Harnessing the Power of the Brain for Change: A Case Study in Culture Change


I recently attended a great webinar, “Harnessing the Power of the Brain for Change: A Case Study in Culture Change” put on by the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP). The speakers were Andrea Barrett, Ed Richardson and Mark Bagin. Below are some of the notes that jumped out at me. Andrea did a fantastic describing the key parts of the brain involved in producing change and then the 5 factors that lead to change.

Backstage of Brain

  • Andrea believes in the following:
    • People-centered change instead of organizational change
    • Inspire, meet them where they are, empower them, embrace neuroscience
  • Parts of Brain involved in change:
    • Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the bouncer that either lets us activate the brain or not
    • Prefrontal Cortext (PFC) – Has diva like qualities. Need perfect conditions to perform optimally. Doesn’t share the stage with other parts of brain well.
    • Limbic System – Emotional center of brain. Stage director of brain. Helps us with what we store in memory and what we decide on. Key to unlocking our subconscious
    • Subconscious – Capable of holding millions of pieces of information. Stepping into a master class of the best actors.

Parts of the Brain important for Change

5 factors that help brains (and their people) change

  • Attention – Got to get past the RAS
  • Emotions Shape Performance – Limbic system. People deeply motivated can do amazing things
  • Insights: Setting the stage for great performance. Pull in PFC and Subconscious. Call on curiosity and discovery. Need to offer experiences that engage curiosity and individual discovery. These experiences will spur ideas within each person and will lead to energy and excitement to gain new skills
  • Skills – Bringing the pieces together. Teach them what they need to know now. For learning we need there to be a little stress (i.e. a test at the end) to make it stick.
    • 4 Keys to better learning:
      • Keep it short (break it up over time)
      • Write things into the brain. Write it down, it makes information stickier
      • Make it concrete. Don’t learn in abstract. Layer on concrete examples
      • Make information persist. Create a visible image. Use a road map
  • Moving to Action; Find the right trigger
    • Make it automatic – Do it in connection with something you do everyday. Maybe during brushing your teeth. Find something at work that you do everyday and connect the new skill to that.
    • Make it a habit. Reinforce, reinforce. Rewards for success.


They incorporated the following that included anywhere from 2 to 5 of the factors that help brains change

  • Workshops
  • Posters
  • Recognition
  • Learning Game (mobile app)
  • Integration to Performance Management (Positive reinforcement)


Overall it was a great webinar that left me with a better understanding of the parts of the brain involved in change and the factors that make change happen. Also Andrea highlighted how gamification can activate all 5 factors but you have to use it during the right settings. This reinvigorated my passion for learning more innovation games.

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