The Limbic System Part 3

10 Minute Read

By Siegfrid SchmahlMore from this author

Out of every 100 companies, 90 do not make it pas their 60th birthday and 40% of newly established companies will barely reach the age of 3. There may be a number of economic reasons for such a high failure rate, but the employees who work in these companies and how they are subject to the process of ageing are the main contributing factors. Companies collapse as a result of excessive risk-taking or due to internal fossilisation. The reason: people's personalities change throughout the course of their lives. Due to age-related changes in the limbic system, enthusiastic entrepreneurs become over-cautious and miss out on potential business opportunities. The dominance and stimulant functions of the limbic system increase up to the age of 25 and begin to decrease from the age of 30 onwards. Pursuing a career and risk-taking are no longer of interest to the older age group and their curiosity dwindles as their need for security grows. Is it possible to consciously resist such a development? Seldom.

limbic system

Does your company suffer from calcification?

"Sourcing gemstones from a new foreign supplier? Too big a risk". Do your colleagues pass up on opportunities to introduce new products? "Glittering rings for youthful customers simply don't meet with our standards". Is there no room for innovation? What causes this lack of entrepreneurial spirit? The answer is in the balance and dominance instructions of the limbic system. Innovation is subconsciously resisted by employees as it introduces greater uncertainty. Anything but change! The balance instruction of the limbic system encourages a strong reliance on what is familiar and thrives on a sense of security. Our limbic system does not promote a high-rolling approach because the time required for decision-making leaves room for inability to act. "We have produced this golden jewelry set, complete with tray, for the last twenty years and it has always been a success". This mentality arises from such dominance instructions as assertiveness, the preservation of a power status and tunnel vision. Do our brains change as we get older? Yes. From the age of 50, the human brain shrinks by about 200g and the stress hormone cortisol damages and weakens the connections between the nerve cells. The ageing body needs more time to break down this stress hormone and finds it more difficult to absorb new information. Older people's curiosity normally only reaches to areas they are familiar with. Hence the belief that in the good old days everything was better. This pattern of thinking reflects less dynamism and reluctance towards change. It is important to make sure that your company does not fall victim to these symptoms of ageing. The remedy you require lies in such stimulant instructions of the limbic system as zest, risk-taking and passion. Make room for pleasing new developments. Laughter should be encouraged because from now on fun is a factor of the working day. Poorly lit salesrooms, a lot of wooden furniture and even more heavy curtains should be replaced by a more brightly lit and friendly atmosphere. It's time for new forms of marketing to take over.

Older people are fairly powerless over nature due to the hormonal changes: Balance and dominance instructions are predominant in them

Is continued success blinding?

"In the last 50 years I have turned this business into what it is today and I am nowhere near handing over the reins". From our experience of history, politics and economics, it is common knowledge that large, powerful companies collapse in the hands of private entrepreneurs. Is success really blinding? Yes. Successful business people are bursting with confidence and optimism due to a significant rise in the levels of testosterone in their bloodstream. This high concentration is sustained for an extended period and the body is rewarded with an outpour of happy hormones. This will explain how top athletes can embark on winning streaks around the globe, travelling tirelessly from one victory to the next. Evolution has rewarded winners a further happy hormone known as serotonin, high levels of which give rise to calm and contentment as well as restructuring thought patterns In fact, serotonin can actively induce laziness, allow warning signals to be ignored and inhibit the identification of threats. Long-standing winners review the world from a position of complacency: "Nothing can touch me". All too often, losing such a grip on reality can have disastrous effects for companies which are normally run too tightly. The question remains as to why patriarchs are not stopped in their tracks by colleagues or junior managers. Given that typical winner-personalities are very often charismatic leaders, there should be room for cooperation/mutual respect on both sides.

Does your work flow?

"The same work, year for year, I just can't hack it any more": Does work make us unhappy? This question is out of place in a day and age in which saving every job is a struggle. Or is it not? The motivation for one's work is of crucial importance, especially in a time of high unemployment and nagging fear. Completing tasks well and properly, accepting responsibility, striving for personal achievement, being a role model in the company - this is the way to make the work flow and to forget about poor conditions. Studies have revealed that the root causes of motivation are independent of the industry or the tasks. 1/3 of all employees consider their jobs to be a source of income. 1/3 see work as a career opportunity. And for the last 1/3, profession is indeed a vocation. Scientists use the term flow to describe the fortuitous state in which we become one with our tasks. In state of flow, time and circumstance are of no concern. Coming home in the evening tired but satisfied - flow has nothing to do with the extent of remuneration, but with the pleasure we gain from our work. It is a question of being happy and making more of our lot in life. Among the most precious gifts that a human being possesses is the skill to discover abilities and incentives that remain hidden to others. It is a question of recognising one's own strengths and transforming profession into vocation. Is work exciting and demanding or simply a question of following external instructions? "The prize winning designer at inhorgenta Europe works in our style". Flow helps us grow beyond ourselves, think actively; it informs us and enables us to gather new experience. Flow is a mixture of desire and happiness. But each of us has an individual limbic profile. Stimulant forces coerce us into making a business trip to a jewelry designer. The stimulant force of risk taking prompts the introduction of a new style in fairytale jewelry. And money is also a mean motivator: if you earn more, you can fulfil a long coveted desire (larger apartment, better car, dream holiday).

