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April 15th, 2022

Your Brain At Work LIVE – S7:E01 – Insights from the 2022 NeuroLeadership Summit

In this Season 7 Premiere episode, Dr. David Rock and John Edwards recap some of the landmark insights that came out of the 2022 NeuroLeadership Summit in February.

These insights include:

– How to shift from depletive to a regenerative style of managing people

– Why empathy is no longer a nice-to-have but a business imperative

– Why to be an ally you have to have an aversion to inequity

– How rapid change at scale is absolutely possible, and more

If you were able to attend the Summit, this session will help you reflect on your insights and deepen your connections. If you missed the Summit, this session will offer a fantastic overview of the key takeaways and indicate where the world of work and leadership may be going next.

Episode Transcript



[00:00:02] SW: Welcome back to season 7, episode 1 of Your Brain at Work podcast. In this premiere episode of Your Brain at Work Live, Dr. David Rock and John Edwards will recap some of the landmark insights that came out of the 2022 NeuroLeadership Summit last week. These insights include how to shift from a depletive to regenerative style of managing people. Why empathy is no longer a nice to have, but a business imperative? Why, to be an ally, you have to have an aversion to inequity? And how rapid change at scale is absolutely possible and more. 


If you were able to attend the summit, this session will help you reflect on your insights and deepen your connections. If you missed the summit, this session will offer a fantastic overview of key takeaways and indicate where the world of work and leadership may be going next. 


I’m Shelby Wilburn, and you’re listening to Your Brain at Work from the NeuroLeadership Institute. We continue to draw episodes from our weekly Friday webinar series. This week, our show is a conversation between Dr. David Rock, CEO and Co-Founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute; and John Edwards, keynote speaker and Senior Client Strategist at the NeuroLeadership Institute. 




[00:01:11] SW: Hello to all of our viewers around the world. We’ve missed you the last few months. But welcome back to season seven of Your Brain at Work. I’m your host, Shelby Wilburn. During our hiatus, we had many exciting things happening here at NLI, including the focus of today’s episode, the 2022 NeuroLeadership Summit. It was themed Adapt Faster, and it happened just last week. But lucky for you, today we are going to be taking away some key insights and learnings that we took away from this awesome experience. 


So before we get started, we want to say a big hello. We’ve missed you guys so much, all of our registered Zoom participants here as well as our friends across our streaming social platforms. We’re now reaching out to more people, which is really exciting. And regardless of what platform you’re on, tell us where you’re logging in from in the comments section. So I see some people from Florida, Toronto. Super exciting. We’re happy to have you back. 


For some context, it’s the title of one of the best-selling books by our CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. David Rock, and it’s also the name of our blog. Now, as far as sharing sights, we do reserve that for our current clients and corporate members only. However, if you are interested in becoming one, let us know in the chat. 


And we also suggest, put your phone away. Put your email on do not disturb. This is going to allow you to get the most out of today’s discussion as well as help with your audio and video quality. Now, as we’re about to kick off, get your stretch in, grab some coffee or water and settle in as we recap some of our top highlights from the 2022 NeuroLeadership Summit. 


Now, before we get started, I want to introduce our speakers for today. And our first guest for today’s episode is an award-winning professional speaker and author of several books that leverage neuroscience to drive behavior change and improve organizational culture. He has over 25 years of expertise working with global companies, including some of the Fortune 100. 


In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional Designation from the National Speakers Association. And now he’s at NLI facilitating many of our solutions on DE&I and culture. I want to welcome one of our Senior Client Strategist, John Edwards. Thanks for being here today, John. 


[00:03:28] JE: Oh, Shelby, it’s my pleasure. And honored to be here. Thank you.


[00:03:31] SW: Great to have you. And our leader for today’s discussion, an Aussie turned New Yorker who coined the term neuroleadership when he co-founded NLI over two decades ago. With a professional doctorate, four successful books under his name, and a multitude of bylines ranging from the Harvard Business Review, to the New York Times and many more, a warm welcome as I pass the virtual mic to our Co-Founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute, Dr. David Rock.


[00:03:56] DR: Thanks so much, Shelby. Thanks for your warm introduction and everything you do behind the scenes. I hope you’ve recovered from the summit. It’s a mammoth experience for us. A week or so later we’re all kind of breathing again a little bit. Thanks, Shelby, for everything you do.


[00:04:10] SW: You’re welcome. 


[00:04:11] DR: John, thanks also for joining today. I know you were really involved in building the summit with us. And I know you delivered a number of the sessions and did one of the keynotes as well. So really keen to get your input and insights from the event. And so for those of you who are at the summit, this is going to be an opportunity to refresh some of the central ideas and kind of reinvigorate and deepen the insights you had and help focus them perhaps. And then those who didn’t make it, this will be an opportunity to kind of get a taste of some of the central ideas that we thought were really important. 


We did, based on feedback, on the fly, on the event, decide to make the summit something that you could watch on-demand afterwards. We’d never done that before. We literally just adapted really fast and kind of did that. So if you want to kind of watch the whole thing, we’re going to have that open I think for the next 90 days. So this would be a chance to kind of see what’s there and see if there are sessions you want to explore. 


Let’s dig in. If you’re new to NLI, a little about us. This is our 24th year. In July, it’ll be our 25th year as an organization. Core of our work is research, looking at the biological and particularly neuroscience foundations of people and talent challenges. We’re now up to 61. My team says maybe 64% of the Fortune 100 that we’re advising. We fund our own research through that consulting. And very much global. 


So the summit – Let me give you a little bit of kind of context for the summit. The first one was 2007. Now, if you do math, you’ll notice there are 18 summits, plus 2007, means we did a few – In some years, we did a few. But we’ve been running them every year since 2007. And there’s a business school named [inaudible 00:05:46] I was partnering with for many, many years. 


