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  • Writer's pictureNick Smith

Brain-Friendly Change - Some Reflections

If you've been following these blogs, or came to one of our joint webinars with Minerva Engagement last week you'll have a sense of what Brain-Friendly Change is all about. You'd get a good idea, too, from the animation embedded in this blog. If you're pushed for time, though, Brain-Friendly Change draws on recent neuroscience insights to highlight that our capacity for change is impacted by anxiety, fatigue, and inadequate levels of felt psychological safety - and that right now, post-pandemic, many organisations' and individuals' capacity for change is significantly reduced. That's just as many organisations' need for change in ways of working is reaching new highs - either to thrive or to survive. And to make a perfect storm, established change methodologies do not assess and work with change capacity and its underlying determinants. Brain-Friendly Change draws further on neuroscience learnings that offer tools and techniques to enhance change capacity: by equipping leaders to create and sustain safe environments for their teams; by equipping those impacted by change with learning enabling them to manage stress and anxiety, develop calm, and build resilience; and by offering additional tools and

techniques to assess and track these. And, finally, Brain-Friendly Change integrates these Brain-Friendly tools and techniques into structured change methodology, with a Create, Craft, Continue structure so that change is properly enabled, effected, and embedded in an organisation.

We 'soft-launched' Brain-Friendly Change last week with strongly positive reaction from Webinar participants and plenty of follow-on conversations.I wanted to share some reflections garnered from the webinar and conversations surrounding it.

First, it's clear there's work for us to do in making change Brain-Friendly. Many, but far from all, of organisations represented at the Webinars had consistent and systematic approaches to change in place. Fewer were working systematically with Brain-Friendly tools and techniques across the organisation. And very, very few had integrated such approaches into their change methodologies. So, in the majority of our organisations the risk is that we're trying to effect change without working on change capacity and the factors that underly it. That risks perpetuating (and increasing) change fatigue, change that fails to land well, and change that does not deliver the targeted benefits. There's work to do.

Second, we're seeing that others are recognising the need to apply neuroscience learnings, to address psychological safety and incorporate that into thinking about organisational well-being, and to change how we do change. But it's equally clear, as you might expect at this emergent phase, that levels of practitioner knowledge and expertise vary significantly. I know that Deborah and her colleagues with whom we're working at Minerva have invested heavily over a long period of time in building a deep understanding of what neuroscience is telling us and of what good practice looks like. Make sure if you're partnering or seeking help in this area that the same is true of the people you work with.

Finally, one of our emphases with Epion is that change is something enabled more than something delivered. Perhaps as we confront the reality of change capacity and the need to work with the factors that underly it, we'll come to recognise this - that change is less like a pizza or a parcel that's delivered, and is more organic in nature. For change to be successful, we have to enable an environment able to embrace change; work those impacted by the change to effect it; and carry on with activity to embed it after any programme has completed. Or, as we describe it for Brain-Friendly Change, we create a climate in which change can happen; craft an integrated and holistic approach; and continue working to establish the change, sustaining both wellbeing and performance.

You can access a recording of the Brain-Friendly Change webinar here.

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