How fixed are you? Do you have limits to what you think you can do or achieve?  Do you mind being labelled? Do you feel tired at the thought of trying something new?  Our brains undergo continuous growth and transformation, c/o neuroplasticity, which is the way our brains adapt, learn and change in response to life experiences, says Dr Lynda Shaw.

This means our brain changes as we acquire different knowledge or skills and make new memories, thereby strengthening existing connections, emotions, thinking, ideas and re-mapping.

Why is this important at work?

With greater neuroplasticity you have a better ability to choose to think about projects or problems differently, offer new alternatives and solutions, and respond in a different way, instead of using habitual responses.  Engaging in new activities that you repeat ultimately strengthens connections in the brain; think of it as a workout for the brain! This in turn can develop intelligence, aid communication, increase your abilities and is good for your mental health.

In contrast, when patterns and tasks become routine or commonplace, there is a tendency to develop assumptions, more readily succumb to unconscious biased thinking, and a create a state of stagnation, which can negatively impact productivity, creativity, growth (personal and business), working relationships, team cohesion, decision-making and mental well-being.

It is hugely empowering that as individuals, we can change the structure of our brains for the better depending on what we choose to do or how we behave if we do it enough.

What does neuroplasticity do for our brain and psychology?

Our brain changes our behaviour, and our behaviour changes our brain.  Our DNA, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, environment and social upbringing influence how our brains are wired but, to a certain extent, we can choose how we re-wire our brains.  If your thoughts are continuously destructive you are laying down pathways that correspond with that.  If you decide to change your thinking, behave differently or learn something new and repeat those actions, you can rewire the brain with new pathways, synapses and dendrites.

When we choose to think in a different way or try something new or socialise with a different person it can be incredibly powerful for our brain and wellbeing.  We feel like we have a lot more control over our destiny and feel calmer and stronger.  A good example of this is dealing in conflict situations – do you get angry and vent, or listen to the other person’s point of view, learn something and share your own feelings in a respectful way?   Deliberate practice is key, this is how the brain learns and changes.

How can businesses help employees increase neuroplasticity?

Businesses that can see the big neuroscience/ psychology picture know that when individuals are experiencing new things, there are huge benefits for them and the organisation.

  1. Encourage Talents To Be Shared And New Challenges To Be Accepted. All of us have good skills in particular areas which should be utilised to the individual and businesses’ advantage. One of us may be a great communicator, one may be solutions-driven, whilst another may be a morale booster (or sapper). Play to your colleague’s strengths. As long as they are not set up to fail, it even if on occasion they don’t enjoy it, they still might learn something new.
  2. Trust Workers To Try New Things. Micromanaging your workforce damages employee trust. If an employee suggests a new idea that has legs, encourage them to run with it for a while which will improve employee loyalty and increase engagement, productivity and empowerment. Encourage the team to open up to new experiences and skills. Lateral creative thinking and positive disruptive exploration can be very beneficial to the workplace.
  3. Have Better Conversations. Be open to conversations, upwards feedback, sharing of ideas, listening deeply to one another and positive reinforcement will ultimately mean the business sees better results. Make sure the work culture encourages opinions other than our own, otherwise talent will leave for somewhere where they feel they are learning, valued and heard.
  4. Reverse Mentoring/ Role Reversal – Exchanging job roles for a day or reverse mentoring fosters appreciation for the contributions, decisions and challenges faced by colleagues, encourages problem-solving and helps to dismantle prejudices and assumptions.
  5. Push Them To Keep Learning – As a business have a growth and learning mindset. Taking part in relevant new training courses builds neuroplasticity. Ask workers if there are areas they would like further training in that will be beneficial for them and the business.
  6. Encourage Positive Thinking. A self-fulfilling prophecy (positive or negative) is a psychological term used to describe a belief or expectation of an event that is powerful enough to influence whether it happens or not through our subsequent actions. Our beliefs can directly affect our consequences. Praise raises levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin which improves engagement and self-esteem.
  7. Carefully Select The Right People To Be Part Of The Team. Being surrounded by team players who encourage and support one another affects communication and decision cerebrally. Having a positive, happy, diverse, inclusive working tribe is good for everyone’s brains.
  8. We all learn and do things in different ways so one size fits all rarely works if your business truly has a growth mindset .Encourage individuals to decide what area they need to grow in and want to try.
  9. Encourage Socialisation & Being Mindful Of Each Other. When we spend so much time together trying to achieve the goals, objectives and purpose of the business, it helps to know each other beyond morning platitudes. Talking to people outside of our norm teaches us many things and is good for neuroplasticity.
  10. Ensure Good Work/ Life Balance. Burnout, stress and anxiety rewire the brain in all the wrong ways. Sleep, recovery and social time all have a profound impact on neurological performance and replenish us for better performance the next day.


By Brain and Behaviour Specialist, Neuroscientist and C-suite mentor, Dr Lynda Shaw.





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Dr Lynda Shaw is a cognitive neuroscientist and chartered psychologist, a Forbes contributor, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association.

Dr Lynda Shaw works with business leaders and their teams to improve performance for real development and growth, to invigorate communication skills, to strengthen internal team relationships and to bolster external business relationships.