And the idea was just there’s some kind of value. We don’t know what it is yet. But there’s some kind of value in bringing neuroscience into leadership culture and people development. And this was 50 people thinking about this question. And interestingly, one of the people in that picture is Jamie Cloud who actually then did the opening keynote with me at this year. So it’s amazing to have her back after 15 years. An expert in sustainable and regenerative practices. 


But we’ve come a long way since then. So last week, we had over 1200 organizations involved, 35,000 people streaming around the world from 66 countries, which was kind of exciting, terrifying, many, many things all at once. And the theme that we chose about six months before the event ended up being incredibly relevant. The theme was adapt faster. 


And it was interesting watching actually how that theme inspired even our team to continually adapt faster in so many ways throughout the event, whether it was the challenges the opening or the way we responded to different requests. But I can think of half a dozen moments when we literally adapted faster than we ever have. The theme also really resonated through all the sessions. Literally, every session was a different angle perspective on how to adapt faster. Super, super powerful in there. 


So the goal for the summit and what I want to focus on today are the insights. The goal for the summit is to give people these insights. And insight is when you suddenly see the world slightly differently. And we know that the stronger the insight, the more likely you’ll take action. We’re about to publish some new research on this year. 


So a level four insight is one where you absolutely know you’re going to take action. There’s no question that you’re going to really do something differently as a result of that insight. So what we’re going to do is I’m going to – Kind of John and I will talk a little bit about some of the high-level insights across the two days. And then we’ll dig into, I think, six kind of bigger things that I think happened overall and kind of dig in 


So, firstly, John, for you, across day one, from any of the sessions, what were some of the bigger insights for you? What really moved you out of that whole first day? 


[00:07:56] JE: Yeah, thank you. It occurs to me that as I was thinking through and reflecting on everything that was done, it was such a remarkably rich context. We really heard from a lot of organizations that were talking about their ability to prepare ahead of crisis. 


So we heard from a number of organizations that were doing things prior to the pandemic in terms of creating clarity, in terms of driving DE&I in order to build on innovation and to generate better conversations in the workplace. So what really stuck with me was the results that some of those individuals are having, those organizations are having, as a result of doing those things ahead of time and now I’ve had the benefit of being able to measure them. And they shared some of those really powerful statistics with us. But the ability to be able to measure them now that they’ve been doing it for quite some time. So those were the big aha moments that were generated for me. 


[00:08:49] DR: Quite an experience. So, for me, day one, I’m going to dig into a couple of these things. But the big thing overall was just how much everything tied back to adapt faster. So with beyond survival, with a framework for getting to regenerative practices, that’s literally a framework for adapting faster. I’m going to show you that in a few minutes. 


With self-regulation and motivation from the lab track, I mean, that’s literally about how do you maintain the right mental state so you can keep adapting the hybrid work practices is literally about how do we adapt to this hybrid world faster? And there’s some fascinating data on the four -day work week in there that I’m looking at seriously as well. I think that was a real highlight for me. 


On the trends and breakthroughs, I think the role of allyship to drive DEI I think was really central. We’ll come back to that. The importance of the outcomes mindset, not a surveillance mindset, in performance I think was really, really big. 

And then the from the field sessions, really brought alive some of the work that’s happening. And I always look forward to this, because I got to keep track. We’ve got 400 or 500 organizations right now using our work impacting literally millions of people. And so I always look forward to this to hear the real stories of what’s actually happening. And we heard from some incredible organizations and the rich work that they’re doing that leverages the deeper science of the brain in many, many ways. 


And then, John, you were in the closing keynote at the science of creating clarity. Anything you’d like to share kind of what jumped out for you about that one? 


[00:10:11] JE: Yeah, that was – You know, I just really found that to be a super powerful conversation. We had an opportunity to talk about a number of things. And the session before that, we talked about in the level of noise that exists in the world today and how do we cut through that in terms of being able to create some clarity. 


But in the closing keynote, Adam did a fantastic job of helping us understand the importance of organizations being consistent, creating fluency. The impact that his research has been revealing around how important that is to organizational success. And then we also had Tracy on that panel. Had very powerful stories as one of the Chief Human Capital Officer for the government talking about the experience that she’s seen on the government side and the sector as well. 


One of the things that jumped out for me as we thought about the importance of creating clarity was what’s the role that we all need to play in first making sure we have our own clarity in this area of noise in order to help other people realize clarity as well? And so I think it was very eye-opening to recognize that we may think we have more clarity than we actually do. But there are things that we’re going to need to start taking ownership of to make sure that we’ve got some clarity so that we can help others to achieve clarity as well. Reducing their cognitive load, right? Reducing the stress that so many folks are experiencing in the workplace. 


[00:11:28] DR: Yeah. I know, clarity is such a big thing. I was really struck by fluency. We had Adam a few years ago talking about fluency. He came back. We went a click deeper into it. And it’s now part of our FACT model, fluency, amount, coherence, time. But I’ve been using the construct, the schema of fluency many times a day in the last week since the summit. It’s been a really good reminder of that central nugget. We’ve got to work on fluency. We’ve got to work on fluency. I’ve said that so many times. And really meant it. And now we all understood what it meant. So that jumped out. 


Looking at day two, connecting in a disconnected world, john, what were some of your insights on day two? 


[00:12:04] JE: Yeah. So a number of things popped out for me. I heard our very own Yvonne say something that I thought was really powerful and insightful. She said we’ve seen in the last two years that the walls between the company and the world have disappeared. And it was a terrific reminder and realization that organizations are struggling now to balance not only what’s going on in the professional environment, but what’s going on in the social and geopolitical environment as well, especially now that folks are working in a hybrid environment. So that really stuck with me. 


