Bestselling author Dan Cable is this week’s guest on the Love in Action podcast. Dan is a social psychologist and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the London Business School. He has also been ranked among the top 25 most influential management scholars in the world. His teaching and work are focused on culture and employee engagement, and the link between brands and employee behaviors. His research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Business Week and his clients include some of the biggest brands on the planet including Coca Cola, Estee Lauder, and Twitter. Dan joins host Marcel Schwantes to discuss his research as detailed in his book, Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do.
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- The big idea in Dan’s book is that the emotions of winning have changed. Fear is not the emotion that leads to change agility, innovation, and creativity. The book is a quest to understand how leaders can activate the emotions of competitive advantage. [3:50]
- The seeking system in our brain causes us to want to learn from and experiment with the environment to see how it responds to us. When we follow this urge to experiment and learn, our brain rewards us with dopamine. [5:55]
- Marcel asks what playfulness in the workplace looks like in a way that makes business sense. Dan responds that it is freedom within a frame. If we’re only being playful and experimenting without minding our existing business, we don’t have much of a business. Leadership is about welcoming playfulness and ambiguity in constrained ways that help us learn, grow, and stay relevant without sinking the ship that we’re in. [7:36]
- Emotions are our feelings that motivate behavior. They solve problems which help our survival. If leaders want to encourage employees to try new things or take risks, they need to activate emotions such as curiosity, excitement, and enthusiasm. These are the emotions of competitive advantage today. Fear is stronger than these emotions, so if you activate fear, you quelch the curiosity or enthusiasm. [10:21]
- Dopamine opens up our learning centers, Dan says. It causes the feeling of zest, where life feels like an adventure we get to do. It’s a brain chemical that makes us feel enthusiastic about working and about life in general. [12:46]
- Dan explains that leaders can encourage curiosity, enthusiasm, and excitement in three ways:
— Highlight people’s unique strengths and what they bring to the table;
— Prompt curiosity by making a safe place to experiment and learn;
— Personalize purpose: each employee should know how and whom their work is impacting. [13:35]
- He relates how KLM became one of the top 5 social media savvy companies in the world by using these three strategies. [14:10]
- Marcel asks how a job seeker can know if the company they’re interested in is the kind of employer that activates the seeking system of their workers. Dan shares a few tips that a prospective employee can use to determine this. [19:00]
- The faster the world changes, the more the seeking system becomes the solution to organizational problems, Dan says. Artificial Intelligence cannot replace the human element of understanding the customer’s needs and strategizing new solutions. [23:41]
- If leaders can activate positive emotions at work, they will put more life into their employees. [27:28]
- Melanie Katzman: Connect First (Episode #26)
- Dr. Melissa Hughes: Employee Engagement Starts in the Brain (Episode #20)
- Annie McKee: How to be Happy at Work (Episode #13)
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