Maybe – just maybe some will learn from Nokia

These comments from Ziyad Jawabra on his post concerning Nokia – are common sense.

“They (Nokia) missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the opportunity at hand to make it big. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost their chance of survival.  The message of the Nokia story is, if you don’t change, you shall be removed from the competition. It’s not wrong if you don’t want to learn new things. However, if your thoughts and mindset cannot catch up with time, you will be eliminated.

Failure does not occur instantly, just as success does not occur instantly. We have enough ‘flags and warning signs’ along our pathway yet we choose to ignore many of them, not for any rational reason but generally for something else – fear or fixed beliefs that are misaligned to the actual present reality. We know this is the case because of our post-mortums after the event – I wudda, shudda, cudda done things differently. If we had been fully present and actually ‘engaged with the present trajectory’ (which is constantly moving to a future point in time) we would most likely have made very different decisions.

There seems to be considerable levels of ‘resistance’ to moving forward with many ‘traditional businesses’. This is a worrying trend, particularly given that there is an increasing number of new businesses setting up in traditional industries that are designed very differently. They are structuring themselves to be malleable, movable and agile, and are succeeding in acquiring customers,  because they are purpose designed to be ‘responsive’ to customers needs.  Agile does not apply only to processes – more importantly it applies the entire mind-set of the people within the business. A business is not its product or process – it is the ability of its people to meet the needs of customers, this is what creates its brand, its reputation and by default its success or not.

Many traditional business seem the think that longevity, loyalty and tradition will keep them safe – wrong. The modern consumer is none of these things any more. They are short term, fickle, modern and more likely to decide to purchase according to their ‘friends or those around them’ than for any ‘traditional’ reason. Change is really not that hard – and we do it outside of our businesses and workplaces by default. However at work we seem to morph back a century into old structures and ways of behaviour that no longer fit. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between this and the ‘pandemic’ of workplace unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

We live and work in a two speed world

We live and work in a two speed world: Digital Technology Speed – speed of light (≈3.00×108 m/s); and Analogue Human Information Processing Speed – one thing at a time (0.050-0.01 m/s). Why is it that this is such a challenging concept for us to get?

The thing most people ask me about more than anything else brain related is the usefulness of ‘brain training’. The reason people ask me about this is there seems to be a new ‘paranoia’ concerning ‘dementia’ being touted as the newest condition that one is doomed to be afflicted with.

If we examine how the advent of technology has changed the way we live and work, there is one factor that has had the most impact, yet this factor is largely unknown or ignored. Technology is wonderful with new gadgetry and the speed of ‘tech capability’ having made so many things easier and more convenient, both in our lives generally and at work. However there is a huge downside to the speed of technology, in particular the radical change the speed of information transfer has had on our brain.

We all know about overload and too much information and there is even an International Day of Information Overload day. We know how much information or ‘stuff’ as I like to call it is produced each day – an insane amount. That in and of itself, is not the problem. The problem is the resulting ‘demand’ to DO SOMETHING with the inordinate amount and speed at which this ‘stuff’ comes at us each day.

Let’s unpack this a bit further. Prior to the tech age, workplaces had the telephone, fax machine and snail mail. Stuff would be passed around at a slow rate (analogue), and therefore the ‘demands on us to do something with the ‘stuff’ was minimal. Now what is the single biggest thing people complain about at work? Email. Email is not the direct problem, rather the speed at which emails come at us, the way we react to them and try to deal with their demands simultaneously, IS the problem.

This demanding expectation we place upon ourselves equates to the single biggest contributor to overload, stress, anxiety, overwhelm and all the rest of the reactionary states, conditions, poor relationships, blame cultures we see in our workplaces.

Digital technology, email and other ‘social messaging’ is transferred instantly or the ‘speed of light’ essentially. We like this convenience on the one hand, but know that it is slowing sending us ‘bonkas’ on the other hand, because we never seem to get things done or finished – hence the paranoia about ‘going mad’ and dementia (that is for another day).