But later on in the afternoon when we’re talking about changing in terms of weeks, not years, folks have already been mentioning what was going on in the Boeing conversation, which I know you’ll visit on a little bit later. But I felt like I couldn’t write notes fast enough in that section. And especially, David Taylor, the Executive Chairman of Procter & Gamble, it’s almost as if every word that came out of his mouth was a remarkable level of insight for me. 


And one of the things he said is we switch from being encumbered by the past to being empowered by possibility. And that blew my mind up as I thought about what that really meant and the application for additional clients as well. And so I know we’ll circle back around and talk a little more around the power of that particular session. But those are the pieces that really stuck for me.


[00:13:23] DR: Yeah. No. Thanks, John. So the closing keynote for me was I think our best closing keynote in the history of the summit and, really, from the guests. In particular, we had the outgoing CEO who’s been there for quite some time, David Taylor of Proctor & Gamble. And we started working with them some years ago. And they’ve scaled growth mindset using our work across all 100,000 plus people. And they did this before the pandemic. And it was tremendously helpful through this time. And he talked about the incredible impact this had. 


But for me, the insight from that session was – And especially looking back over 10 years of growth mindset. So we put together kind of our journey over the last 10 years. So we started researching and applying growth mindset 10 years ago. We’ll have a session just on that in the next few weeks, probably like a sort of a history of 10 years of growth mindset. We’ve been passionate about that. And we’ll probably have Microsoft on there and others. 


But as I was kind of looking at it, and I looked at our big projects and the big changes that have happened, what we saw was that, really, growth mindset continues to be the critical foundation for any big change you want to do. And so, increasingly, all the bigger work we do with organization starts with layering in growth mindset as kind of almost like a cognitive patch across everyone in the company. And we’re able to do that literally in weeks. We can do that for 100,000 people in a month. So it just became clear how important growth mindset was. 


And as we look back over 10 years and how you’ve got to kind of start with that. And then from there, you use this whole concept of building priorities, really building habits and then installing systems to support that. And I’ll come back to that in a few minutes. So those are some of the big things. 


Let’s dig into kind of more specifics. And I’ll just answer one quick question. We got a lot to cover. So we’ll move – One quick question about fluency. So fluency is literally your ability to read, or recall, or understand an idea with the least possible cognitive load, right? 


So for example, Microsoft’s leadership framework, which we developed with them is create clarity, generate energy, deliver success, right? I have total fluency over that. I don’t have to put in effort. It’s really simple. Clarity, energy, success, even higher fluency, right? Really simple, clarity, energy, success. It has CES. 


So fluency is literally your ability to either recall, or explain, or read, or share information in any way. And it wants to be something that is literally easy to process. So you look at it from many, many different angles. But that session is a really powerful explanation of the value of fluency. Also, how to do it. 


And if you follow that work for a while, you’ll see it’s something that we’re super passionate about, whether it’s breaking things into threes, or just the way we try to communicate. Anyway, so that’s what fluency is. 


So we opened with a session on the regenerative organization. And this is really topical. And I think over the next few years we’re going to get increasingly upward pressure from employees and downward pressure from investors and the stakeholders for organizations to get to regenerative. 


So what’s regenerative? In interacting with any kind of system, whether it’s a farm, or a city, or a company, there are four ways you can interact with that system. You can exploit and get everything you want from it with no care. Most companies have a depletive approach. So they’re leaving a system slightly worse every year. It’s depleting. Sustainable means you’ve neutralized the impact. Regenerative means every year it’s getting better. 


So if we think about a farm, exploitative means you just use any chemicals, anything, you don’t care. And it’s destroyed in a few years. Depletive is the soil gets slightly worse each year because you’re using the wrong things. Sustainable is you’ve neutralized. So if you look at a farm now and in 10 years, it’s basically the same soil, the same richness. But regenerative would be, 10 years later, there’s greater biodiversity. The soil is richer. The production is actually richer. You’re literally improving the system as you go. 


And if you think about people through this lens, you get to this concept of, “Oh, how do we not just kind of not harm people? But how do we leave humans better than we found them through all our talent practices, everything?” 


And so we talked about this for a couple of years. But what we did this year is we went a lot deeper into the idea and brought a couple of experts along. One was Jamie Cloud, who’s been working on this for like 30 years in the educational context. She’s been working out and actively teaching teachers on how to be regenerative and how to teach this concept to kids across the world. And she’s had tremendous success doing that. She believes it’s really important to focus on the new generations to make the changes. 


But in terms of applying this to companies, what we looked at was we spent some time on this, quite a lot of time. Like what are the critical habits? And I won’t go too deep on this. But again, this is a session to watch. What we saw, there are three critical habits. One is expand your perspective. And that’s over time, and distance and other people. And the we talked about the different biases that get in the way. But you’ve got to literally think over longer time, longer distance and many, many different stakeholders to be able to get to regenerative. You’ve also got to challenge your thinking, because our fixed ways of thinking get in the way. And you need to commit to action. 


So we’re able to get to this framework of regenerative habits. Expand your perspective, challenge your thinking, commit to habit, commit to action. And we’re going to start working with organizations on literally embedding these habits. Now, these live on a foundation of growth mindset, of good DEI practices, of good psychological safety. So that work we’ve been doing out there is really, really important foundationally for this work. You can’t do this if everyone has a fixed mindset, for example. 


So lives on a foundation of growth mindset. And then what we’ve done is taken all this fantastic work out there and tried to streamline it into the fewest possible critical habits. Jamie, runs what’s called the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, if you want to look her up. Someone can probably put a link in. She runs an incredible organization there. She’s been educating huge numbers of teachers over the years in this concept. So this was kind of where we started. 


John, any comments on that before we kind of go to the second one? 


