July 17, 2012

Want your people to do better? Get them Doped!

That is....dopamine.

Researchers are discovering a great deal about the role dopamine places in learning, reward and motivation that any brain-savvy leader should know.

That little zing of reward you feel when something good happens or you have a bit of chocolate is a squirt of dopamine in your brain. We also experience it when learning new and novel things. For instance, you'll get a bit of a dopamine hit as you read this blog. Not just because of the chocolate photo.

Anytime we experience a positive event, something that triggers a reward response in our brain, dopamine is released. This includes positive social interactions such as experiencing praise or acknowledgment.

Dopamine helps put us in a state of flow. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a state where we are fully immersed in what we are doing, time stands still and we are performing at a level we can sustain for long periods of time. Simply put, it's when you'll get the best out of your people. They'll think more clearly and creatively, respond more proactively and effectively and be more likely to avoid burnout.

As well, dopamine helps promote the learning and retention of information by regulating our working memory and prompting us to seek out and repeat meaningful events and behaviours. When what we are learning is of interest to us, dopamine and endorphins (the brain's natural opiates) work in tandem to deliver a sustained feeling of pleasure that supports the retention of information.

When dopamine and endorphin levels are low, intrinsic motivation and interest in learning declines. That's when your people start behaving like bored teens in a classroom.

Want to maximise your greatest investment? Ensure your people are engaged in meaningful activities by linking what they do back to both the greater company goals and their own personal ambitions. Learn how to communicate better through understanding how the brain processes information. Ensure you deliver praise when warranted and feedback that is constructive, promoting reflection and learning. It a good start to building sustained peak performance.

Interested in learning more about how to bring out the best in your people? Contact me to find out about my newly updated programme, "Communicating With the Brain in Mind".

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