Neuroscience in organisations
The human brain does not easily work in isolation. It works in sync with thousands – millions – of other human brains across the world. Human beings are profoundly linked to each other in time and space, and those links are living. They are born, grow, mature, and die. They are ever-changing. They are central to individual happiness. They are interdependent. And as they are an aspect of the human brain’s neurology, like any other part of our bodies they can become diseased and toxic.
There are many similarities in the way the human brain works within the body and the way it works in collaboration with the brains of others. One of the most obvious inter-brain collaborations is well documented. Studies done on the interdependence of two brains married to each other for a substantial period of time as husband and wife (or two committed long-term partners) show that people who have been living in mutual interdependence develop brains that efficiently specialise, with mutually supporting different brain areas developing in each.
The depth of this connection and interdependency is particularly noticeable when one partner dies. The other person is bereft, not just of a friend but of all they didn’t know and learn (because they didn’t need to) during the time they were working as ‘one’ – to the point where the remaining person experiences significant trauma. This may be the neurological explanation for bereavement. The two brains were functioning as a simple Community Brain.
The Organisational Brain.
This characteristic is seen beyond such a simple inter-relation of just two brains. It spills out across the individual brain’s entire ‘ocial’ world wherever that ‘society’ is (workplace, family, friends, community, neighbourhood, church, online) and is limited only by contextual environment in which it finds itself. As some plants need an acid or alkaline soil in which to thrive, the possible connections an organisational brain can grow with others depends on the availability of a suitable environment of trust and time. In fact it will inevitably be affected by the ‘brain world’ around it and begin tentatively to grow towards the other brains within the organisational or social context in which it finds itself. The more conducive the environment, the faster the interconnections develop.
As in the human brain, the power of an organisational brain is directly related to its connectivity and content. The more substantial – both in number, size and strength – of the organisational brain’s connections, the more unified it becomes. In a little child those connections are growing at an almost incomprehensibly fast rate – millions per minute. In a newly forming organisation such as a new friendship or exciting business venture the same can be said. Massive rates of connectivity for each brain through the sensory channels available to it: touch, sound, sight, smell, temperature, taste, and more, result is a rush of information. Through the human body’s psychological immune system this is immediately filtered, tagged and integrated depending on the meaning the receiving brain gives to them. (See pages on Auto-Response Psychology.) It happens within seconds of meeting someone new or even visiting a new webpage! The brain is constantly seeking meaning and clarity in order to be able to decide ‘friend or foe’ and develop further connection or create a defence. In Powerchange we describe this as the brain seeking MCC: Meaning Clarity and Closure.
This non-stop seeking of interconnectivity is seen within the human brain itself. Throughout life neural networks are spontaneously being created between different areas of the brain – amygdala, hypocampus, pre-frontal cortex, areas for sight, hearing, etc – and this non-conscious growth is true of the community brain too, with sensory connections linking up emotional, logical and ‘survival’ responses to the environmental context perceived around it.
(More on this on it’s way)