[00:19:21] JE: Yeah. You know, I just thought this was really powerful. And I will tell folks, just prepare yourself because there’ll be what I call cultural itchy moments there. For example, Andrew Barnes, founder of 4 Day Week made a really provocative statement that says, “Listen, companies who start to implement four-day work weeks are seeing productivity improve by 25% to 50% percent.” 


And in fact, you’ll hear in some of the other modules, statistics that are shared around what’s happening in other organizations, in other countries that are leveraging a growth mindset to think differently about the work environment and the remarkable results that that has. So you can imagine the courage it’s going to take for many of us to step into that space and start to reshape the way we’re operating.


[00:20:05] DR: We’re excited to find a really critical set of habits based on real research. We had a whole session on kind of hybrid practices and the four-day work week, some of the richest data you’ll see on it. So if you’re interested in that specifically, that’s one of the sessions in the summit. 


I’d be remiss not to mention Bob Johansen, who’s one of the founders of the Institute for the Future, which is the world’s leading futurist organization. A fantastic human being. And he talked to us all about how to get here by thinking 10 years backwards. Not kind of going forwards. And this future-back thinking is so critical for any kind of difficult future projections. 


Let’s go to the second big insight. This is literally a three-plus-year project for us at NLI. And I first had this insight more than a decade ago that there’s all these different components of empathy. I actually remember going to one of the neuroscience conferences in-person when that happened and seeing all these different papers about these really different mechanisms involved in empathy. 


And empathy is one of these things that kind of is a catch-all word. I will say, we did a bunch of surveys during the pandemic with organizations, and it was the number one thing that they were concerned about. When we asked hundreds of companies, “What’s the thing your managers need to be better at?” Most, empathy kept coming up. And it’s still a really strong one. 


But it has this double-edged sword of people don’t necessarily want to learn empathy. They think they might be less respected. But there’s something in it. So we said about the last few years, essentially trying to work out if we could take a more kind of brain-based approach to this concept. And we worked very, very hard on this. And what we found is that there are three different brain processes involved in empathy. One of them is relatively automatic. You think of it as mirroring, or sensing, or feeling. You’re actually sensing. 


Now, it’s not automatic if you’re dealing with an out-group member though, right? with in-group members or neutral people, you’ll tend to sense what they’re feeling. You don’t need a lot of effort. This is the really problem with empathy, is that you’ve got to then do what’s called perspective taking or perspective seeking, where you actually understand how that person sees the world. And that turns out to have a whole lot of challenges in it. 


And we spend a lot of time on the biases that get in the way and what you can do about them. Really fascinating session. I encourage you to check that out. And then the third piece of it is then acting. And there’s a component of this, which is think of as care and the motivational component. The critical factor for us is then doing something. And it turns out the acting part actually creates positive energy. 


So the middle stage, the sort of mentalizing, understanding someone, that’s quite tiring. If you don’t get to the acting stage, you don’t get the energy back. So there’s a whole lot of insights about this. If you’re trying to teach people to have empathy, you actually want to explain the three different stages. And in particular, the biases that get in the way of that middle stage is really, really important. 


So here it is. We’re not actually talking about empathy. We’re going to talk about quality connections. We’ve had quality conversations for over a decade. We’re going to start talking about quality connections. And there’s an emotional, cognitive and behavioral stage, or what we’re going to call notice, understand and act. And the understand stage, in particular, is the one that’s really, really problematic.


John, do you remember there was a quote that Jamil had? It threw me back. Remember that quote about the perspective taking? Do you want to share that? 


[00:23:28] JE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actually, Jamil said two things that I think were super powerful. And the one that you’re referring to is he said getting people to focus more on perspective taking makes them more confident, but not more accurate. And he went on to say that it’s really about the ability to do follow-up questions. Ask questions to make sure we have the right level of clarity. But it’s really powerful. I’ll give you that again. Getting people to focus more on perspective taking makes them more confident, but not necessarily more accurate. 


Now, one of the other things that Jamil said that really stuck with me was this, there’s not a choice between empathy and bottom line success. They’re are actually things that need to feed into each other. So this conversation about empathy is oftentimes so readily dismissed, but is so significantly important to organizational success.


[00:24:13] DR: Yeah. Yeah, we showed some really interesting data at the start of this that we don’t have time to get into now, but about leaders think that showing empathy. Like most leaders think showing empathy will make them less respected, less successful as leader, all this stuff. So what we want to talk about is quality connections where you accurately perceive the emotions and intentions of someone else and then act in an adaptive way, right? So you’re accurately perceiving someone else’s mental state and goals and then acting the most adaptive way possible. And there’s lots of different things in there. So we’re kind of breaking that out so we can teach this to people in a much more, in a sense, rational way. Although we’re not taking the emotion actually out of it. What we’re doing is giving people fewer reasons to resist learning this by making it something that you can kind of learn stage by stage and understand. 


So we’re excited about having this framework. We already have organizations that we’re talking to to start building this out. And it’s going to go into a solution called care, which we’re just launching. Literally, at the summit, we launched the neuroscience of quality connection. So this will be initially in HIVEs, which is cohorts of people in Zooms that we can start doing. 


So let’s go to insight three, because I know we’ve got six and a few things to get through. This was an important insight. So this came out of the whole George Floyd incident and murder. And the way we responded to that, we responded to that with a framework called listen deeply, unite widely, act boldly. Listen deeply, unite widely, act boldly. 


And we actually did a whole series of events and writing about each of those stages, listen deeply, unite widely, act boldly. We did a ton of work on this. And one of the things that we did was we suddenly realized we had to act boldly at NLI and do something really meaningful. So we ended up putting together a de-escalation training for the police forces and similar and gave this away for free for a long time. 