So why does this digital speed make us feel so hideous, and why is it so difficult to deal with the demands of email and other stuff coming at us? The answer is simple – the human brain can only process at a speed of 50 – 100 milliseconds. Comparing the human brain processing speed to digital speed of information transfer is like comparing a human brain to a single cell amoeba.

Interestingly the human brain information processing capability is the same as pretty much all other animals on the planet. Information processing occurs in the ‘survival’ part of the brain, the purpose of which is for survival so that we and other species are not wiped out. Perhaps the most critical thing about this survival part of our brain is that it is ‘unconscious’ and therefore we have no idea what is going on ‘consciously’.

Getting back to the point of this post – and why people ask me about ‘brain training effectiveness’ – they ask because they are experience the ‘side effects’ of the gross misalignment between digital processing speed and human information processing speed. They are ‘ON’ all the time, have difficulty being able to focus or concentrate, experience varying levels of anxiety,  are forgetful, short tempered, fatigued, have difficulty changing behaviours and habits and perceive that everyone else seems to be more ‘together’ than they are.

All of these symptoms are ‘caused’ by the grossly misaligned speed of technology and human processing indirectly. They are directly caused by the way we “REACT” to the speed of stuff coming at us and our ‘rediculous EXPECTATION to be able to deal with it. WE CAN’T AND NEVER WILL BE ABLE TO

So my response to people is to give them a quick synopsis of this post and learn to get into the ‘zone’, focus’ and learn to ignore the noise. The noise is everything except the ONE thing you are working on in a moment. Thinking logically, I am writing this post now, I have a very long to do list, have to collect children in an hour, start preparing dinner, put the washing out, vacuum and do the bathrooms, how well do you think I would write this if I was thinking about all those other things at the same time? I wouldn’t, it would be rubbish and I would be stressed out.

I am not – and now upon completion will move on to the next thing. We all need to give ourselves a break, understand that ‘brain speed is very different to tech speed and learn how to ‘adapt’ our brain to deal with a tech world.

Productive People Management Systems – Tech solutions for embedding behaviour change using the neuroscience of adapting to thrive in the Age of Technology.

‘Who can we blame – we’ll have an inquiry’!!!!!

“We’ve created a culture where taking responsibility is one of the last sure ways to make a difference. It’s easy to avoid, fraught with anxiety and rarely done, which is precisely why it might be your best available path” – Seth Godin

I don’t know about you but Seth Godin shines a little light in my world each day.  I think that we all need to have our own version of Seth just to cause us to inquire, a tiny bit about the way we think and the rigidity of our beliefs. I completely agree with Seth that we seem to have created a culture where self-responsibility causes intense anxiety – but no wonder because we go after the ‘man’ like a witch hunt – (Shrek comes to mind, got to love the kids movies such great lessons – pity they don’t seem to stick).

Take it from Seth and of course from me as well – not only is self-responsibility your best available path – it is the only path to ‘happiness’, satisfaction contentment’ whatever it is that we are looking for – because hey guess what? you are what you think. If you think that someone else is responsible – then you are never going to control them, and be locked into a world of pain. However, if you decide to take responsibility, you have total control over what you think – and only you can ‘shift’ your thinking. The words of Sir Lawrence Olivier .

P.S. I predict some of you will look up ‘provination’ – add a comment if you do – thanks!!

Factors most likely to increase productivity of people at work

The results are in from the survey we ran in May considering what is key to people productivity in our modern world. Firstly thank you to all everyone who contributed to this small but significant research project. We had over 500 responses and the spread across each of the roles within businesses from Operations through to Continuous Improvement personnel was quite balanced.

The research was seeking to identify from a long list of 17 factors that have been espoused to be silver bullets with increasing the productivity or output of people in the recent past, according to popular and peer reviewed literature.

The findings were a testament to what has always been important with output of people across the ages. They also ring true with the discussion concerning the importance of continuous improvement with humans that I will get back to in time. The results support the fact that humans are hard wired so to speak, to continually move forward and strive to improve themselves.

The factor to be rated the most important to people productivity with 9.2 / 10 was Leaders Walking the Talk. Human history is littered with conquests and empires being built and collapsing – in each case these empires and conquests were led by people who displayed ‘walking the talk’ and people followed them.

