Innovate, evolve and grow with disruption

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As a certified brain-based coach, nothing intrigues me more than new brain research and data, especially when it’s translated from the university sector to the organization and leadership development space. So, to say I was interested in the new discoveries to be presented at the NeuroLeadership Summit 2017 was an understatement. This annual event gathers scientists, institutions, and organizational innovators under one roof to better understand human capital potential. Better yet, it provided a chance for my APA Solutions team to compare results we have found from our own research center with experts abroad. This year’s theme was “Thrive through Disruption” where the exploration of new data, research and science-based strategies to grow and innovate were paramount. The topics covered during this summit not only peaked my data-driven interest, but the intrigue of my in-house PhD, Erikson Neilans. After the summit had concluded, our discussion began.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

It’s always interesting to see the reaction to an idea like disruption. The word itself takes us to change, and eventually a threat response in our brain. Interestingly enough, some of our more forward-thinking clients, similar to individuals at the summit, don’t shy away when the data is presented backing an idea like disruption. It’s almost like they have embraced the idea that getting uncomfortable and instituting change backed by appropriate resources is a way of life in the future. Alas, not the same can be said for all! Too often we run into the scenario where a leader hides change for fear of a revolt from the employee population, neglecting their fundamental need for information, purpose and resources (falling flat on their face in the end). Or, the age old: “We’re successful now, why change?” Yet, if you keep doing what you’re doing now, how are you going to adapt when change occurs? And, if you yourself are not living the change, how then can you expect anyone else to evolve?

It’s important to be mindful that your hard drive (brain) doesn’t like change, and that most brains love consistency and purpose. It takes a certain degree of awareness in a senior level role to understand that each person is different. You have multiple generations represented, no two brains or behaviors are alike, and the goal is to get everyone on the ship moving in the same direction. At some point we always find ourselves asking the same question of a client: “What are you doing to disrupt the status quo, and what evidence do you have to suggest that’s the best approach to take?” Many times, it’s that self-reflection piece that is missing. It often takes a review of your workplace behaviors from a cultural perspective, seeing if what you’re providing for innovation is relevant and visible by the employee population. Leveraging your vision and mission to clearly highlight the goals and prototype behaviors is also key, however leaders often stray from them in crisis, stifling the guiding light employees so desperately need.

Well, what is the answer? To say that there is a “one size fits all” solution would be crazy. No, it’s not going to be easy, and no industry is safe. There is hope though. Establishing a visible prototype of behaviors, living by them as a leader, and rolling them out in bite sized pieces over time in the workforce is a place to start. In fact, according to a recent meta-analysis (Nielsen et al.), if there is any resource provided to a group, it seems to have some benefit to show that taking initiative for improvement does provide results. Not all resources are equally important or impactful, but offering a bite-size sample of desired behaviors with resources is crucial to discover that there is an opportunity for impact.

“New behaviors require conscious, deliberate effort.”

From a behavioral standpoint, are you as a leader seeking out resources that allow your workforce to think in new ways and look at old problems differently? The leader of the future will need to give individuals an opportunity to work at their most comfortable cognitive state. They’ll need to utilize motivators, understand and mold behaviors, and lead within the preferred social order of the brain. What worked for people in the past doesn’t any longer, and many have already been taken to a place of disruption by the external customer. The question is, how long are they going to wait to do the same with their internal customer. Have you gotten to the first step of acceptance?


By understanding the manner in which the brain influences our behavior, we can implement a greater understanding and awareness into our actions, emotions and biases through the lens of neuroscience. Feeling stuck? Attend one of our “Mindset Matters” sessions to free yourself and your organization with science-backed training. Click Here!

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President and CEO

Joan Graci is an accomplished organizational consultant and executive coach with three decades of helping growing companies identify, retain, and develop top talent. Her time as President and Owner of APA Solutions, the premier brain-based human capital consulting firm of WNY, has been spent developing cutting edge, science-based solutions to the people pains of today.