How to Reboot Your Brain

You’re on a roll, tearing through that 20-page document, making changes and getting it all down. And then it happens:

Your computer freezes up on you.

It’s the ultimate frustration. Your system just won’t work, and the only way to move forward is to shut it down.

Something similar happens when you’re mentally stuck. Sometimes you need to change your entire operating system, but sometimes you just need to reboot.

There are advantages to both. Why and when would you want to reboot rather than change systems?

Well, a reboot is easier. It builds off of something you’re familiar with and allows you to feel like you still have momentum. Doing a zero-based budget is a great example of a reboot. Some years ago I was looking at needed cutbacks, and I as went line by line through the P&L, I got lost in the detail of it all: Did we really need this item? How much?

I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t making any progress. So I rebooted by trying a zero-based budget. I started with a clean spreadsheet and listed out all of the items that were must haves if I were starting the company today. Having the clean page gave me a fresh start, took the noise out of the process and made it all much easier. And I knew I could always go back and look at the old P&L if needed to.

You can do this with a project or any plan you get stuck on. (And if the blank page makes you feel even more stuck, try “walking around” the issue by viewing it from the perspective of each of the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.)

What about in life? You can zero-base your life planning by simply asking yourself: If I only focused on what I want and needed from this this day forward, what would that look like? What if the past didn’t matter?

Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending number of commitments you’ve made? Zero-base your activities by imagining you have a totally clean slate to work with. What are the value-added activities you would choose to have in your life?

Feel that your team is riddled with baggage? Give yourselves permission to zero-base your team’s world. Start as if you were onboarding together as a new team. What meetings, processes and structures would you need to be most effective?

The key is to move everything down to zero and then add back in the items that are most crucial. It’s a great way to reboot, shift your thinking and get a clearer view.

Ready to try a reboot? To ramp up your brain first, check out this video that asks, what would you choose to do if money were no object? It will free you up to think differently!


Decision Making in the Midst of Business Crisis: Think Before You React

No organization is immune to adversity. Whether the result of unavoidable external events, like an earthquake or economic crisis, or internal issues and upheavals, challenging times can—and most likely will—hit every business at some point.

The question is, when crisis inevitably hits, how will you handle it?

Let’s take the example of the recent economic downturn. Often when companies feel the beginnings of a financial crisis, the leadership mentality goes narrow, focusing in on the numbers and “downshifting” to a highly controlled, risk-minimizing approach. When all that matters are the numbers, putting on the brakes is an obvious, visible response to take.

So travel is limited, and expense account rules are tightened. Trade shows are cancelled. Purchasing ground rules are severely tightened, and building for inventory cuts back. Hiring stops, and layoffs start. It’s a classic crisis mentality, and it feels right because people are doing something. They’re taking firm action.

But is it the right action? One CEO candidly told us all the cost-cutting activities he directed during the last downturn actually left his company much worse off than they would have otherwise been. The cuts were so deep and his focus was so narrow on budgets and numbers that he couldn’t focus on growth, and that kept him from making a critical strategic hire. He not only lost sight of the company’s strategic purpose, he lost years of momentum.

In thinking preference terms, this kind of response reflects an emphasis on analytical (A-quadrant) and safekeeping (B-quadrant) thinking almost to the exclusion of the interpersonal (C-quadrant) and future-focused (D-quadrant) preferences we know are equally important from a business and leadership standpoint. It’s a common reaction when you’re dealing with a situation that involves so much unpredictability and ambiguity.

Our colleagues in New Zealand looked at a very different sort of crisis response when they conducted research on how organizations can be more adaptive and resilient during the recovery phase of complex, disruptive events like natural disasters. Here, they discovered the opposite problem can occur. Leadership may feel they don’t have time to spend on the supporting data or process and procedures (A- and B-quadrant thinking), and as a result, there’s a potential to overlook important considerations for decision making, particularly when it comes to what gets priority attention.

Thinking time may feel like a luxury, especially in chaotic circumstances, but being conscious about how you shift and apply your thinking is never more critical than in a high-stakes situation. In fact, if you’re going to apply Whole Brain® Thinking as a leader, there’s no better time than during a period of business crisis.