In businesses today leaders who ‘walk the talk’ will succeed in inspiring people to follow them and perform as best they can.

Second position was shared equally with a score of 8.8 / 10 by Having a Sense of Purpose at Work, and Feeling Valued at Work. Again this is no real surprise and stands to reason with the first belief that leaders who walk the talk are aspirational and will by default inspire a sense of purpose in those they lead. A leader walking the talk who inspires ‘purpose’ will also give a sense of being valued to people.

These findings are fundamental human values and we believe these results indicate that no matter what changes in the environment – our fast pace busy world and lives – we still hold that the central tenant of our humanness; being led, with a purpose and being valued is motivating and makes us want to achieve.

Of interest the factor at the bottom of the 17 was Encouragement of Career Advancement. What are your thoughts about that?

Urgent (Reacting) Vs Important (In control)

The urgent important matrix is an oldie but a goodie and is originally credited to US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a pragmatist who was in control of his reactions. It is an excellent tool for each and everyone of us to add to our kit bag of strategies to deal with our world of overload and feeling overwhelmed. As I pointed out in a previous post it is ‘people’s hard wired reaction’ to respond to requests to do something either at work or outside work that causes the feelings of overwhelm, rather than the communication tool or app i.e. email, ‘Slack’, social media or whatever tool people use. This brings me to another oldie but goodie ‘The Serenity Prayer’ which at its essence reminds us that we can only change ourselves, i.e. our attitudes, beliefs and by default our ‘reactions’. If I had a $1 for every time I heard someone say – he/she/it/them/they “did this to me” then I would be extremely wealthy.

Whilst we may intellectually ‘know’ these things and I am sure most people have been introduced to the ‘urgent/important matrix at some point in their development at work and the serenity concept with one of those ‘inspirational’ videos or images that do the rounds, most of us don’t apply them. If we applied the wisdom of the Urgent/Importance Matrix to our daily lives; we would be in in control of the ‘high urgent and high important stuff'; vigilant about not letting the  low importance and high urgent quadrant (other people and outside things) get to us, dump the low urgent and low importance stuff, and be mostly focused on the high important and low urgent stuff, because that is what really matters.

This is not through lack of intent or lack of knowing what we ‘should do’ to be effective, and by default feel good about our efforts. It is simple because of brain overload. Why is brain overload the problem?

Brain overload in its simplest form means that ‘brain energy or brain resources’ are stretched beyond their capacity. This is due to too much stuff to process and too many cognitive (thinking) demands at the same time, which makes us feel anxious and overwhelmed because we naturally ‘want to respond’.  This pushes the brain into a state of  energy depletion and we feel out of control because we know it is impossible to ‘respond to more than one thing at a time’.  A simple analogy is a car with worn or misfiring spark plugs which reduces the amount of energy (fuel) available and therefore the performance of the car deteriorates. The brain is the same, it is a ‘system’ that requires a certain amount of energy to perform at its optimum. Just think about how well you perform when you are tired – not too well, and it is brain energy depletion that drives fatigue for people in sedentary roles rather than ‘body or muscle’ fatigue.

So what happens when the brain is stretched beyond its processing capacity or beyond the ‘available energy? It tries to compensate by taking short cuts, and the first thing it cuts out is the parts of the brain that take the most energy. These bits are the ‘smart bits’ the bits that make good decisions, the planning and organising bits, the memory of how similar things worked out in the past, the urgent important matrix. What does that leave? The basic bits, the reactionary bits, the low hanging fruit, like what we did before or last time we were in this situation – the habits and automatic reactionary behaviours.

How do we ‘stop this reacting so that we can access the wisdom of the urgent / important matrix and ‘knowing’ what we can change in the midst of too much stuff? We have to become aware of our own behaviours and reactions, and it is up to us. The irony is that brain overload has made this incredibly simple concept extremely difficult. Who would imagine that being aware of our own ‘reactions’ would be so hard to control.

What is Core to People Productivity

A snapshot of what each ‘function’ within organisations believe is Core to People Productivity according to more than 500 respondents who contributed to our Research Project conducted in May.

