Why most workers are lazy when it comes to learning

Instilling new habits isn’t always easy but could neuroscience explain why? One leadership expert shared her thoughts with HRM

When you cross your arms your brain is used to doing that because it’s a habit. However, when you say to the brain: ‘I want to actually cross my arms the other way’ you have to be really conscious to do that, and that’s difficult, explained Sonia McDonald, CEO of LeadershipHQ.
“So the brain goes: ‘no, that’s too hard’. But obviously if I had said to you that I am going to pay you a million dollars to fold your arms the other way, you would do it. This is just one example of how the brain is lazy and motivated by rewards,” she told HRM.

McDonald explained that the brain absorbs about 20% of our body’s energy and is not energy efficient. It prefers comfortable habits because they require a lot less energy. Consequently, it’s also on the lookout for threats.

When we have to learn new things and we are forced to change we are actually altering our brain. The structure actually changes and we grow new brain cells, she added.

And when we have to learn something new, we use the part of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for high-order processing and requires a lot of energy to function.

“Emotions also definitely come into play because we make most of our decisions based on the emotion part of our brain which is the limbic system which does not require as much energy as the pre-frontal cortex,” she said.

“It’s the unconscious part of the brain and the habit part of the brain. When you put on your pair of pants you don’t consciously go: ‘I have to put my right leg into this hole and then my left leg in’. You are using the habits part of your brain called the limbic system.”

“Now this is why when it comes to things like change management in the workplace we have to tap into that limbic system, the emotion part of the brain, because that’s the decision making part of the brain.”

She told HRM that’s why when it comes to change management in the workplace we really have to focus on the ‘why’.

“We have to concentrate on what’s in it for you and what’s in it for me, because we are all selfish human beings,” she said.

“But if you understand the why of the change and the emotional connection to the change then you find people are more open to change. You are tapping into that because that’s where we make most of our decisions.”

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