1. What is Neuroplasticity?
2. Why is it important for the individual?
3. Why is it important for the company?
4. The differences between neuroplasticity NLP/Mindfulness
Following a series of operations for brain tumour I suffered minor brain damage. I was left confused dyslexic with short term memory loss with English and maths reduced to that of a 15 year old. If you like, my cognitive capacity had been setback nearly 30 years.
Unfortunately the Health Service was not really able to assist in further recovery. Fortunately even at this time there were clues as to the next step and I was able to set out on a pathway to rewire the brain
What is Neuroplasticity and why is it relevant both to the individual and the corporate world?
Neuroplasticity describes the process by which the brain can adapt to new ideas and learn new tasks. Perhaps, more importantly remain sharp and retain the new information gathered.
Imagine I have in my hand a piece of plasticine. This is fresh- it was bought yesterday it is soft, malleable I can make any shape I want. The plasticine can be an animal one minute, then a rocket then a racing car. The whole process is simple, easy and seamless with no resistance.
In the other hand the lump of plasticine is solid; it has been left in a cupboard for a year or more. The plasticine is solid; you cannot do anything with it. It won’t mould shape or change, push it too hard and it will break.
Now substitute the brain for the plasticine and you have one brain that is almost infinitely flexible and the other almost completely inflexible.
For example if we were to look at the brain of an average five year old child we would see there is an immense capacity for learning new tasks and skills and an almost insatiable curiosity to experiment with new things. In this instance we might say that the neuroplasticity potential was very high.
In comparison were we to compare this with the brain of someone in their mid-eighties, may be living a care home. Here we would see a reluctance to seek new ideas and skills, maybe reduced memory capacity and a general lack of mental sharpness. In this instance the Neuro-plasticity would be regarded as quite low.
But these are two extreme examples; most adults are in a mid-section roughly halfway between the two. As a generalisation the Neuro-plasticity falls away in the late teens but of course in the modern world the intellectual challenges continue to grow for many decades afterwards
Some commentators now are suggesting that the brain is actually constantly changing throughout adult life, altering according to the demands placed upon it. My own experience is that the brain can be changed; you can ease it in the direction that you want it to go
Neuroplasticity for the individual
The modern world, in particular the workplace now dominated by technology is constantly changing. The spread of Computer Technology alone has created a work place of constant change. If you add workplace restructuring; job sharing and flexible working, change is a way of life.
Clearly the more adaptable you are the better your employment prospects. At one time we might have said learning and development was key to obtain a good job. These days learning development and adaptability are key to retaining any kind of employment prospects at all. The more adaptable and flexible your brain the easier it will be to adapt and grow in the workplace.
Finally there are links from poor adaptability to poor mental health. Often we call this “stress” or “overwork” when very often these are signs that the person is not adapting to change very well and is overwhelmed.
Neuroplasticity for the Company
Most of the work undertaken in the modern economy is largely intellectual activity; it is in theory at least a thinking economy. Some companies actually regard their workforce as a form of intellectual capital, something that is valuable and key to the long-term company success.
If companies desire to restructure or reorganize to face a dynamic and changing marketplace, it would be a lot easier if their workforce is naturally adjusted to change. In one sense flexible working requires flexible employees.
We should also explore the area of brain fatigue or cognitive overload. These are sometimes (quite wrongly) identified as “stress” – it is mental overload, but it will seem very stressful. There is little doubt that stress is now one of the biggest HR issues in the modern workplace. Once you understand the root causes it is possible to modify the workplace and working practices to reduce the worst effects.
We will devote an entire section later to both the overload issues and how to manage them.
The difference between Neuroplasticity Mindfulness and NLP
Firstly I should say I’m not in NLP practitioner. In fact I have read many books about NLP and I and own many dvds and tape sets. I would say that I am aware of using it and I do believe it has value in the modern world. But the two processes really are quite different.
NLP can help the way that you might think about something, maybe putting you in a more positive state of mind. It also has many applications to help the goal setting, mental focus even emotional balance. But the key difference is it does not claim that it would change or alter the scope or speed of your cognitive function. One of the challenges within the NLP movement is that a few are inclined to promote lifelong changes in a very short period. The reality of course is that changes in particular to the brain tend to take rather longer to become permanent. Once you look at it from a Neuroplasticity point of view you realise the brain needs rather more than just to be told a few times to do something.
In regard to mindfulness again I am not really a practitioner, but I have been on the courses. Mindfulness is very useful in terms of the meditation breaks to help both the cognitive function and your mood. Elsewhere in this series I do recommend the meditation breaks. The key difference here is that the mindfulness process does not really advocate the brain exercises that I outline in this program-my understanding is the best policy is to exercise, then rest. In one sense mindfulness really is only half of this equation.