A big thank yoInfographic corrected 080815u to all those who participated. Stay tuned as over the next few weeks we will be drilling down further into each of these ‘functions’ perceptions and beliefs, to find common ground of what each believe is required to optimise people productivity. People productivity improvement success will be maximised once the different functional units within an organisation are aligned and cognizant of each others perceptions and efforts to improve.



She did that to you? What a……….

Travelling on public transport is a fascinating social exercise, the mood, conversations, body language of travelers is infinitely interesting to observe. It seems of late the conversations of people around me (either on the phone or to a fellow passenger) have been particularly ‘grumpy’ for want of a better word. In the absence of wearing headphones listening to music or something else whilst on public transport, we pick up on conversations around us by default. It actually takes a concerted effort to block the sound of those conversations out. I tend to use the journey as a means to check in on ‘sentiment’ of what is bothering people – because these conversations are generally about what is bothering people.

What has struck me and hence this blog post is that I seem to be hearing a lot of ‘stories’ about ‘what people’ have done, or are ‘doing to’ the the person telling the story, and this is predominantly at work. Some of these people have been quiet upset as gauged by the volume and rate of expletives elicited. There is a common denominator with the conversations that I have noticed, the conviction that someone has done something to them. So lets look at this. The person telling the story is not actually living through the ‘thing that has happened to them’ in the moment whilst in transit on public transport, it occurred in the past – mind you some of the conversations I hear are about ‘what someone is going to do to them. Yet from the conviction of their ‘story’ it is as though the injustice that has occurred is the focal point of their life right now and it is ‘true’ beyond measure.

In effect these transgressions of what ‘someone’ has done to the person telling the story take on a life of their own and become a belief. Once a story becomes a belief it becomes difficult to change. Workplaces are littered with beliefs about people, processes, customers and competition that in many cases have come into existence via a ‘story’ of some ‘injustice or transgression’ that occurred some time in the past. Other beliefs exist of a positive nature, these ones generally don’t create ongoing problems nor endless conversations in the workplace kitchen and the journey home. How many of you have begun a new job and learned very quickly about such beliefs? The stories about what people are like and what they have done and how these things about the person are the ‘truth’. In cases the stories are years old and the original transgression and the victim of the injustice are long gone from the organisation – yet the story, the belief, remains.

How differently would you think about a person whom you have never met if you were to make up your own mind about them via your interactions at work, rather than take on the ‘party line’ belief? I would hazard a guess, very differently. My point is to promote readers to think about the beliefs you have about people at work and the power they have over you. How real are they? Do we really want to become the person having the conversations on public transport, where seemingly their life is being ruled by such beliefs?

Is Uncertainty really the enemy?

I was pondering out on the bike the other day about a statistic that continually comes up as the single biggest concern globally for businesses and people – ‘uncertainty’. I have a keen interest in data and people and regularly seek out such things as, what factors are driving the dominant global thinking – got to love Google. Uncertainty has come up over the past 3-4 years as the one thing that underpins a myriad of other consequent ‘issues’. From my perspective this is a no brainer – because of Busy Brain Syndrome (BBS), the brain discovery I made from my PhD research over a decade ago. Busy Brain Syndrome is at its core, the brain ‘doing what it is supposed to do’. Many of us really have no idea what our brain is supposed to do and does, because these days most of us are locked into endless, mindless internal self-talk or ‘chit-chat’, as I like to call it. “I woulda, coulda, shoulda, what if, but, what does she mean? I think this is right………”

So what is our brain ‘supposed to do, and what is it doing?

Our brain is keeping us safe, because in case anyone has forgotten we are a ‘species’, vulnerable to dangers just like any other ‘species’ on the planet. The interesting thing is that the biggest threat to us is ‘us’. The news is littered daily with hideous things people do to each other. Yesterday a cyclist had a full 1.25 litre bottle hurled at her head from an abusive motorist – why? Who knows. What has this done to the cycling community? Sent a shiver of ‘fear’ through them – a new level of danger to add to the other dangers of riding a bike in Australia.

