!)
        – I’ll fling a stone when I stop living in my own glass house. 🙂

        > Also, here’s a post i wrote on incorporating reading into a busy lifestyle…
        – I will respond to this in the related post.

        Thank you for both the links, Tom.



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