Thursday, September 22, 2016

Neuroscience and Teams

On September 21, 2016, I had the privilege to present at the Human Capital Institute’s Conference in Boston, Mass.  My topic was on neuroscience and enhancing team performance through change. This is quite relevant to the project management community. The study of the brain is still in its infancy but the strides that have been done in understanding how we are wired is amazing.

For example, researchers have found that new neural pathways continue throughout a person’s life. However, it does not occur just by doing your normal routine. You need to learn something new and become proficient in the new skill. Last year, I decided to do a triathlon. I had not done one in over 25 years. This was a goal but it was also learning new skills. Sure I knew how to swim, cycle, and run. However, I needed to learn to swim in open water, not a pool, shift gears appropriately on my bike, and pace myself to have enough energy to do the run. I succeeded in the meantime created new neural avenues in my brain.

This year, I plan to learn drawing techniques. You need to understand, I can barely draw a stick figure. What made me think to do this new skill? I recently went to an establishment called Painting with a Twist. A group of six strangers or a group of friends are led by a skilled painter. I was convinced I would paint the Eiffel tower in a starry, starry night motif, in a Picasso cubism rendition. Much to my surprise, the painting was half way decent.

So why am I advocating to learn something new? As we build these new pathways our minds become more innovative and creative. This is what a project, program or portfolio team needs! Creative, inspired and innovative individuals will develop creative solutions to problems, issues, and designs. Think about the Post-It note. The product was a failure. The Post-It note was not created to be a little note that you could stick almost anywhere as a reminder. However, a creative and innovative person on the team was able to look outside of the constraints of the project and see a valuable use.

As neuroscience continues to grow and we further understand how the brain is wired for motivation, for work, and for creativity, there will be great potential for the project management industry to flourish. Let’s face we are all about people!

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