It never ceases to amaze me that people find the concept that we are a ‘species’ a little ‘out there’. Further evidence that we are disconnected from who and what we really are, which interestingly is another consequence of Busy Brain Syndrome. Getting back to how BBS impacts uncertainty, BBS has come about from the brain ‘adapting’ to a changed environment. That is what the brain does, it continually reads the environment and adapts. A simple illustration of this is weather – we take for granted that everyday we ‘dress appropriately’ for the weather – everyone takes an interest in the weather, albeit largely unconsciously so they are prepared. Taking this concept to a macro level, the environmental changes that have come about due to technological advances and impact all humans living on the planet, have been massive from the perspective of the ‘brain job of keeping us safe’.

Simply put – the brain has to filter incoming ‘stuff’ to make sure that we are OK, just like workers on a production line filtering for defective products. Thinking of the production line, those working on it are on high alert for defects, so is the brain. That was all fine when the speed and amount of ‘stuff’ to process was slow and manageable. Technological advances have changed all of that. Now the speed of stuff is totally beyond the brains ability to process (this part of the brain is not smart or like a computer, it is unconscious and like a production line). Effectively the brain production line has sped up 100’s fold, imagine workers on a production line that is running at 100kmph – ridiculous.

BBS means that the threat filter in the brain is on ‘extreme’ alert all the time and the brain is constantly in ‘uncertainty mode’. This part of the brain is not smart and has no idea that ‘stuff – social media and communications’ is not a ‘threat’ – it just sees this stuff as being a potential ‘treat’, or a potentially defective product referring to the production line analogy. This ‘uncertainty’ is not actually real – it is a consequence of the brain doing what it is supposed to do and adapting to keep us safe. Unfortunately from the perspective of the modern human in a fast paced world just trying to get on with things and live a good life; this is a ‘maladaptation’.

What is the antidote to ‘uncertainty’ and Busy Brain Syndrome – getting back in control – or at least feeling like we are in control. Miraculously feeling in control is synonymous with all those ‘positive emotions’ that make us feel good and do well. Uncertainly or being out of control elicit negative emotions which we all abhor and work to reverse, which is the brain doing what it does – working to get us back to ‘safe’ ground.

HR, KPI’s and the danger of fixed beliefs

Episode Two – Cake-man.

Following on from last weeks post and the story of cake-man, his most vehement complaint was about KPI’s and HR. You know the situation, you are nailed to the walled by a person who is so passionate about their ideas and making you agree (passion does have its downside) – that you end up agreeing just to escape. To be honest I didn’t really understand the leap cake-man was making with HR and KPI’s being the main problem with business today. He was of the view that since the introduction of KPI’s some time ago by HR, managers ceased being responsible because they lost sight of the bigger picture. KPI’s created the tick the box system where managers managed ticking off their KPI’s, rather than focusing on the bigger picture. Cake-man believed that before the introduction of job specific KPI’s, managers managed the whole job because they understood the holistic nature of the job. They could see tasks or the job at hand beyond their own teams specific contribution and took responsibility for ensuring their output (team) complimented the whole job or task.

I think that cake-man has a point and I certainly see a fair bit of evidence of tick the box approaches in our clients businesses and other firms we visit. However the next ‘leap’ was a bit of a stretch, as cake-man believed that HR had created this ‘mess’ of managers working to a KPI tick the box system rather than working to support their team to get the bigger job done. He went on to say that HR had taken away managers drive to be responsible because these managers were measured against the KPI’s and not against getting the ‘bigger’ job done. He also said this has resulted in people only doing ‘their bit’ and other bits of the job are outside my role KPI – so I don’t do it. As I alluded to above I am not sure how HR created this situation as cake-man was so emphatically convinced they had, nor do I think that many people would concur with this view. Aside from a huge stretch of cause and effect cake-mans view is not helpful for a number of reasons.

1. It is a problem focused view of the world – rather than a solution focused view of the world. The problem focused approach asks the question, what can we? This promotes a problem focused discussion, dissecting the problem and most often arrives back at the status quo and nothing changes. A solution focused approach asks the question, how can we? and promotes an entirely different discussion and outcome, where change occurs naturally in response to a need.

