When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Future

How Neuroscience Can Help Corporations Maximize Motivation

Researchers are studying brain function to better understand why and in what circumstances workers feel satisfied with their jobs.

Plugged into Emotiv neuro-computing sensors
Plugged into Emotiv neuro-computing sensors
Paul Molga

MARSEILLE — The operator of a shipping company is concentrating hard on his computer screen when suddenly it talks back to him. "Would you like some help?" it asks. "You should take a break!"

Throughout the day, the man tracks freight quotes to move thousands of containers around the ocean. The work requires flawless concentration, but the cerebral monitoring sensors he has been equipped with have spotted a rise in stress and a drop in attention. He risks making mistakes that could be costly to his business, and the computer knows it.


The machine's advice comes from an artificial intelligence program designed by the American company Emotiv, a specialist in customized neuro-computing solutions. It analyzes brain signals recorded from next-generation, intra-ear sensors similar to headphones.

Neuroscience is going to revolutionize learning.

To obtain the encephalograms, researchers usually cover their subjects with flexible helmets equipped with dozens of electrodes. But, to shrink this equipment down for use (it has only two electrodes), the company had to cross-analyze tens of millions of tracks to locate two useful signatures that would measure in real-time the cognitive and emotional state of an individual.


That's not all. Equipped with a Bluetooth connection, the headsets transmit the data directly to a cloud where their employee profile enriches company behavioral knowledge of employees and their work.

"Our goal is to enable organizations to harness the power of large-scale contextualized neuro-informatics by leveraging information collected in real-world work environments from thousands of people," says Olivier Oullier, neuroscientist and president of Emotiv.

EMOTIVE headset testing during the presentation — Photo: @emotiv/Facebook

Ouillier's company has just joined forces with the SAP software publisher to develop an application for professional training.

"Neuroscience is going to revolutionize learning by providing personalized interfaces that take into account the user's emotional state to get the most out of their attention," says Alexander Lingg, SAP's user experience manager.


Thanks to advances in brain imaging, neuroscience has recently seen dramatic developments that reveal the mechanisms of learning, memory, motivation, commitment, attention, decision-making and leadership, all of which interest the business world.

"They highlight the parameters that the brain needs to flourish," explains Pierre-Marie Lledo, director of the neuroscience department at the Institut Pasteur (and a regular columnist at Les Echos).


Lledo's work on neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to reshape its connections according to the environment and experiences), mirror neurons (those of empathy and imitation learning), and the social brain (relationships with others) convinced him that science can help create "neuro-friendly managers' who can organize their own work and also help their team. In doing so they can help reduce stress and stimulate creativity.

"It's about adapting the world of work to brain function rather than the other way around," says the researcher.


The American neuroscientist David Rock gave birth to the concept of "neuroleadership" in 2006. In a related book, Neuroleadership: Le cerveau face à la décision et au changement (Neuroleadership: the Brain Facing Decision and Change), neurologist Philippe Damier and teacher James Teboul extend Rock's work and highlight some of the management errors discovered by advancements in neuroscience.

They argue, for example, that there is no point in drowning your team with a flood of key arguments if their working memory can only retain three. Also, creating excessive competition between employees puts the brain system on alert. It then controls the secretion of hormones such as cortisol to prepare our body to defend itself.

Only 6% say they are motivated by their job, compared to 20% who say they are totally disengaged.

"Neuroscience comes to companies after they have made intensive use of processes whose characteristic is to demotivate the human," says Pierre-Marie Lledo.


The researcher draws on lessons that he distilled from senior managers of top French companies, from Danone to L'Oréal, where a Gallup study of September 2018 showed that the engagement rate of French employees is among the lowest in the world: Only 6% say they are motivated by their job, compared to 20% who say they are totally disengaged.

"The brain is destroyed by routine and feeds on change," is one of the messages Lledo wants managers to hear. "Do not expect great creativity in automatic processes," is another one. "Give employee real breaks," he also urges. "These are precious moments of intellectual wandering and ebullition that bring out creative ideas."


Traditional performance models are being challenged with the arrival of new generations. "One of the biggest problems is how we are ranked based on test results during the recruitment phase," says Olivier Oullier. "Our cognitive, affective and neurophysiological states are constantly evolving. This is why our working conditions must be based on factual data and be dynamically adapted to our feelings."


Recognition is key, say researchers, especially as it has a physiological reality. That's because recognition activates the neurological reward circuits on which motivation, trust and social cohesion are based. There's nothing more stimulating than a "neuro-benevolent" work environment, one in which employees enjoy both autonomy and delegated responsibility.

As Emilie Letailleur, chair the "think and do tank" Circle Embelys, explains, it's all about stimulating positive emotions. "Successful leaders have a high level of emotional intelligence," she says.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Capitol Riot, Brazil Style? The Specter Of Violence If Bolsonaro Loses The Presidency

Brazilian politics has a long history tainted with violence. As President Jair Bolsonaro threatens to not accept the results if he loses his reelection bid Sunday, the country could explode in ways similar to, or even worse, than the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol after Donald Trump refused to accept his defeat.

Supporters of Brazil presidential candidates Bolsonaro and Lula cross the streets of Brasilia with banners ahead of the first round of the elections on Oct. 2.

Angela Alonso

-Analysis-

SÂO PAULO — Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro delivered a message to his nation this year on the anniversary of its independence day, September 7. He recalled what he saw as the nation’s good times, and bad, and declared: “Now, 2022, history may repeat itself. Good has always triumphed over evil. We are here because we believe in our people and our people believe in God.”

It was a moment that’s typical of how this president seeks to challenge the democratic rules. Bolsonaro has been seen as part of a new populist global wave. Ahead of Sunday's first round of voting, the sitting president is trailing in the polls, and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could even tally more than 50% to win the race outright and avoid an Oct. 30 runoff. Bolsonaro has said he might not accept the results of the race, which could spark violence from his supporters.

However, Brazil has a tradition of political violence. There is a national myth that the political elite prefer negotiation and avoid armed conflicts. Facts do not support the myth. If it did all major political change would have been peaceful: there would have been no independence war in 1822, no civil war in 1889 (when the republic replaced the monarchy) and, even the military coup, in 1964, would have been bloodless.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