This is the time to develop multiple options rather than considering only those that are security-focused and safekeeping, to employ savvy leadership rather than single-minded management. This is a time for wide-angle binoculars. Because in crisis after crisis, the companies that fair best are those that are both realistic about the situation and committed to the long-term vision. They are prudent but not at the expense of keeping customers loyal and retaining good people.

With so much unpredictability in our world today, thinking agility has never been more important. Here are some resources for applying Whole Brain® Thinking as an organizing principle for making sense of the issue and making smart decisions under pressure:

  • Enhancing Organizations’ Adaptive Capacity and Resilience: Research report by Dr. Erica Seville and HBDI® Certified Practitioners Dr. Dean Myburgh and Chris Webb, published in The Business Continuity and Resiliency Journal
  • Whole Brain® WalkAround: Making Decisions in a Business Crisis:A handy tool for making sure you have a balanced view of both the short- and long-term implications of your decisions

Build Your Thinking Agility with “Strategy at the Speed of Thought”

It’s one of the top priorities and concerns we’re hearing across industries and professions: To keep today on track and stay ahead of the pace of business, you have to find a way to sharpen your short-term focus while maintaining a strategic eye on the long-term view.

At the New Jersey Human Resource Planning Group’s event on May 15th, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will show participants how to build their thinking agility so they can better manage their strategic and talent plans for success both today and tomorrow.

Ann will demonstrate an easy-to-apply, brain-based framework for quickly analyzing business objectives and their human capital implications, and for identifying and managing the diverse cognitive resources needed to create and execute high-value strategies.

This is a great opportunity for New Jersey-area HR professionals—whether you are an internal or external practitioner—to learn how to take advantage of all the brainpower available to you so you can synthesize wide-ranging issues and maintain a strategic mindset.

And there’s an added bonus: All participants will have a post-event opportunity to complete the HBDI® assessment and receive a complimentary personalized HBDI® Profile and application debrief—a $300 value!

NJHRP offers a variety of options for both members and guests to receive a reduced rate on attending this event. Check out their website for more information and to register.

Event Details:

The New Jersey Human Resource Planning Group presents
STRATEGY AT THE SPEED OF THOUGHT: 4 Steps to Building Your Thinking Agility
Featuring Ann Herrmann-Nehdi

Date: Thursday, May 15, 2014
8:00am – 8:45am Registration, Continental Breakfast, Networking
8:45am – 12:00pm Program
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch

Location: Bridgewater Marriott
700 Commons Way
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Register now.

Thinking Agility Webcast Available for On-Demand Viewing

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Ann Herrmann-Nehdi’s July 13th webcast, Getting More Done With Less: 4 Steps to Building Your Thinking Agility, is now available for on-demand viewing for members.

Ann reveals how you can apply what we know about thinking and the brain to better “see around corners” and harness the full brainpower available—your own as well as others’—to meet today’s mental demands while maintaining a more strategic mindset. 

Here’s what people are saying about the presentation:

 Best webinar I’ve attended yet – it kept me engaged the whole time!

 She’s an excellent speaker with a captivating voice. She gave a well prepared and skillful presentation.

 Thank you for this information and new ways of trying to use my brain. Information was clear concise but oh so very useful. Additionally the extra tools provided will help me “focus” on ways of using this.

 This was really informative and can be used to help my team also work better moving forward.

Let us know what you think! How will thinking agility play a role in your own or your team’s performance going forward?

NOTE: membership is free. Sign up or log in to access the full webinar and accompanying resources.

How to Get Leadership Buy-In For Your Initiatives

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How do you win senior management’s confidence and commitment when your initiatives are competing for time, attention and budget?

Learn how you can better harness your own thinking preferences and the brainpower of those around you to make your case. Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shows you how in the free webinar, Getting Buy-in for Your HR Initiatives: Applying C-Level Thinking for Faster and Better Results.

In her signature high-energy, interactive presentation style, Ann demonstrates ways you can adapt your thinking to the circumstances to quickly get the buy-in you need, exploring the distinct thinking styles of C-level leaders and the specific questions they focus on when making key business decisions. Ann will show you how to align your own thinking with theirs to increase your strategic outlook, build your influence and present a compelling business case.

If you’re in Human Resources, Training, Learning & Development, or any role that needs to present a compelling case to senior management, this technique- and tip-filled webinar is a don’t miss, as several participant evaluation comments from the live session attest:

It was very good the first time around and I am going to watch it again because there was so much good information I may have missed something and want to absorb as much as possible. Thanks!