We learned a huge amount out of this and in the end decided to actually build something that we would then make available to other folks, because we started getting all this demand, particularly from the public sector, the governments around the world, big organizations. They were essentially saying there’s so much conflict in the world that people need to know how to de-escalate. 


So we spent a long time in this, over a year, and we had this fantastic team member, Joy, who came to us from, actually, police. And in fact, she was in the service as well. Amazing background. So she’s been helping us build something that teaches people how to de-escalate. And it was fascinating. In the police, they learned how to escalate, but not really how to de-escalate. Most of the training is escalation. 


So we built this. It’s starting to happen. We walked through the framework. The solution is called calm. But we walked through label, interpret and diffuse, or how to keep the LID on conflict, label, interpret, diffuse. And walking through step-by-step how you actually de-escalate. 


I won’t go into the whole detail. So I think you’ll find this session. If this is something you’re interested in, I think you’ll find this session very powerful and very, very relevant. So this was the framework. And SCARF comes up with de-escalation. I mean, it’s a lot about identifying threats and acting adaptively. So if someone’s at a level three threat, which is the highest level, they’re not going to listen to. Cognitive strategies don’t really work. But what can you do when someone’s slightly activated? 


And what we see is that all domains of SCARF are things that you want to address. So you want to actually address people’s sense of status, and certainty, and autonomy, etc., and try to create these positive SCARF experiences in the process. And as you kind of address all of these, people, literally, their threat level comes down. So it’s a powerful idea. 


John, anything you want to add to this? With the conflict going on out there, we’re kind of all first responders now. It’s not just airplanes. It’s sort of everywhere. Anything you want to add to this? 


[00:27:53] JE: Yeah. Just how this ties so closely to the concept of our limited cognitive capacity. And so the brain is hierarchical. And if we’re all focusing on issues of crises all the time, one, we have a limited capacity for resilience and regeneration. But two, it’s distracting us from working towards optimal outcomes in the business world. 


So this has clearly become a space where leaders, organizations, and even individuals within organizations, have to now pay attention to. How do I mitigate, manage and balance everything that’s going on out there, but make sure that it’s not leading me to sub-optimal outcomes? I’m not rolling down that hill towards the results I really don’t want. But spending the right amount of energy on the right kinds of things.


[00:28:35] DR: To that point, I think one of the big insights I had from this session and this work overall, we spent over a year on this, is that we often think about escalation as kind of the physical violent stuff that happens, right? Because I’ve anchored you all on police here, right? But actually, what we saw is that de-escalation has three different intensities. This de-escalating just kind of an individual who’s got some strong emotions. So how do you sort of de-escalate someone who’s just upset about something? How do you de-escalate conflict between two people? It’s not violence. It’s just an argument, right? And then how do you de-escalate the really difficult stuff if something is starting to turn into real conflict, right? 


But actually, you want to learn de-escalation skills for the easy stuff. It’s a bit like speaking up, right? Very similar, there’s a continuum. So you want to learn how to de-escalate the easiest stuff, and the medium stuff, and then the harder stuff, which is more rare, will be much, much easier when it happens, right? But the first two levels of the escalation happen all the time around us. And so learning the basic skills to de-escalate those things are super important. There’s a de-escalation continuum, just like there’s a speaking up continuum in that way.


[00:29:42] JE: Yeah. Everybody understands and knows the world we live in. We’re seeing it every day. We’re living it out even right now. So we recognize that we’ve got to find that way to move from discord to dialogue in any particular work environment, right? Because it’s all about what’s the unifying goal that we’re trying to accomplish together in the organization, right? And how are we helping each other navigate and mitigate these particular arenas. But we know that when we get to discord, we’re not talking about innovation. We’re not solving for the right problems. We’re not doing the kinds of things that are necessary. But when we get into dialogue, we’re driving deeper. Get it now, perspective taking, right? Driving deeper levels of empathy and deeper levels of teamwork that can now get done as well. So this has become, David, I think just a critical element for every organization to pay attention to. 


[00:30:28] DR: Yeah. And anyone dealing with the public in any way is seeing these challenges. So we also had a lot of sessions on DEI. We didn’t necessarily launch new research. We’ve got a really big set of tools for DEI. We started working on DEI about seven years ago. It’s not a new area for us. We’ve published eight original pieces of research across how do you actually mitigate bias? How do you actually get people speaking up? How do you understand others with perspective taking? How inclusion really works? All sorts of things. 


So we published eight original pieces of research, plus many, many, many additional articles. But across this whole domain, we also have really a full suite of solutions that become a pathway that many organizations are now using as their DEI pathway. So we didn’t necessarily launch new research where we had a number of really important sessions kind of digging into what’s happening. 


So we had it from the lab session. So we had three tracks. So we had a DEI session in each of the tracks from the lab track. We had Lisa Aziz-Zadeh talking about her research. Michaela from our team, and Corey White externally talk about his work. Facilitated by Jeff Salters from our team. And this is talking about the new research coming out. What’s happening? 


John, anything you wanted to add in this one?


[00:31:43] JE: No. Nothing that I wanted to add here. It was just really always fascinating to understand what the science is telling us. But it was really clear, though. I guess I will add this. It was just really clear that, in order for us to navigate these volatile times, we need diversity of thinking, right? We need to have folks who think differently than we do. Bring different perspectives in. And so more than ever, we’ve always thought this would be important. The researcher has always proved to be important. But now more than ever, given the volatility that’s going on out there, there’s just absolutely no way that John can fully understand things without the perspective of others who think differently coming into the conversation. 


