September 2, 2016

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Creating Organizational Flow

Cognition is the primary function of our brain.  Our brains constantly seek patterns and make survival predictions based on those patterns.  And we are in "flow" or "engaged" when we are focused completely on solving a particular problem over which we have some mastery and control, whether that problem is getting the football into the end zone before time runs out, pulling a new melody through the ether and down to Earth, or uncovering a new mathematical model.  Extending this state beyond the individual requires the same elements (e.g. a focused challenge, mastery and control) be made available to the organization at large.  Therefore, a vital, engaged workforce or team can exist only after a critical mass of the brains in a group are set about solving meaningful or interesting challenges that are within defined constraints (and are free of overwhelming threats, as I introduce in the next few paragraphs).  .  


We know from the work of neuroscientists that cognition requires considerable access to the cortex, the higher lamina of the brain.  That access is denied when there is sufficient fear or threat present.  Those fears can be either physical or psycho-social: a charging bear or an angry, vindictive boss who threatens the pink slip if not an embarrassing call out in the next meeting.


To create the ideal environment to spur problem solving, engagement, creativity and innovation at the highest level possible, the primary requirement is to purposefully create a sense of security for each employee and remove fear and threat to the highest level feasible.  If fear persists in any way in your organization, then your results will suffer in some capacity.  In fact, I would posit in my experience transforming processes and business units that maintaining an unhealthy environment- often signaled by excessive turnover, or even consistently average employee survey results - can be a, if not the, initial cause of a business ultimately failing, or at least stagnating. 


Purposefully enable the entire organization to reach its highest potential and your business will reach its highest potential.  Make your employees a hard number on the P&L, treat them like chattel, cover that discompassionate intent with glossy mission statements, competitive benefits and toeing the employment law lines as closely as possible, and watch the P&L constrict as the work lives of your employees do.  Be bold.  Do something few other business leaders currently do- use what neuroscience has given us to improve your employees' lives while you are in a position to help. Your business will likely prosper, because the people with whom you endeavor, who will ultimately, creatively solve all the business challenges, prosper.   




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