Understanding and applying concepts of neuroscience is becoming crucial for leaders who want to motivate their employees and build future leaders. It has also become a popular topic when discussing how employees and leaders alike can expand their skills and become greater assets to their organizations.
The Science of Neuroplasticity
According to The National Library of Medicine, neuroplasticity is “the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections after injuries, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI).”
A case study in Perspectives of Psychiatric Care found that neuroplasticity allowed patients with schizophrenia who underwent cognitive and physical intervention strategies to improve both cognitive function and quality of life. These findings imply that, with the proper training and environment, we can positively change how we act and think.
While the human brain tends to exhibit the most neuroplasticity at the age of twenty-five, the concept applies throughout adulthood. In fact, recent research using imaging tests like PET scans and functional MRIs has found that our brains are able to develop and change for the rest of our lives.
Simply put, neuroplasticity empowers us to change our brains by acquiring new knowledge and adopting new practices, experiences, or influences. It has long been understood that when we learn a new skill, we change our brain’s wiring. But research has also shown that by just thinking differently, we can also change how our brains respond.
This means that by changing our thoughts, we can change our experience.
Neuroplasticity in the Workplace
A workplace culture that embraces the concept of neuroplasticity can offer employees opportunities to challenge their own perceived limitations and, in turn, improve both motivation and engagement.
- To see where your employees stand in this regard, consider asking the following questions:What are you known for on your team?
- Could you bring more to the table than what you typically offer?
- Do you feel more limited than motivated in your current role?
- Do you feel like you’d be a more confident worker if you expanded your skill set?
The responses can offer a better understanding of why certain employees may be holding back and offer ideas on how you can motivate them to uplevel their skills and, perhaps, responsibilities.
How Leaders Can Embrace Neuroplasticity
- Create an environment conducive to learning by reducing stress. Research suggests that stress can inhibit learning, so try implementing group or one-on-one check-ins or other routines that reduce stress.
- Make learning accessible, on-demand, flexible, and interactive. One option is to “gamify” ways for employees to learn new skills. Consider meeting with your team to partake in skill-building activities or incentivize employees to build skills independently.
- Give positive feedback and show appreciation when employees step up. When employees feel valued for their contributions, it motivates them to keep participating.
Encouraging Future Leaders
In an environment where the concept of neuroplasticity is accepted and opportunities to tap into it are plentiful, employees may be more likely to challenge their limiting beliefs and, instead, adopt an open, growth-oriented mindset. To change their experience by changing the way they think.
Imagine the possibilities.
But it won’t happen overnight. As with any new skill, changing our brain’s wiring takes practice and consistency, like lifting weights to build muscle mass in our bodies. A few sessions at the gym won’t change much–it’s the steady work that reaps results.
A Neuroplasticity ERG? Food for thought.