By Jon Miller | Post Date: May 25, 2007 9:44 PM | Comments: 4
Neuroplasticitiy is the ability of the human brain to rearrange its synaptic networks based on experience. This primarily affects the hippocampus, the region of the brain playing a key role in memory. In turn, memory affects behavior. Human behavior affects the majority of things that concern us on a day to day basis, and is also an important topic to anyone wishing to make lasting change.
This concept of neuroplasticity, or experience-driven alteration of synaptic structure and function, is interesting in that it begins to give us an understanding of how we learn. The Nobel laureate Eric Kandel described how this works through the neuroscience research he did with a type of sea slug called the Aplysia in his book In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind. I recommend this book very highly to anyone with an interest in the topic of memory.
This neuroplasticity can be observed in the brain during what is known in classical conditioning as habituation and sensitization. Habituation is the progressive reduction of behavioral response through repetition of a stimulus. In simple terms, you learn to ignore it. Sensitization is the strengthening of a response through progressive increase in a stimulus, or in some cases a single very strong stimulus.
When we have been habituated, we learn to ignore. When we have been sensitized, even a small signal causes us to respond. It is important to understand this because we need to constantly sensitize ourselves to the conditions around us that are burdensome, bothersome, dangerous, or wasteful. When we become habituated, we learn to ignore waste. When we are sensitized, we see it and learn to respond.
Reading through Japanese books about and speaking with people who had the honor of being yelled at by Taiichi Ohno, the experience is described variously as a torrent, a serious scolding, and some even call it a terrifying experience. Part of the genius of Taiichi Ohno may have been that he was literally changing the minds of the people he yelled at through neuroplasticity and sensitization.
There is also the "chalk of terror" that Taiichi Ohno is said to have used to draw circles around managers who were oblivious (habituated) to waste. There may still be some old-timer Toyota managers out there who shudder when they see a stick of chalk.
The stand in the circle exercise is a great way to sensitize busy leaders to the problems in their organizations. It only takes one hour. Beg, steal or borrow an hour of your leaders' time and stand them in the the circle to sensitize them. Stick of chalk optional.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.