[00:32:19] DR: And especially big decisions. I was struck by this. I’m starting to travel again a little bit like others. I was at LaGuardia and someone had told me, “Wow! You’re going to LaGuardia. I hear they’ve won an award. It’s a great airport.” And what I discovered in LaGuardia is that someone made the really incredibly stupid decision of putting quite thick carpet for most of the walkways. And the walkways are long. And so you literally can’t push your – Everyone’s got a wheelie bag. It’s really hard work to push your wheelie bag along. And honestly, they should rip up the whole thing and change it, because every single person walking through that airport constantly can’t actually push their wheelie bag along. You could literally measure the resistance and the effort involved. Someone could do a study of this and then look at the difference in either better carpet or just no carpet. 


And they made a terrible decision. And I guarantee you, there was not a diverse enough team that was thinking about that. Someone said, “Oh, let’s make this look nice.” They didn’t have enough people thinking about decision to say, “Hang on, let’s just make sure you could wheelie you your bag over it.” And these are the kind of things that when you have really different perspectives on an issue, you solve really different problems. 


So we had a breakthrough session as well. It was great having Khalil Smith back with us who went to a client for a few years. He was leading our DE&I practice for a few years with us. He’s gone to Akamai where they’re rolling out a huge amount of work across many, many of the solutions. We had someone from Thomson Reuters. We had someone from Stanford. And Will Kalkhoff, who’s a really fascinating researcher as well. 


And so this session we talked a lot about equity. Some of the research on equity. We talked about allyship. And I’ll dig into a couple of slides in a minute that we shared there. But we’re particularly looking at definitions of equity and how it ties with allyship and what allyship really does. And we also had it from the field session of DEI. We had Frank from NASA, Miriam from Principal, LaQuenta Jacobs from XP Logistics and talking about the actual work that they’re doing. It’s using our work in different ways. And looking at all the different ways that you can apply DEI. 


So, John, any comments from any of these before we jump further? 


[00:34:19] JE: Your mention of the LaGuardia illustration reminded me of something that Corey White from Missouri Western State University said during his session, and he said that different perspectives add value. They allow you to see things from a different angle. And then he made the powerful statement which is, “This will make your company run better.” So exactly to your point as well. 


I love the NASA illustration, because they were so straight and to the point. The acting director from NASA said, “Hey, we’ve got to take that –” I’m paraphrasing using my language. but he basically said, “We’ve got to take this DE&I thing seriously because we’re about life and death here, right?” And we know that people, when they feel excluded they don’t speak up. And when they don’t speak up, things happen. And those things can be very, very bad things. Using my language. Not his. But he was basically making the strong point that, in an organization that does a significant kind of work that NASA does, we can take no chances. We’ve got to provide an environment where conversations can happen in a diverse manner. 


[00:35:19] DR: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a fascinating case there. Really worth watching that session if you’re interested in this one. Fantastic. So just a little bit on the breakthrough session. We did we talked a little bit about aversion to inequity, and what happens in the brain when you’re detecting inequity. And it’s not exactly the same, but very similar to the fairness activation and fairness in SCARF that you’re getting this insular response of literally a sense of disgust of something that something is really, really wrong. And so it’s a very visceral experience when you’re detecting inequity. There’s a real aversion to it that’s quite visceral. 


And we talked about equity being at the heart. This sort of drive for equity being at the heart of inclusion strategies, bias mitigation strategies, even allyship. This inequity aversion is a drive for all of these. And I love this quote. We’ve been working with Capital One for nearly a decade in different solutions. And they said it’s very easy to sit on the sidelines thinking that your lack of negative intent is enough to make a difference. It doesn’t. This is a lot about our allyship work. So we launched ally in the last year and got some really amazing data on the impact of that already if you’re interested in that. 


Let’s go on. This is one of my favorite sessions because it was full of data. But we had a session from three different scientists, or three different researchers I should say, two scientists, one research, on essentially behavior change at scale. Our work is behavior change at scale. We’re doing some analysis at the moment of how many millions of people we’ve impacted in the last year. It’s surprising and kind of terrifying. 


But one of the big insights from Katherine Milan’s session. And Katherine’s our Head of Customer Experience. More of a researcher. One of the big insights was basically don’t go back to workshops. As we all kind of start to spend more time at the office, let me show you the actual data on going back to workshops because it’s quite poignant. 


We analyzed huge amounts of data from hundreds and hundreds of projects and tens of thousands of people to kind of give you a crisp summary of why you shouldn’t go back to workshops. BCP is the percentage of a target audience that is changing. Now what we actually measure is the percentage of a target audience doing something weekly now. And it’s usually two to four weeks after a learning experience.


So in other words, in-person workshops, roughly half the audience. So if you’ve got a thousand people going through a learning experience, 500 of them are doing something weekly. Now if people are not doing something weekly, they generally don’t have it as a habit. It generally doesn’t happen. So we know that when something is weekly, it’s usually most weeks it tends to happen. 


So you’re really only impacting or building a habit in about half the company with an in-person workshop. Whereas with a HIVE, which is literally three Zoom sessions over three weeks and cohorts, you’re getting 88%. So almost everyone. So you’ve got half versus 88%. And that HIVE is obviously massively more scalable and massively lower cost, massively faster and easier to roll out. 


What was interesting was the DLS. So DLS is something that we have. It’s called a Distributed Learning Solution. This is massively scalable. You can impact literally a hundred thousand people in a month without anyone going anywhere in-person. You could impact a half a million people in a month. We’ve done some pretty crazy numbers. But that was only 10% off the HIVE. 


So DLS stands for Distributed Learning Solution. I won’t go into the detail of how it works. If you’re from an organization, you want to know more, chat with us. We’ll send you a bunch of things and chat to one of our people. But a Distributed Learning Solution is basically a way of radically scaling habits to any size audience in a month using video content, and nudges, and guides and all sorts of things. It’s only 10% off. People spending three hours over three weeks synchronously. 