2. Last time I checked HR were not the managers of managers within organisations. So logically speaking, if as cake-man asserts, managers were failing to take responsibility for how their (team/unit) contributions fit into the overall business offering – is it not their managers responsibility?

3. Blame culture – interestingly HR have an unenviable reputation as organisation ‘police’ for want of a better description. They are not afforded the same respect and treatment as ‘business or asset risk personnel’ as they are just responsible for people risk. Why don’t they just make these people do what they are supposed to and make this problem go away. So of course cake-man would blame HR, he and countless others must find someone to take responsibility for these problems.

4. Fixed beliefs – this is the real culprit for lack of responsibility which exists within organisations at all levels. It is fixed beliefs behind cake-mans vehemence that our solution for assisting all managers within organisations to become more responsible and in turn develop the self-responsibility of their people ‘will not work’.

Fixed beliefs become our mindsets, the way we see the world and effectively determine everything we do. Perhaps the most insidious impact of the overload created by the digital age and technology is the absolute power of fixed beliefs. The irony is that everyone knows all to well the impact of overload – and most people talk endlessly about how they wish they could get more done, and not have so many things continually on the to do list. Equally most people have tried many times to overcome the impacts of overload, they have learned about ‘time management’ and ‘stress management’ and have tried to apply these strategies. Many of them worked for a while – but then the old habits crept back again, and this has created the mindset or fixed beliefs that ‘solutions don’t work’. Tried that and it didn’t work – this is now the mindset of many and was articulated so well by cake-man.

What happens as a result of ‘tried that and it didn’t work’  occurring is that apathy sets in, which then becomes a mindset and a fixed belief. Perhaps more concerning is that these fixed beliefs exclude creative, innovative solutions being explored within so many organisations. This attitude has also resulted in people not speaking up within organisations when they may think of an idea to solve a problem or work more efficiently. They know the drill – ‘that won’t work,or its too hard to change, or we won’t get budget for that’ – so they don’t bother. Overtime they become believers – believers in “you can’t and that won’t work”.

How can we turn the cake-man experience into a take out for our organisations.

1 – HR are not responsible for managing people – the management hierarchy is – all the way through from CEO to team supervisor. HR’s role is to support managers. Managing is not something you learn to do in a classroom – it is hands on and acquired by trial and error.

2. The most important component of managing people is communication. Knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Managers can learn how to communicate via a good program of effective communication. The what and the when is determined by data – businesses need to really look at how they can revolutionise the effectiveness and efficiency of data to support people management and improvement.

3. KPI’s – include ‘actionable’ strategic business intentions and customer promise “behaviours” as measures – this is not so easy to achieve but once understood transforms the way people view ‘why and what’ they do each day.

4. Make challenging ‘fixed beliefs’ a part of every decisions that a team makes with their planning from the weekly WIP to daily work. This makes sure that every decision is approached from the perspective of ‘How Can We’.

That Won’t Work?


I was at a morning tea event the other day – a quasi networking event which I wasn’t  keen to attend as I was busy, however I went along to be polite. I was nailed to the wall by an older man who had run an engineering business for 35 years and was pontificating about the current times, HR, KPI’s, the younger generation and how awful everything was, all the while speaking with his mouth full of chocolate cake. Finally he said ‘what do you do’? I gave him the BBQ statement and he stopped chewing his cake and said ‘ that won’t work’. He then went into another tirade about how HR and KPI’s have made sure managers don’t take responsibility and blah blah blah. Needless to say I escaped and went back to the office.

I was struck by ‘cake man’s’ vehemence in his pontification about the problem – it was like a tsunami of negativity that was barrelling at me. I am not sure about you, but negativity exhausts me, I find it draining and tend to avoid it as much as possible. Negativity is a side effect of modern life due to the brain changes that have occurred as a result of technology grossly speeding up the rate of information transfer which I have referred to often in my posts.