This speaker and her slides were awesome!!!! I want to review the information again and again. This is a tool that will help me develop a roadmap to getting better buy-in with the changes that need to occur in the world of benefits.

Excellent research and timely topic as we are doing more with a whole lot less! I definitely gained more insight for effective communications with senior leaders.

The webinar archive with downloadable handouts is available on demand to members. If you are not a member, simply sign up for a free membership.

Learning and Development Trends from ASTD

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The Herrmann International team checked in from the floor of the Expo Hall at the 2011 ASTD International Conference & Expo in Orlando last month, giving us a glimpse of some of the hot topics they were hearing about during the show. Hear what they had to say.

As you look back on it now, what were your biggest take-aways from ASTD this year?

We’re heard from a few of you on Twitter and through your own blog posts (such as Jack Massa’s Top 3 Things I Learned at ASTD ICE 2011). If you haven’t already done so, we invite you to share your key learnings in the comments.

 What were your impressions of this year’s show?
 What were the top take-aways?
 What topics do you want to hear about next year?

Get Strategic and Get More Done: Secrets of the C-Level Brain

In January 7th’s webinar for Training Magazine Network, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi discussed the “4 Secrets of the C-Level Brain,” showing attendees how they can apply some specific tools and techniques based on Whole Brain® Thinking to get more strategic AND get more done.

You can access the recording of the webinar as well as additional downloads and resources by becoming a member of the Training Magazine Network (free registration required) and joining Ann’s group, Secrets of the CEO Brain, where the discussion about thinking strategically continues.

From “hyperthinking” to narrow thinking, participants have revealed many obstacles that are getting in the way of a more strategic perspective. What is the biggest challenge to YOUR ability to think strategically?

Back to The Future…but Which One?

As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz: “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

The most predictable trend for the year ahead is that 2010 will be unpredictable. Helping others (and yourself) through this “new yet unpredictable normal” will represent a new set of demands on us all.

A few of the most challenging aspects can be addressed by applying what we know about the brain. Here are three ways you can shift your thinking to prepare yourself for the unpredictable future

Staying Positive Through Uncertainty: Sustained and unpredictable change can significantly impact our mindset and brain states. One recent brain study found that such uncertainty leads to more anxiety, and for many, that can make an experience seem more negative than it actually is. You may have seen this in your own workplace—there seems to be a consistent undertone of negativity, regardless of what is really going on.

  • Shift Your Thinking: Make a list of all the positive things you know will NOT change. Even simple routine activities count (e.g., time with family, hobby-related activities, get-togethers with friends, etc.). This can set your mind at ease that not everything is different or negative.

Reality Checks: Plato stated, “nothing endures but change.” Seems obvious, and we know that will be more true than ever in 2010. This state of constant flux may exacerbate the sense of uncertainty, which, as noted above, will often makes things “seem” worse.

In fact, recent research shows that some of us actually will fare better hearing the tough truth rather than being stuck with uncertainty, worrying about what might be. I believe this is true for most of us.

  • Shift Your Thinking Do a reality check! Ask the tough questions and seek out as much information as you can, even if is the answers are hard to take or not what you want to hear.
  • Many people will hide in denial because they don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness they predict will occur. But in fact, knowing what is ahead allows you to plan and look for alternatives rather than get caught off guard. A warning: Make sure your information is based on real data and facts before you assume the worst. Use the Whole Brain® Model as a guide to make sure you are looking at all perspectives.

Thinking Around Corners: A distinct trend is the need for more strategic thinking. I am hearing managers and leaders across the globe ask how they provide support for this essential need. While true for all functions in the organization, the events that occurred in ’09 make this very critical for the Human Resources professionals who will be facing a broader and more demanding landscape and broad set of needs across all roles – from recruiting and outsourcing to career development to healthcare.

  • Shift Your Thinking: Never has scenario-planning been more important! Use your Whole Brain to look at possible scenarios, and rely on your left brain thinking to plan around them. Here are some more tips on the best way to do this process.

The pace of our day-to-day lives keeps us moving so quickly that, more often than not, we may be skimming the surface rather than taking advantage of all of our thinking power and knowledge. The best approach as we prepare for whatever future lies ahead of us in 2010 is to stop and think!