So a DLS is only an hour synchronous. A HIVE is three hours synchronous, over three weeks. And DLS, you can scale to any number really quickly and easily. A HIVE, you’ve got to put cohorts together and manage, etc. So huge difference in effort. So a lot of our bigger clients might put say a thousand people through a HIVE and then 20,000 people through a DLS, and then maybe some other guides do everything else. 


So BCP is the percentage of an audience changing. Amazing to see, finally, the difference in this. And NPS, Net Promoter Score, this is more a standard measure of whether you would basically tell people this is a good thing to do in plain English. So negative NPS is not good. Negative NPS means you’re not going to tell people this is a good idea. In-person workshops had negative six NPS. And again, not much difference between HIVE and DLS, right? Both of them very strong. 19 NPS is very high. That’s a very strong Net Promoter Score. So, literally, a lot of people are going to promote this. 


So you look at this and basically don’t go back to workshops now. That doesn’t mean just turn a half day class into three hours on a Zoom. There’s some ways you’ve got to do it right. And the goal has to be easy, recall, under pressure of ideas. 


So this is a big insight for us. We also share a lot about the data. We share the data of like before and after Covid of the different solutions, kind of the impact Covid is having on different habits. We share a whole ton of data out there on this.


But John, any comments on workshops versus HIVE and DLS? I know you deliver kind of all three of these. Any commentary you’d add to that? 


[00:40:30] JE: Yeah. I think relative to what folks will experience if they haven’t already in re-watching the summit, is you’ll hear really powerful stories from clients that have done this. And that’ll push, I think, any skeptic over the line.


I remember Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina talking about something that I think all of us can agree would be remarkably difficult to do in any organization, and that is what do we do with performance ratings? How do we improve that process or maybe toss it out? And they have had over four years of longitudinal study. And basically, what you’ll hear them say is this stuff is stuck. We’re seeing really positive ratings on things like engagement and intent to stay from employees. 


And what’s fascinating about this is they had a senior leadership change in the midst of all of this basically came to the conclusion, “Listen, if we really want a culture of experimentation and innovation, we’re going to need to sort of move in these directions.” 


And so you’ll hear organizations talking quite a bit about the results of what they’ve seen and same thing coming out of the Bowen conversation at our final closing keynote.


[00:41:33] DR: Yeah. I know we’ll get to that in a sec. Both the HIVE and the DLS solution are building a specific set of habits in 30 days and doing that one habit at a time. It’s just the HIVE, you’re with a cohort, about 30 people. You’re in like a Zoom call, but you’re actually doing exercises. So you’re on camera. Very synchronous. You’re doing three hours of what might be considered classroom training. But you’re doing it on Zoom. And you’re doing exercises and activities between, which is really important. So you think that would be a huge outlier in terms of behavior change. 


Now, the way we value things, it’s a weird quirk of the brain. And I’d careful I don’t go too far down this. But the way we tend to sort of understand things is we give a lot of credence to things we can picture, right? So we can picture being in a workshop. And we put a lot of value to those social interactions and the feelings we have, all these. We don’t value the unseen. So what happens in a workshop is that, at the end of the workshop, a half day, one day, whatever, you’ve usually learned way too much to go and apply straight away. So you’re only going to go and kind of apply maybe really one thing. You can only actually digest one meal at a time. And you can only really digest one habit at a time. One, maybe two. It’s just our stomachs work like that. Our brains work like that. 


So at the end of a workshop, you’re going to maybe digest one or two habits. But you’ve got no follow-up mostly. So you won’t. Whereas with these HIVEs and the DLS, because it’s in chunks over a month, you’re getting just enough content to go and practice one thing. And then because you’re coming back together, you’ve got a lot more accountability. You’re a lot more likely to have practiced it, a lot more. And then you’re going to learn another chunk and apply it. 


We actually did the math on this. You’re going to take about seven times as many actions if you break things up over a month versus doing it in a block. And so we don’t see that. It’s hard to kind of picture that. But we’ve got the data on it. So you do a workshop. People will tell you they prefer a workshop and they’ll tell you that they think they’ll learn more in a workshop. They definitely don’t. They learn and recall more in little bytes over a chunk. And we know that so well that we literally bet our whole organization on it. 


I’ll tell you, 78% of all our learning delivery was virtual before the pandemic. So we’d made a huge bet that virtual learning was better, not taking into account cost or scale, just better for learning, because of the effect of breaking it up, because of all these other things. So there’s no question you lose some human contact. There’s no question you lose a bunch of things. But you’re not seeing what you gain when you do this. 


So lots to say about this. I would encourage you to look at the session. We’re also going to have Your Brain at Work live with Katherine in the next month or so where she’s going to kind of dig more into the specific way we deliver things and dig more into the data and BCP and all of that. So if you’re interested in that, watch out for one of those HIVEs coming up. 


This was my favorite slide of the entire summit. This was actually data six months after people had gone through – I think it was a DLS, Distributed Learning Solution. And this is the percentage of people still doing something weekly. And this was a growth mindset initiative. This is the percentage. So 91% of people are still sharing mistakes or learning with others every week six months after an initiative. And 86% discussing growth mindset with others every week. That’s a huge number. They didn’t really know what growth mindset was before this. So what we’re seeing is, also, when you learn these things over time, you’re getting a huge, huge bump. 


Let’s go to the closing one. And this was definitely a highlight for me. This was incredibly important. So this was the Boeing story. Next week, in fact, we’ve got Sara from Boeing coming on. And what she didn’t have time to talk about was the real stories of the initiative and what the employees were saying and doing differently. And next week she’ll actually be my guest on Your Brain at Work. And she’ll be going deeper into this. So I won’t spend a lot of time on this. 


