"The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment."
Prof. Warren Bennis

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 467

Estimated reading time:  3.0 minutes


The November issue of Fast Company has a great series of graphics called 15 Ways to Work Smarter. I was intrigued to note a couple of similarities with the learning work I’ve been doing on neuroscience.

Common in a few of the 15 ways to work smarter is to remove distractions. For example use a “Parking Lot” or “Bicycle Rack” in meetings (with assignments for following up). And, don’t just turn off your notifications on your phone, make sure there is no sound or vibration at all. You see, our brains are wired to react to interruptions, like sounds or flashes. Those sounds or flashes might be a threat (like a sabre tooth tiger) to our brains and so even if we only have the vibration on, our brains react, and we stop thinking and move into reaction mode. And if that vibration, or sound is heard, even lightly by others in the room, their brains are now in reaction mode too, and the thinking stops at your end of the table for a couple of minutes.

One of the suggestions too is to move around every thirty minutes or so in a meeting; get up and move a bit. This will get the brain stimulated in a new way, and get blood moving. (Even 20 minutes of exercise a day has a profound effect on our thinking ability.) My suggestion to add to this is to sit in different seats for each meeting.

Some years ago, a friend from grad school was given the great opportunity to do an internship in Turks and Caicos. She was assigned to be the “rookie” clergy in a rural group of parishes. One of the stories she brought back was about where people sat. In a tiny parish in the country, regular Sunday service involved about 6 older women who sat in the same seats each Sunday, spread throughout the church. My friend suggested that they move closer, and was surprised to hear that they sat in this way so that they would immediately know if one of them was missing, and would then go and make sure she was ok. It was a pattern of behavior designed for safety in an out of the way place. My friend did not press the point.

The shadow side is though that we get set into these patterns and they frame our thinking. Each time you change seats, you get a different perspective, and your brain sees the world in a different way. So next meeting, find a different seat, and see the world in a new way.

May this week be one of working smarter, and new perspectives.