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How your brain works (at work)

Submitted by on Wednesday, 13 November 2013One Comment

The brain is, without doubt, a complicated place. A day doesn’t go by without another discovery into the intricacies of everything from how the brain evolved, to how it processes information.

You’ll be delighted to know that we’re not going to go that level of complication!

Instead, this post is going to feature, very simply, a ‘big picture’ view (with the help of a simple diagram) for professionals as to how they can understand the brain in order to get the best results out of themselves and their colleagues.

How your brain works (at work)

Without further ado, let’s get straight to that diagram:

How your brain works (at work)Download How your brain works (at work) pdf

Red Zone – the stem

Let’s work from the base of the brain (coloured in red) up.

This part of the brain is often called ‘the reptilian brain’, because it is a feature shared with most reptiles. It includes the stem of the brain and, sitting at the top of the red box in the diagram above, a part of the brain called the ‘amygdala’.

Most neuroscientists agree that this is where our most instinctive, survival-related reactions emanate. It is the ‘fight or flight’ zone or the area of the brain that would serve us well, say, were we trying to survive in the Serengeti!

When activated, the amygdala can release a heady brew of chemicals that works well at keeping us alive in a short time frame, but is not so productive over longer periods of time. We’re calling this Red Zone Struggle because of this reality.

Activation of the amygdala at work could lead to the ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ conflicts at work – the aggressive of fight to the passive of flight (or hide). Have a look at our recent post on conflict for more on this. It can also explain the strange circumstance of ‘adrenaline addiction’ and to a degree our ‘comfort zone’ at work.

Orange Zone – the ‘limbic system’

The limbic system (circled in orange above) is where most of our emotions come from. There is a huge range of emotions but what distinguishes emotions in this zone from reactions in the zone below is that emotions can last. This seems to be unique in humans versus most other animals and is where marketers target most of their dollars as well as explaining ’emotional economics’ and a whole host of other factors.

Emotional Intelligence

The limbic system seems to work more subtly on us than, say, the amygdala and the stem, and is really where a lot of ‘political’ behaviour arises from in the workplace.

White Zone – the ‘neocortex’

This is really where the money is at! Or rather, should be. The neocortex is where our ‘higher’ thought processes take place. Arguably, we enter a state of ‘flow’ when we engage the neocortex and this is also where we can do our most productive work.

We like to think this as is the ‘white water’ zone of pure excitement without any of the nasty side effects of the lower zones, and hence we call it the ‘strive’ zone.

We would further argue that the purpose of employee engagement initiatives should be to get us into this white ‘flow’, focus or performance zone.

Next step? Have a look at Emotional Intelligence

We’ll be looking at these factors again in more detail, so make sure to stay tuned by subscribing below.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in getting your work team or company into the ‘white zone’ above, have a look at our Emotional Intelligence programme which helps promote achievement in the workplace as well as greater resilience and self-actualisation.

With an exciting mix of video clips, hands-on activities and role plays this really boosts workplace capability in the all-too-neglected ‘soft skills’. For more details, simply follow the link below…


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One Comment »

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