But Boeing rolled out across the whole company, 140,000 people, seek, speak and listen. And you can literally Google it and see – If you Google seek, speak and listen Boeing, you’ll see a whole world of content about this. They launched this across the whole company. They did it using a distributed learning solution, a custom or sort of tailored version of our voice solution that was very Boeing. And we did something kind of custom for them. But it impacted everyone quite quickly because we believe that giving everyone a little bit is much more powerful than giving a few people a lot.


And by the way, the reason we made that decision is because this vast body of research said the number one reason people change is actually thinking everyone else is changing. So if you put a whole organization through something, everyone thinks everyone else is going to be doing this. So you get this huge positive pressure. 


So this went across the whole organization. Sara will speak next week to some of the data. But you can see there the increase in things like team members seeking new perspectives. Incredible data. 


So Southeast Asia up 24 points, for example, in seeking new perspectives. 31% in employees, or 31 points in team members feeling comfortable speaking up. This was the increase. So some incredible results. And this was scaled across the whole company in just a matter of, literally, weeks. 


So the closing session, changing weeks, not years, said growth mindset is a foundation. And then you’ve got to think about priorities, habits and systems. And Boeing was a case study in how to do priorities, habits and systems the right way. One of the things we loved about Boeing is they followed the science. They really came to us and said, “Show us the right way to do this.” We showed them. They followed it. And we got some incredible results. So priorities, habits and systems is the right way to do this. 


So that’s kind of everything I wanted to share. A couple of updates of new things that we’re doing. There’s a couple of new things that are happening with us. We’ve launched an in-action series. So if you’re from an organization and you’ve done, say, decide, we’ve done a part two of decide to go deeper. Because the work is really making a difference. But many organizations are saying we still want to go deeper. So we’re launching an in-action series so that we decide in action, and, soon, grow in action, and then include in action, etc. So that’s an interesting launch.


Also, this may be of interest to you. we’re finally launching a practitioner master class. So if you are a DEI practitioner or want to be one in an organization, we’re going to launch a six-month program for you to really go into the deeper science of diversity, equity and inclusion, including the foundational research you should understand, how to make it a priority, how to build habits and how to transform systems. So this will be a cohort of people over six months. Kind of each module being about two months long and then a break. I think you’ll find this being an incredibly powerful experience. So just throw masterclass in the chat and we’ll follow up with you. One of our people will follow up with you later. 


I think we’re launching in May. It’s going to be fully online. It’ll be a virtual program taught by our scientists and some organizational guests as well talking about their case studies as well. Fantastic. 


And then we we’ve officially launched CALM, and we’re in the process of launching CARE, if you’re interested in an empathy solution. We’re doing our first big deliveries of that and rollouts of that. So CALM is ready to go, as HIVE and CARE is just being finished. And we’re looking for partners to do the first one. So CALM and CARE, our two new solutions adding to our mix as well. 


A couple of final announcements. If you’re from an organization and you’re passionate about our work, I would encourage you to apply to be an insider. We have a special session once a month with insiders where we all learn together and learn from each other and kind of test out ideas together. It’s a wonderful community. So, neuroleadership.com/insiders. If you’re from an organization and you’re passionate about our work, consider yourself kind of a fan or a superfan, I encourage you to join the insiders. 


And then finally, we are hiring, we are growing across many parts of the business, and encourage you to look at careers, neuroleadership.comcareers if you’re interested in any of those open roles. 


So that’s it for me. Just a placeholder. Next year’s summit, in-person again, fingers crossed, in New York, and virtual. We’re going to run a hybrid conference. We’re going to shoot for the world’s best hybrid conference. We’re going to do it in-person and a fully virtual online conference as well. So both in parallel. So hold the date. It’ll be the first half of November. We’ll announce the official date soon. Definitely planning for the first half of November in Manhattan. You’ll see the date in the next month or so. 


John, any closing comments before we wrap up? We’ll let people go? Kind of wrap up the summit and think about next year? Any closing thoughts from you? 


[00:49:52] JE: Oh, thanks, David. And thanks for allowing me to participate here. I loved it. This was fun, folks. I encourage you to watch the replay even if you participated in the conference. You’re really going to walk away with three things. The better prepared we are, the earlier prepared we are, the better prepared we are for the next crisis, which we know is inevitable. Use the science to build your organization for agility is a second point that you’ll take away. And being able to adapt faster is going to require diversity of thought. Those are the three big things for me that I wanted to leave with all of you. Thanks.


[00:50:20] DR: Thanks, John, for being here. Thanks everyone for being here. Shelby, I really appreciate your work behind the scenes. I’ll hand it back to you for anything closing. Next week is Boeing. Sara from Boeing is going to be here to really dig deep into that strategy. It’s an incredible case study. I encourage you to check into that. And we’ve got some exciting sessions coming up. 


Thanks very much, everyone. Shelby, back to you. Bye-bye.


[00:50:38] SW: Yeah, thanks, everyone. Thank you so much, John and David. That was an incredible session with amazing insights. We’re super excited about the momentum behind that. And as David said, next week, join us on March 4th for our episode with our guest client, Boeing, where we’ll be discussing Boeing’s most significant culture change effort ever. So make sure that you sign up. The registration link will be dropped in here. It’ll also be available on our website. And we look forward to seeing you. 


So on behalf of today’s guest, our team behind the scenes, and everyone at NLI, we thank you for joining us. And we will see you next Friday. Have a great weekend.




[00:51:18] SW: Your Brain at Work is produced by the NeuroLeadership Institute. You can help us make organizations more human by rating, reviewing and subscribing wherever you listen to your podcast. Our producers are Matt Holidack, Mary Kelly, and me, Shelby Wilburn. Original music is by Grant Zubritsky. And logo design is by Catch Wear. Thanks for joining us. And we’ll see you next week.



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