THE BLOG
09/25/2014 11:33 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2014

3 More Ways to Use Neuroscience to Improve Your Productivity

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Results are the product of behaviors. Nothing ground-breaking in that. However, we also know that people's internal and external environments cause behaviors. This is where things get interesting because most organizations are grossly under-utilizing the tools and approaches that will improve their results.

Last month, I shared with you "3 Ways Neuroscience Could Be Used In Your Organization To Improve Your Efficiency, Effectiveness and Productivity." This month, I would like to share with you three MORE ways to continue doing exactly this, so that you can work with your own and your colleagues' brains, to positively impact your organization.

4. Volition, Intention & Free Will
Did you know that the brain likes to run as much as possible under your conscious radar? If your brain doesn't have to think about something, then it doesn't want to. So although this hasn't been articulated by many organizations, what has been happening is that companies have been automating things, defaulting certain options, nudging and guiding people to do the things that they believe are best for them and the business.

When Superdry launched their new pension scheme to their young workforce, they utilized a well-researched nudge that involves opting out of auto-enrollment. They may have known all the science behind it and that we would have predicted the results, but either way, they were certainly happy when only four people inquired about opting out.

We like to think that we have free will and are consciously evaluating in a rational way all our decisions. This is rarely the case. The organizations that are directing energy and focus to developing people's internal environments will have a huge competitive advantage. This is easier and quicker to do than you may think.

5. Neurotransmitters
You have almost certainly heard of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline. Whether you know the details of how to increase the release of these chemicals or decrease them, they will be circulating in the systems of you and your colleagues on a daily basis. What neuroscience offers is insights into what is going on chemically for people at times like these and how to make the most out of these opportunities.

A fascinating neurotransmitter is called dopamine. One of the dopamine systems in the brain plays an important role in reward-motivated behavior. These pathways may or may not be activated on a regular basis in people at work and the consequences could be low engagement, poor productivity and high staff turnover.

Several organizations I have spoken to recognize that prior to a new employee starting to work with them they have a big opportunity. The individuals are excited and have high expectations about their future. Dopamine is likely to be one of the key neurotransmitters that is present in higher than normal levels during this time. Subsequently, it makes sense to capitalize on this time period. Andrea Cartwright from Superdry shared that when a new employee joins they go through a meaningful induction process. Their enthusiasm is cultivated and they are welcomed. This can pay dividends to a company down the line.

6. Resting state
The state our brain enters into when we are resting has gained a lot of attention recently. In most organizations value is placed on doing things. These may be tasks or thinking. Rarely do organizations applaud people for sitting quietly and simply daydreaming. Whether recognition is yet given or not to this brain state many people will experience it on a daily basis, perhaps themselves without acknowledging the good it is doing them.

We do know that the network within the brain activated during this time, the default mode network, has been linked to both higher insight and creativity. So there could be a business case for giving people space and time. In fact Google offers a 20 percent program, 3M has a 15 percent program and Gore & Associates have "dabble time." They say that these times have been at the center of their most successful products.

Thinking for many organizations is one of our most valuable capacities. The companies of the future will honor this skill and respect what strengthens it.

Again here, you can see that neuroscience can offer a lot to the corporate world. From these points, here are three valuable questions and actions you can take now to positively and productively impact your culture, environment and organizational results:

• What can you automate in your own workload, your team's, and your organization's?
• How can you cultivate your own enthusiasm (and share your notes with your HR or L&D Director)?
• How often do you give your brain a rest?