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What does Neuroscience really bring to Leadership, Sales or Personal Development?

Neuroscience is the new “buzz” word of 2016 and probably 2017. Whatever you want to make “sexier”, you just add “neuroscience” to it and everybody gets interested.

With such a result, you can find and read articles about Neuroscience and sales, Neuroscience and Leadership etc. And I wonder… what does it bring?

When I read research articles on Neuroscience, they explain most of the time how the brain works, how we store our memories, etc. Beginning of this year, I read an article about Neuroscience, that proved that we stored a memory not as one interconnected event, but that the brain in its pursuit to be efficient with our brain capacity and energy, divides the memory in separate parts:

sound, visual, kinaesthetic, smell and taste, and stores it on different places in the brain. When reading that article I thought.. “ isn’t it what NLP already brought 40 years ago, and Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls even 20 years before NLP already used it whilst working with patients?

When I think about it, I would say that what neuroscience really does up to now is for more than 95% proving what we already knew for maybe a long time.

So, changing our methodologies from evidence based research in research based evidence. It validates why we do things in leadership, management, sales, and personal development.

Learning a new habit takes between 3-6 weeks. We need to exercise it everyday to really transform it into an habit. Neuroscience proved with the scans that synapses that fire together wire together and dissolving the "old" synapses connections takes 3-6 weeks.

A lot of development programs are deployed in consecutive days with an interval in between of 2-5 weeks. Neuroscience proved that when we learn something new, that really has an impact and the amygdala is also activated, and the learned skills are perceived as benefit for our survival or happiness, we create new connections. Those ones will slowly dissolve again when not trained in 3-6 weeks. Hence the interval in corporate training, repetition is needed to create an habit and have return on investment of it.

So the question again….”what is really the contribution of Neuroscience on leadership, sales, personal development?”

From my point of view, the most important benefit is that: it takes away the excuse that "we cannot change", it takes away the excuse "that is not me", it takes away the excuse "I cannot do that" or "old dogs do not learn new tricks" because yes we do or can do? Neuroscience proved that we can change, so most of researches are done about the brain’s plasticity.

We have come from the research of Michael Merzenich (the founder of the word brain plasticity) the 70ties and 80ties, whose experiences with monkeys proved that when two fingers are sewed together (yes, awful test), the brain that does not need two different spots for the action of 2 fingers anymore, so it will modify the brain in such a way that two fingers are perceived as one and the "free" brain space is used for other functions. Just like blind people who can read braille have a muncher lager part of there brain specialised for touch than people who don’t read braille. Or that we release noradrenaline when an unexpected experience occurs, and it alerts our brain in ways that assure that we pay attention to it, to determine whether or not that such a surprise represents a danger or a potential reward for us. If the surprise is interpreted to be neutral or positive, the brain also shoots out a pulse of dopamine. Dopamine release contributes to that little splash of curiosity or pleasure that is a frequent companion of the unexpected. That then alerts the hippocampus to store it in the long term memory.

The story of David, in Michaels’ book - soft wired, about how new science of brain plasticity can change your life 2013 - says it all:

David often appeared to be distracted and disconnected, and his parents and teachers concluded that he was attentional and cognitively impaired. David never spoke back. Throughout his childhood he had often seemed to understand what other people said to him, and could usually follow simple verbal instructions. He just didn’t talk.

As so often happens to such a child, his classmates cruelly teased him. He understood that. In large part, because of this bullying, David’s parents took him out of school at a young age, and through most of his school years he worked hard at home to educate himself under their patient guidance, using simple workbooks involving limited written and no verbal language. By his 20th birthday, David had still not spoken a single understandable word.

Michael and his research team and David connected, and in that visit, my clinical colleagues quickly determined that David had a severe auditory processing disorder, David is put on the special rewiring program they designed.

At about two months into intensive listening training, something remarkable happened. David began to talk. After another month, he could hold a simple but coherent conversation with his mom and dad. David has been talking to his parents—and everyone else who listen to him —since then. Now, several years later, in the words of his mom, "You wouldn't know that there was (ever anything) wrong with David”.

Or the even more amazing story of Michael Bernstein (Norman Doige, “the brain that changes itself”) an eye surgeon who has a stroke when he was 54 and became paralysed for his entire left side and an MRI confirmed that there was a defect in the right side of his brain that governs the left side of his body. After the normal recovery he had to use a cane for walking, his left hand barely functioned. He could not put his thumb and first finger together in a pincer movement. He could not hold a fork, bring a spoon to his mouth. Before the stroke he was a good tennis player and on that moment he could not even hold the racket. As being a lefty he thought that his career as an eye surgeon was over. And when he tried to drive his car, a Porsche, where the key is on the left side, he could not even start up the car or use the full strength of his left leg/feet to use the clutch.

He was then treated in the Taub Therapy Clinic, where they exercise in a special way from 8 am till 4:30pm, with the "damaged" hand and leg. The result: a rewired brain. Other places in the brain took over to control the fingers, hand, foot and leg and now he is back at work and playing tennis again!

And why is it so important to get the proof that we can change?

Because, when do people really want or are able to change?:

When they believe that it is possible,

When they believe they are capable,

When they believe they are worthy

When they understand why they "should" change, and

When they are willing to do so.

So Neuroscience helps with demystifying the beliefs "it is not possible" or "I'm not capable", which are major hinders in change, when I think of my clients/patients.

What can we learn from Neuroscience or from David and Michael?

Few of us feel we will have to deal with something as severe as David or Michael did.

We are still, on our pursuit to have a fruitful, happy, and successful life and maybe encountering difficulties on our passage through life.

So, we can learn that we are also the owners of great, exploitable powers that enable us for the achievement of still greater enrichment and personal growth than we maybe ever thought of.

Have a happy last days of 2016 and let's make all together 2017 a happy and peaceful year.


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