This kind of motivational poster in the staff changing room can generate enthusiasm, day for day until the staff have clocked in

Do you need dead weight in your team?

"Watch out, ivory jewelry with plastic was a complete failure last year". Did you recruit your team according to the principle of variety? This means the right mixture of balance (the cautious), dominance (the revolutionaries) and stimulation (the pioneers). People are different. And that is the way it is meant to be so. Progress would be unheard of if we were all the same. In the long-term, uniformity is deadly, while variety ensures survival; after all, your colleagues' personalities are defined by the differences in the limbic mixture. But how do individuals harmonise in a team? The balance instructions are dominant in the ideal team player: prudent behaviour, intent on achieving consensus, is prevalent. But do you want this dead weight at the end of the day? No, as an entrepreneur, you are looking for the revolutionary bringing forward your brand and ensuring spiralling sales. But no company can function entirely without bureaucracy. This means that you need the prudent and the revolutionaries in tandem. You are well advised to entrust responsibility to up and coming stars as soon as possible. Young people are full of unusual ideas and want to test their mettle. But you do need controllers to ensure that their enthusiasm does not flow over or even destroy tried and tested success factors. Controllers are prudent in thought, absolutely reliable and expect from their colleagues discipline and security for the future. Their weaknesses include fussy order and intolerance, and their management style is small-minded. Now all your team is missing is the pioneer with his mixture of dominance and stimulation instructions. He can get your company buzzing, but will repeatedly get up the nose of your conservative forces. He sets the pace in the team and demands for himself constant challenges, freedom and independence. Innovative people like themselves above all, take no action to counteract chaos and produce a constant stream of new ideas. The problem: creative people instantaneously bore of new things, which they therefore implement negligently. The team loves the innovation, but detests the skittishness. If not before, at least now you have noticed that there is no such thing as the ideal person. The solution is finding the right limbic mixture. Void the mistake on all accounts of joining forces with colleagues who are lust the same as you. You are better advised to choose the partners who will balance out your own limbic deficiencies.

Who is hanging their head here? The revolutionary thinking about a new sales channel? Is this the inventor with new ideas for a regional consumer show? Or is the brain drain fussing because everything is moving so fast?

How costly are your losers?

The customer wanted to make the purchase, but you screwed it up! What is actually happening in this kind of failure? You stumble into your own failure trap and cannot find a way out of it. The levels of testosterone and serotonin in your blood plummet, and you automatically feel defeated and susceptible to stress as a result. Depression and illness emerge and the number of days missed on sick leave rises rapidly. You could almost believe that losers deliberately take a sickie. But this is not the case. Studies have shown that losers suffer from hypertension and weak immune systems. A significantly large number of losers work in companies with strict hierarchy and restricted personal freedom. The greater the control we have over our actions, the less our susceptibility to stress. This is why studies on stress have revealed that self-employed people and executive employees do not lead the field in terms of stress illnesses. Despite their full schedules and their long working days, people with executive powers are more relaxed than their nine to five colleagues, whose appointments and working rhythm are set for them.

Are you familiar with the psychology of change?

"We are closing our branch in the suburbs and enlarging our main outlet". You have decided to make sweeping changes, but know from experience that a successful launch is the most important aspect of significant alterations? During kick-off meetings, every participant decides right from the start what chances for success the project will have and to what degree of intensity they wish to contribute. Once a project has already gone off the rails, corrective measures cost a lot of time and effort. Accordingly, secretiveness or discouraging signals are just as out of place in the run-up to an opening meeting as is euphoria. No other medium can sap as much strength as rumour. Tattling is by no means an unpredictable force of nature: you can be certain that poison and mess will occupy any space in which there is a gap in communication. This ruinous speculation is simply the workforces response to questions that remain unanswered. And indeed, the desire to experience a spectacle ensures that the rumours are usually significantly more dramatic than the truth. Everything is suspicious in companies racked by rumour. The drama: changes are displaced from the level of content to the level of power. This results in spiralling costs and a dysfunctional system. But how can we prevent this kind of drama:

  1. Take your time.
  2. Rid your employees of fear.
  3. Create trust and credibility.
  4. Avoid undefined goals.
  5. Get the snipers to join the team.
  6. Indeed, get everyone involved if possible.
  7. Stay away from half-hearted ventures.
  8. Accept temporary economic losses: blockages, external consulting services, missed opportunities, possible departure of high performers, setbacks.
  9. Avoid allocating blame.

by Siegfrid Schmahl

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Siegfrid Schmahl

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