Best seller

Neuroscience for organizational change

Book review by Kathryn J Fraser - Neuroscience for Organisational Change, Hilary Scarlett
Kogan Page Limited £29.99 in paperback

An excellent book, which should be read by managers and employees alike.

Information straightforward to apply as each chapter has a summary at the end, and more important a list of references to show the evidence base.
This book is suitable for all employees as the information it contains, for example recognising achievements, can be applied at home and in the community, as well as at work.  In organisations this may be the use of ‘Appreciative Enquiry’, which identifies what works well and, with input from employees, uses successful techniques in other parts of the organisation.

What is the basic premise of the book?

• Change can be achieved more effectively when the working of the brain is taken into consideration, examples include:

• Threat response stronger than reward response, therefore brain focuses on threats and remembers these for longer.

• People continue to learn, and as a result the brain restructures, as we get older.  Indeed social skills and emotional intelligence improve with age.

• Certainty is rewarding, and change is a challenge.  Too much routine is also negative.  Optimal performance is a medium level of arousal (Yerkes Dodson Law).  Choice, however small, can reduce stress as it permits a certain degree of personal control.

• Beneficial to leaders to show warmth by listening, to increase trust, before demonstrating their strength and competence.

The ideas and concepts are very practical and straightforward to apply.  The explanations, about neuroscience, throughout the book are extremely interesting.  In addition there are summaries at the end of each chapter, which permit a quick reference when applying the principles.  This also permits readers to dip in and out as they chose, and as stated in the book ‘small actions can make a significant difference to our ability to focus at work’ (p4).

The book points out that for most organisations people’s brain power is their major resource therefore maximising this, especially during times of threat, is important.  The benefits to the brain of mindfulness, along with exercise and continually learning, are emphasised.  Linked to this is the value of telling stories to present a message about change; this is more easily understood than a list of facts.  The book highlights the known three factors that are the main motivators for most people – autonomy, mastery and purpose.  In addition it points out why social acceptance and related communication are important and very rewarding to the brains of individuals.

5 stars a ‘must read’ for any manager or leader.