Dario Nardi, PhD is also the founder and CEO of Radiance House media and books. He is also a founder of UCLA’s Human Complex Systems degree program, winner of UCLA’s annual Distinguished Teaching award, and author/coauthor of numerous books including Neuroscience of Personality and “8 Keys to Self-Leadership”. You can find more at www.radiancehouse.com and www.darionardi.com. Dario will be presenting at the Type conference in Melbourne in October, 2012 with a possible workshop in New Zealand as well.
1. How did you get drawn into the work you are doing currently?
Five years go I used teaching award funds to buy brain-mapping equipment. In retrospect, I took a lot on faith that the device would take me somewhere useful. After my first session with some students, I couldn’t sleep for weeks. It was so exciting! The students found it very meaningful too. To peer inside themselves in a way they’d never done before. Every time I sit down with someone, it’s an opportunity for new observations and connections. And people want to know about the neuroscience of personality, because it’s so personal and also scientific, a wonderful marriage! Now I’m doing workshops, a training program, creating materials, etc. But I keep in mind the topic is still young. There is a lot left to learn.
2. How can we engage our brains better to generate higher levels of motivation and better decision-making?
There’s something I call the engagement curve. Our brains get more active as motivation and/or competent in a task increase. If the task is too easy, too hard, or generally irrelevant to the person, then brain activity goes down.
To go from awareness to action, we need to understand what boosts motivation and competence. Susan Nash has a great coaching methodology for when and how to engage people to increase competence.
Regarding motivation, the possibility of positive feedback tends to motivate people. A manager who gives negative feedback on positive results is begging for low morale. And yes, we rig our systems to do that. For example, UCLA has teaching evaluations but funding for teaching is decided by other factors. So why bother to teach well? And when teaching is poor, why would students be motivated to learn? The underlying issue in this case is a lack of shared purpose. The general lessons: Goals and values should clearly align in all directions, and there should be honest rewards for individuals’ actual performance.
People also get excited when they engage in a design cycle on a product that is meaningful to them. I’ve seen this first-hand. When someone exclaims, “I’m making this, it’s for good, and I’m making it better!” then the person is displaying pride of ownership.