As I surround myself with positive people who are forward thinking and solution focused – when I come across such negativity it feels really unpleasant, and I was a bit stunned to be honest. In fact most of our clients gravitate towards us because they are attempting to ‘work through negativity’ from people within their own businesses who ‘block people productivity progress’ in exactly the same way that ‘cake man’ did – “that won’t work”. They too express exhaustion with the ‘can’t, can’t can’t…..responses to their attempts to progress people productivity in their own organisations.

The good news is that this negativity can be overcome and resolved. The brain discovery I made some time ago is the precursor to this over-abundance of negativity. It is simply the ‘reaction’ from the brain to too much going on (overload), too much to process and too many decisions to make (daily working life for most). Simply put the brain processing area (where everything we do, say, think and feel is filtered) is like a switch – either ON of OFF. This part of the brain is not at all complicated and is like the language of computers (1 or 0) ‘on or off’ and all other processes upstream from the ‘1’ or ‘0’ will have the associated attributes of the ‘1’ or ‘0’.

The attributes of the ‘1’ are associated overload and the brain paying attention to a potential threat, we are hardly going to be jumping for joy with a ‘lion viewing us as lunch’ – so the emotions will be negative and the resulting thinking and actions will be negative as well. The attributes of the ‘0’ on the other hand is where creativity, potential, productivity, contentment, sense of purpose and satisfaction with achievement all reside. This is the state we all desire, crave and spend most of our time ‘trying’ to get to this state.

Whilst this solution to overcoming negativity is simple on the surface – in reality it is extremely difficult – if it wasn’t we would all be contented and ‘cake man’ would be a rarity. Unfortunately ‘cake man’ is not a rarity and people like him seem to have the loudest voices and get the most attention. Once again there are brain based reasons for this. There are two very significant further consequences of brain ‘overload’ due to people trying to process to much ‘stuff’.

The first is that information or brain processing overload due to too much ‘stuff’ has caused the brain to become ‘habituated’ to having to constantly check for incoming threats (too much stuff to process). This is interpreted by the brain as being in “dinner plate for the lion” mode most of the time, particularly at work which means negative emotions. This is an unconscious process and as such we have no idea that our brain is in this state and that we are interpreting things that are in no way ‘a threat’ in a negative way. This habituation has also shut down the reasoning, creative, problem solving part of our brain. Have you ever been in a situation where you have reacted to something and it has not worked out so well – then when you are a relaxed state later looked back and thought ‘that was a bit nuts’? This is because in the relaxed ‘brain state’ you are ‘seeing the situation’ in a completely different light. We don’t like being in this state and the other insidious thing is that we all know that our thinking, behaviours and beliefs are a bit mad and reactionary when ‘under the pump’. We don’t want to acknowledge this and yet ironically, this fuels another phenomenon.

This brings me to the second consequence of brain overload that is driving increased negativity – ‘emotional contagion’. Emotional contagion means people adopting the group emotions, sentiments and beliefs – stock market crashes or herd behaviour by way of example. The main driver for this, particularly with regards to work, is a powerful desire to ‘be right’. No one wants to be an outlier in our politically correct problem focused world, don’t stick your neck out, toe the party line. This is the way things are, we all believe it and so should you. ‘Cake man’ was telling me he was right and that I would fail because I was wrong as our ideas are incongruent or not a match to his and the group.

This phenomena of negative emotional contagion has gone through the roof over the past decade or so. Social media has been a vehicle for this – but it has not been the cause.  The media does not tell people how to think and feel – they do that themselves. However the media ‘tells people what to think about’ and the abundance of negativity means there is more often than not a negative take or lens view. Then social chit-chat and the contagion effect of ‘group mentality’ takes over, and we have what we know as the status quo.

Cake man and his views was a prime example of how the brain has reacted to overload. The interesting thing is that ‘cake man’ acknowledged there were problems and was very verbose and clear about the extent of the problems – yet could not entertain an alternate view on solving the problems. In the words on Einstein – insanity.  I will discuss cake-man’s views on HR and KPI’s next time – that was really interesting. I could dismiss cake man as a nutter – but he isn’t, he is a member of a large cohort who think like he does – they are not nuts – just overloaded.