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5 (scientific) tips for creating a great work environment

PX_08212014_BrainScience 2A few weeks back I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Jennifer McCusker, Director of Global Talent Management & Retail HR at Oakley. Her presentation focused on NeuroLeadership, a relatively new area of expertise that applies the science of how our brain works, to create productive leaders and a better work environment. In extremely oversimplified terms, the back of your brain and front of the brain work together. At the front, you’re making things happen—thinking critically, being creative, and problem solving. At the back is where all the emotion comes in to play. If you’re nervous, uncomfortable, or excited, the back of your brain sends a signal to the front and interrupts your focus. So, the goal is to keep the back of the brain stable so it’s not disrupting the front from helping you to get your job done.

There was a lot more to it, but I came away with five tips for creating a stable work environment and productive employees.

  1. Status – Employees should feel important and assured they are a needed member of the team
  2. Certainty – Employees should have a general understanding of what is going to happen in the future
  3. Autonomy – Employees should feel that they have control over their work
  4. Relatedness – Employees should feel a sense of safety with others
  5. Fairness – Employees should feel that that they are treated fairly

Another interesting takeaway was about creativity and the idea that creativity can’t be forced or planned. Some people brainstorm best on their own, while others prefer to feed off of others. Since we brainstorm all the time, we’ve identified who on our team works best under which scenario to make our process more efficient. We also engage in impromptu “write on the red wall” creativity sessions when we’re feeling it, but have learned that forced attendance usually doesn’t prove fruitful.

Organically, we’ve been able to create a work environment here at thinkPARALLAX that for the most part adheres to the ideas that Jennifer McCusker advocates. Drama is low and productivity is high. You wouldn’t want it any other way, right? So, take a look at your work environment and see if you can use neuroscience to make a positive impact on your team.


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