If an organisation wants to stand the test of time and be a true success, it has to be able to adapt to changes in its environment.
This ability has to be instilled and nurtured in the core of the organisation, its people. To enable people to adapt, leadership has to change how they think by activating brain plasticity, or reactivating silent brain networks.
There are basically two emotions that run an organisation: fear and love. The latter is not always understood in the context of an organisation and is therefore often not mentioned. In an organisational context, love refers to how you feel about what you do and the people you work with. If you truly love what you do and you genuinely care about the organisation, you will do what it takes to make it work. Fear, on the other hand, instils distrust, suspicion and often hate in an organisation. In an environment like this, no organisation will flourish, at least not in the long run.
The Reticular Activated System (RAS) is a part of the brain that interprets repeated actions as good. For example, if you are working towards a promotion, you might suddenly become aware of a lot of people around you being promoted or advancing in their careers. This might affect you positively, by motivating you to work harder or it might affect you negatively, by making you think you are not as successful as everybody else and you need to give up. It is pertinent that leaders apply positive thinking in themselves and in their employees, so that they keep their chins up even during tough times. The key to instilling more positivity into employees and driving growth lies in plasticity and neurogenesis.
Plasticity and Neurogenesis
Plasticity refers to our ability to reconnect silent networks in our brains, while neurogenesis means we have the ability to use stem cells in the hippocampus to create new neuron connections. The old belief that our brains are not capable of forming new networks or allowing us to learn and develop past a certain age is thus proven false. Our brains are constantly adapting and helping us to adapt to our changing environments.
There are a number of ways in which leaders can activate plasticity:
Make everyone in your organisation aware of their surroundings, environment and the developments therein, but also enable them to integrate it into their lives. This might point out weaknesses, but it should be seen as a good thing, as it will present the opportunity to look for solutions and ways in which to effectively mitigate these weaknesses.
The limbic system learns through experience. While theoretical knowledge and introspection is extremely important and valuable, it will only reach its full potential once experience is added to the mix. Through experience the best options or solutions can be identified for future reference and use.
Application is the process of combining awareness and action into a suitable and effective application. By repeating this process, new neural pathways are created, that might not have been there before or old ones are being reconnected. A very important part of this process is feedback, as it helps to refine processes and add to the learning experience and also bring about transformation.
If leaders can promote plasticity in their organisations, they can enable their employees and the organisation to adapt. This ability to adapt is exactly what transformation is. When an organisation becomes aware of the need to adapt to their changing environment, the people working in the environment have to be able to help the organisation do exactly that, by following a collaborative approach.