Reading This Will Change Your Brain


The title above comes from a Newsweek article published on October 14, 2008. The moral of the story is that recent research in neuroscience indicates that use of modern technology – in particular Web searching – actually exercises the decision making and complex reasoning parts of the brain. The end result is that younger people who are more attuned to life in cyberspace have more finely developed skills in these areas, whereas those who are not as steeped in the web are better at social skills and reading emotions from facial expressions.

“The more time you devote to a specific activity, the stronger the neural pathways responsible for executing that activity become.”

Gary Small, who leads a research team at UCLA, recently published an article in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that explains these finding in depth, and suggests that a “simple task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults.” What does this news have to do with managing your organization? It helps you understand how to manage change by pointing out that certain activities can be strategically applied to develop specific parts of the brain.

These phenomena are comprehensively explained in the 400+ pages of Schwartz & Begley (2002). By studying obsessive-compulsive disorder, Schwartz learned about how the brain rewires itself to deal with problems and heal from wounds and uncovered much of the theory that’s being refined and developed by researchers like Small.

One of the lessons from this tome is that “practice really does make perfect”. You should give your employees time to build their capabilities and continually refine their skills – try not to rush them. “We have the ability to bring will and thus attention to bear on a single nascent possibility struggling to be born in the brain, and thus to turn that possibility into actuality and action.” There is a biological basis underlying the idea that people need the time to focus to turn an idea into action.

Schwartz, J.M & Begley, S. (2002). The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force New York: Harper Perennial.

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