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.