Neuroscience – Why The Enthusiasm, Or Not?

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At the start of September I, and many others, attended the Learning & performance Institutes (LPI) annual conference – Learning Live.

The day began with a Q&A session. There was a panel comprising of Euan Semple, Sarah Lindsell, Lisa Minoque-White & Tom Spiglanin. The last question of the session was along the lines of “So, this neuroscience stuff – is it worth investigating or not really?”. The gentleman who asked was Paul Morgan from O2. I’d never met him before, and didn’t get to see his face as he asked the question.

The responses from the most of the people in the panel were brief, a couple sharing they knew very little about it so didn’t feel best placed to comment. One saying they had dipped their toes in the water. Lisa raving about it! (We had done a podcast on it recently though so understandable).

The overall summary was “speak to Amy – she’s the expert” which, while very complimentary probably didn’t advance many people’s knowledge.

In the afternoon I attended the fellow’s session with Elliott Massie. As a bit of a newbie to the L&D world I had never heard of Elliott before. When I asked people why he was so well known and respected no one had an answer, so I was even more curious to see what he said.

Nigel Paine asked Elliott questions covering a wide range of topics. His final question was around what Elliott found exciting and what he was learning about himself. The reply was fantastic from my perspective. He said neuroscience was what he found really interesting and thought held a lot of potential for L&D.

At dinner I was looking around for someone who would be interesting to sit next to. I don’t know that many people at these events so I was going purely off first, brief impressions. I headed to the middle of the room and spotted someone I thought would be worth a gamble. By chance Julian Stodd came and sat the other side of him, who I have a lot of time for – so it looked like it would be a good meal either way. (With a lovely Kiwi guy the other side I lucked out!). Julian started laughing and said that this would be a really interesting dinner with the gentleman and I sat next to each other. I wasn’t sure why…but it soon became apparent.

It turned out I’d selected to sit next to Paul – apparently a well-known neuroscience skeptic and some even say hater. I love a good conversation so this was good news to me! Paul and I got straight into it and over the courses I discovered his objection is that many L&D professionals haven’t got the basics covered. They’re not investing in themselves and they haven’t got strong foundations. Paul saw neuroscience as really advanced (and often complicated) and so thought people should stick to basics first. When I asked him if he were to start a company from scratch, with people in it, would he want neuroscience to help understand how to get the best out of people? He said of course.

So at this learning event I learnt more about people perceptions around neuroscience. While we see it as being able to enhance everything an organization does where people are involved, others don’t yet understand how. Without understanding either the science or how we apply it some people are fearfully just shying away. (Or saying it is rubbish, which seems a little strange considering we all have brains – and neuroscience itself is just the scientific study of brains).

Overall I’m encouraged that the benefits and the logic of the approach are gaining more recognition – and apparently if the lovely Elliott Massie thinks it is a good plan – that really means something!

About the author – Amy Brann

Since leaving medical school Amy has focused on practically applying the latest research around how the brain and mind work to help people achieve goals that are important to them.

According to the article by Lee, Butler & Senior “The brain in business” states that ‘There is no doubt that application of neuroscientific tools, and more importantly a neuroscienfitic way of thinking, to business problems will have a major impact on the way we understand marketing and business in the near future.’

Amy’s professional goal is to contribute to the fields that bridge the gap between neuroscience and business through collaborative research, case studies, training, writing books and speaking.

The aim of Amy’s book ‘Make Your Brain Work’ published in January 2013 is to support individuals and companies to increase their productivity, efficiency and effectiveness to achieve their objectives.

‘Neuroscience for Coaches’ published in 2014 is designed to equip anyone in a Coaching role to understand a little more of how the brain works specifically in the way they are working with others. We also run a public programme by the same name for people who want to deepen their understanding.

The third book, ‘Engaged: the neuroscience of creating productive people in successful organizations’ was written in response to our work with organizations. It includes bold ideas based on the neuroscientific research.

Specialties: Leadership training, management training, senior leadership facilitation. Keynote speaking. Executive Coaching.

Connect with Amy on twitter @Amy_Brann or via Synaptic Potential

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