Monday, 12 August 2013 01:07
We use desktop, laptop and palmtop computers. Yet, the most powerful is the ‘neck-top’ computer. I hope all of us have it and hopefully, no one is sitting on it. Today’s column is all about the most amazing device in the universe with specific relevance to managers.
As we are aware, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. The way the New Scientist magazine describes it, the brain produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of the world. This jelly-like mass of tissue, weighing in at around 1.4 kilograms, contains a staggering one hundred billion nerve cells or neurons. The brain is suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, effectively floating in liquid that acts as both a cushion to physical impact and a barrier to infections.
The complexity of the connectivity between these cells is mind-boggling. Each neuron can make contact with thousands or even tens of thousands of others, via tiny structures called synapses. Our brains form a million new connections for every second of our lives. The pattern and strength of the connections is constantly changing and no two brains are alike.
The neurons in our brains communicate in a variety of ways. Signals pass between them by the release and capture of neurotransmitter and neuromodulator chemicals, such as glutamate, dopamine, acetylcholine, noradrenalin, serotonin and endorphins.
The human brain is over three times the size of the brain of other mammals that are of similar body size. Each side of the brain interacts largely with just one half of the body, but for reasons that are not yet fully understood, the interaction is with opposite sides, the right side of the brain interacts with the left side of the body and vice versa. The largest part of the human brain is called the cerebrum. Other important parts include corpus callosum, cerebral cortex, thalamus, cerebellum, hypothalamus, hippocampus and brain stem.
Contemporary findings on the brain
“Because our consciousness notices everything, it observes and pays attention to us. It is aware of our thoughts, our dreams, our behaviours and our desires. It ‘observes’ everything into physical form.” So says Dr. Joe Dispenza, who is a neuroscientist with a biochemistry background.
In his book ‘Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind’, he connects the subjects of thought and consciousness with the brain, the mind and the body. The book explores ‘the biology of change’. That is, when we truly change our mind, there is a physical evidence of change in the brain.
Dr. Dispenza illuminates us on the existence of three parts of the brain. In neuroscience, we have three brains that allow us to go from thinking to doing to being. The ‘thinking brain’ is the neocortex, ‘doing brain’ is the limbic brain and the ‘being brain’ is the cerebellum. Let’s discuss them in detail.
Discovering three parts of the brain
“Every time we learn something new, we forge a new synaptic connection in our thinking brain,” says Dispenza. The neocortex is the corrugated brain that sits on the outside and allows us to gain information from our environment. So as we begin to learn new things, we add a new stitch to circuits that represent the three-dimensional tapestry in our gray matter.
He further explains: “Now it’s not enough to just learn that information. It’s important for us to apply what we learn, to personalise it, to demonstrate it. We have to take what we learned intellectually or philosophically, the knowledge that we’ve gained, and apply it, personaliae it, demonstrate it, and change something about ourselves. And when we do, we have a new experience.”
How do we activate the second brain called the limbic brain? Experience enriches the brain because when in the midst of a new experience, everything we’re seeing and smelling and tasting and feeling and hearing, all of our five senses are gathering all this information from the environment and it’s sending a rush of information back to the brain through the five different pathways, causing jungles of neurons to organise themselves to reflect the event. These neurons begin to represent the environment and produce chemicals that begin to signal the body. That’s how the limbic brain or the ‘emotional brain’ works.
As Dispenza elaborates: “The moment we begin to modify our behaviour and we have a new experience, now we are instructing the body emotionally to teach it what it has intellectually understood.” Having got two brains working together by now, we have mind and body in unison. It is not enough to have the experience once, but should be able to repeat it, do it over and over again, with memorising. Dispenza calls this “neurochemically conditioning” your mind and body to the point where your body knows it as well as your brain.
Then comes the state of being. That is when our thoughts and feelings are aligned to a concept and we activate that certain brain called the cerebellum, the memory centre in which we’ve practiced it so many times, we no longer have to think about it. According to Dispenza, “the process of change requires us to go from thinking to doing to being.”
Our hardwired thoughts, our habituated behaviours and our memorised emotions determine who we are and the quantum field tends to respond to who we are. Not so much our desires or what we want, but who we’re being. So moving into a state of being then allows us to change not only our health, but avenues and venues in our lives.
Three brains in action
Let’s take a simple example to demonstrate the action. I recall reading the renowned self-help book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. I was delighted by the information captured and started thinking of it even when I was driving or doing other things. Now I know that the information was stored in my thinking brain or the neocortex brain.
If I link it to Dr. Dispenza’s explanation, “nerve cells that fired together wired together, means that you are wiring new information in your brain philosophically. Now you’ve read this book, you’ve reviewed all the information. You’ve put some hardware in place to reflect what you’ve learned.” As a matter of fact, every time you’ve thought about it and every time you’ve repeated the thoughts over in your brain, you were reminding yourself and reinforcing those circuits.
Having read the book, I decided to practice the new habits I picked up from the book. Every time I apply a concept to an action, what is used is my limbic brain. Let’s say “abundance mentality”, which means to practice the idea that the world is full of opportunities. I am not insecure or unconfident when someone does something better than me. That is my limbic brain in action.
Then comes the being part. When I continuously practice the “abundance mentality” in my deeds, it becomes a habit. That means, I respond using my cerebellum.
As Dispenza explains: “And now we’ve just gone from thinking to doing to being. And if we practice it enough times now, when we move into that state of being, what that means then is that our mind and body are in exact order. We are now in a new feeling. And if we can maintain that modified state of being and memorise it, we could say now that in that state of being, when we are being of a mind and body that are working together, we’ve memorised an internal order so great that no condition in our life can move us from. And that’s when in that state of being the quantum field in our life begins to flow as a result of who we’re being.”
In brief, three parts of the brain helps us in three different ways in a sequential manner, leading to a meaningful experience.
Implications for managers
I realised that as much as the brain is complex, the literature about it also complex. Perhaps the starting point could be self-awareness. Using our laptop computer and knowing how it functions is always advantageous.
Managers have to think and act in order to set goals and to achieve them. Particularly in the area of managing change, this awareness is very useful.
As Dr. Dispenza explains: “Change is all about expansion. It’s all about unlearning certain traits that we’ve memorised and relearning new states. It’s about breaking the habit of your old self and reinventing a new self. It’s all about your decision to no longer think, act or feel in predictable ways. And with this, it requires pruning some connections and sprouting new connections. It requires un-memorising emotional states that have become part of your personality and then reconditioning your body to a new emotion or to a new mind.”
At a time when there is a growing recognition towards the human brain with advances in neuro-psychology, managers can use the new awareness on brain functions to be more result-oriented in a balanced ethical manner. It has global, regional and local implications.
(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on [email protected] or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)