When we most need courage and ingenuity. Our economy begs for sparks: fresh thinking, elegant ways to re-deploy resources and help constituents thrive together. Enterprises need our minds to be at their best.
Unfortunately, the brain’s first response to downbeat financial news is the opposite. Our neurons are highly sensitive to anything that looks like ‘danger’. In its presence, as many have observed, natural responses are Fight, Flight or Freeze. The pre-frontal cortex does not fire up - it shuts down.
Fear does more than blunt ingenuity; it all-but-obliterates the kind of intelligence we most need to maneuver.
We can develop better reactions - the human brain is enormously plastic. We can build high-performing business cultures that respond to market changes with curiosity. People can learn to respond with highly effective collaborative inquiry, like the engineers in the famous Apollo 13 crisis, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Neuroscience has a lot of value for business. Integrating some of those lessons into management practices for several years now, I’ve been deeply concerned about the ways that most workplaces dull brain function, rather than putting people at their best.
The current financial crisis makes the matter urgent. There’s much we can do. Two especially juicy items for the brain are experiences of belonging and of contributing. Leaders can re-kindle the spark of enterprise by responding to financial news with focus on customers’ increased vulnerability and by providing ways for employees and suppliers to band together to address them. Brain juice will flow, and new value will be generated.
Maybe you have somne other ways you’re using to make employees, customers, and suppliers smarter when we need them most? Please share.