Friday 26 June 2015

Never Pass Up the Chance to have Lunch with a Neuroscientist

Carlos Davidovich
I had lunch with Carlos Davidovich recently. Carlos is a 'neuromanagement' expert, medical doctor, university professor and leadership coach. We met at a networking event a couple of months ago and promised to get together soon.

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system and how the brain impacts behaviour and how we think. 

For a few years now, the change management community has been enamoured by neuroscience because it provides a new lens through which to understand why people do what they do. Influencing people to align with and support positive change is our business. 

The application of neuroscience discoveries has helped people adopt new ways of thinking and behaving to improve performance at work. For change leaders, it has added to their toolkit of practices and approaches used to communicate and enable change. Also, its research-based insights on how the brain works has provided credibility and a cool factor to change.

Carlos and I talked about the importance of a positive future vision when communicating change and how this form of storytelling needs to paint a picture in which people can see themselves doing meaningful work. This is a must for someone to consider supporting it over time.

We also discussed how understanding the workings of the brain can help people take on new mindsets and behaviours that lead to greater performance. Successful change has a lot to do with creating the right environment to support these changes.

Leadership coaching, a passion for both of us, was the crescendo point of our conversation. We traded stories of how to best help leaders lead change based on what has worked and not worked in our careers.

Time flew and we felt our conversation was cut short by our afternoon commitments. We would have to continue our discussion about human nature another day. 

As I rode the subway back to my office, I wrote notes on our conversation. Most were insights on how and why people do what they do. A couple were opportunities to partner in the future. I underlined them knowing they would involve meaningful work in the future.


Saturday 20 June 2015

You Would Be Better Off if You Knew What People Think

Last week, I received three gifts in my inbox: three critical book reports on Change with Confidence from master’s degree students.

I first met Dr. Len Karakowsky, Professor of Human Resource Management at York University, in the spring of 2013 just after my book was published. We were introduced by someone we both knew and had an excellent conversation about our passion for change management.

Soon after, I spoke at Len’s Organizational Change and Development course that is part of York’s Master of Human Resource Management program. I was delighted and honoured when Change with Confidence was added to the course reading list the next semester.

Len and I had discussed getting feedback on my book from his students. I was excited by the prospect of people commenting on what was useful (and not useful), based on their experience and needs.

The winter session included a critical book report on Change with Confidence:

For Change with Confidence: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest rating), how helpful is this book to you as an HR professional who will be involved in managing or leading change? What area(s) is/are this book’s biggest strength(s) and what is/are its biggest weakness(es) as a change management tool for YOU (or your organization)? Why?

StephanieTirelli, Emily Candy and Anne Gibbs kindly agreed to share their excellent reports. Reading them brought me back to the time when I was making decisions about what and how I would share my advice.

Here are most of the strengths and weaknesses and my reflections on them:

I am grateful for Stephanie’s, Emily’s and Anne’s reviews of my book. It is instructive to validate things that are useful and identify things that aren’t. Both have me thinking and both will make me better off for future projects.


Friday 12 June 2015

If Learning is Social then Up your Sociability Now

"It takes two brains to learn," said a friend over coffee. He went on to say that people learn through their interactions with others.

I agreed and added that people learn best this way. You can learn on your own, but not as much and not as fast. We started discussing what is known as Social Learning Theory. Albert Bandura coined the term and believed that "people learn from one another via observation, imitation and modeling".

This simple but powerful concept has been used in advertising ("monkey see, monkey do") and leadership development ("walk the talk," "lead by example" and "fake it till you make it").

My professional learning curve has been shaped by social learning. Most of my growth has come from interactions, observations and practice. Learning from others has become second nature. 

My personal learning hasn't followed the same path. Development of interests have been mostly solo. When I was five years old I had a passion for chess. I played a lot, including tournaments, but didn't socialize with or learn much from my opponents.

More recently, my passion for running has also been an individual pursuit to increase my speed. I run alone and develop alone. Or at least that was my approach until three weeks ago when our son, Sam, started running. We began running together, first doing hill repeats (painful) and then long runs. 

I noticed that Sam ran at a faster pace than I did. I also noticed that his pace was consistent, something I had never been able to do. If I wanted to run with Sam, I had to change how I ran; I had to run like he did. I had to become a better runner through observation, imitation and practice.

The last 200 metres
Last Sunday, we ran our first charity run, the Bread and Honey 15K. Although challenging, we ran in Sam's style, fast and consistent.  

Our plan was to sprint once we saw the finish line as we had practiced on our long runs. It was amazing to see Sam bolt to the end and fly past the time clock. 

I crossed the finish line a minute faster than last year, five seconds per mile faster, where each second is a personal victory. I had grown as a runner.

I am now committed to changing how I learn in my personal passions. I will up my sociability, grow more, and enjoy the process.

Our next race is on Sunday called the Spring Fling 15K. We are planning to run even faster. Social learning is fun.


Saturday 6 June 2015

How Music Affects What You Buy in a Grocery Store

I was at the local grocery store and I noticed my head nodding to the background music. Next, I realized I was singing the song (and nodding). I was close to dancing with my cart, oblivious to those around me, in my private happy zone. Okay, I might have do a couple of dance moves.

The song that grabbed my attention is called "Stomp" by the Brothers Johnson (of Strawberry Letter 23 fame). It is a memory song from my youth. As soon as I recognized the chorus I smiled and felt happy. Grocery shopping had become enjoyable.

As I progressed to the dairy section, I wondered what effect my new joyous mood was having on my purchases. Similar to how shopping with children can increase your bill, was the youth in my head doing the same? Was I buying more or different things? I felt I was being more carefree about my choices and buying multiple items on sale seemed like a good move.

When I got home I did some research on music's effects on buying behaviour. Most sources referenced the same studies and I thought this article captured the highlights really well:

  • There are 3 qualities of music impact buying behaviour: Tempo, Volume and Genre
  • Tempo: Slow paced music increases time in store by 38 percent and increases sales by 32 percent
  • Volume: Less time is spent in stores playing loud music versus background music yet the purchases are higher when louder music is played for those younger than 50 years old.
  • Genre: Purchases are higher for classical music over top-40 and the items bought are more expensive.

The research contrasts my perceptions. I think I stay longer in the store and spend more when I was hearing music that I liked, especially memory songs from the past. 

Another study may explain the difference between my perception and retail reality. High tempo music increases the level of arousal which increase the pace you go through a store. It also can cause you to lose focus and distract you from buying. I was definitely distracted.

I have noticed the effect of music on participants at training sessions and change launches. You can excite people or ease them into a reflective mood by the music you play. Perhaps these experiences are similar to those in a grocery store. Both are selling opportunities.