This month marked the 13th NeuroLeadership Summit, with record in-person attendance in New York City and virtual attendance, thanks to the summit’s offer permitting anyone to view sessions online for free. More than 40,000 sites joined the virtual conversation, proving the inclusivity of this gesture. Inclusion was a thread throughout the summit’s discussions centered on “Rethink the Organization”, and my antennae were raised for new insights from the science of inclusion. This election has surfaced the challenges of exclusion in our society, beyond just the workplace and we would be wise to explore how these insights cross the work/life divide, so we can build a better future for all.
David Rock and his team at the NeuroLeadership Institute have created a space through this conference where academics and practitioners come together to exchange theories and thoughts that develop into big ideas that can be transformational. At this year’s summit, we learned that self-development is becoming a norm and that one’s ability to generate energy can lift people to new heights.
Bob Kegan and Rob Cross, thought leaders and pioneers I have followed for years, presented their latest findings and it was a bonus to see how their theories have come of age in the nexus of the new world of work.
Bob Kegan is faculty at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, a psychologist who explores the possibility and necessity of ongoing psychological transformation in adulthood; the fit between adult capacities and the hidden demands of modern life; and the evolution of consciousness in adulthood and its implications for supporting adult learning. I have adopted this framework as we help support organizations and individuals build a capability of agility. Bob coined a phrase at the conference, “business as unusual,” and outlined a new social contract at work. Some of the elements of the manifesto included: we could be greater contributors to each other’s thriving, quit the second job you hold—i.e., “to look good” —as it’s a waste of time, use your job as a tow-rope to stretch and challenge you in new ways and that pain plus reflection equals progress. You can read more about this latest thinking in his new book, An Everyone Culture.
Rob Cross is another hero who heavily influenced me early in my career. He is a professor at University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and over the last 20 years has developed an approach to organizational network analysis that causes business leaders to sit up and listen. Earlier this year Harvard Business Review featured his article on collaborative overload and the need to recalibrate when information consumption rises, causing collaboration to negatively affect performance. Cross suggests that the concept of thriving—building energy and purpose—is the key. Being an energy-giver is surprisingly not about personality, but how when being fully present with someone, they are more likely to walk away enthused.
Combining these perspectives and the work highlighted in “The Science of Inclusion”, a recent paper by The NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), shows how the neuroscience, the psychology and the sociology align. Neuroscience presents evidence that exclusion causes deep social pain, which leads to reduced intelligence, thought and reasoning, an increase in self-defeating behavior, and a lowering of pro-social behavior, meaning and purpose, ultimately decreasing well-being. These findings are not to be taken lightly and by facilitating the confluence of these conversations, our insights as practitioners can make a lasting impact. My conclusion was simply:
Everyone + Energy = Inclusion
The team at NLI end their paper by sharing that “the real power of diversity lies dormant without creating an environment where people feel integrated, feel that they belong and feel open and safe enough to express their ideas—where inclusion is a reality.” This is true more so now than ever at work and in society.
Anita is the founder and CEO of Sage Ways. Connect with Anita at email@example.com to share your views on inclusion and the latest advancements in leadership development.