Brain Hacks to Engineer an Agile Transformation
I have the best of intentions to practice healthy habits every day: going for a run, eating plenty of veggies, and finishing that book. Sometimes I actually do them, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.
What about the rest of the time?
As a supposedly rational creature, when I am presented with an idea, I weigh all of the data needed to evaluate my options and then make a decision based on that data. But then why do we make irrational decisions?
According to the book The Control Heuristic by Luca Dellanna, it’s because the decision-making process is wired in reverse. When we are presented with a decision, the subconscious determines what we’re most emotionally comfortable with. Before any information is collected or any rationality is applied, the choice is made. When our brain recognizes this, it fills in the gaps to justify why we feel this way.
In other words: Our brains lie to us.
If we are not emotionally comfortable with an activity, the brain invents an excuse not to do it. We don’t like bad behaviors, but exhibiting them makes us feel in control, and therefore improves our comfort level.
It would be easy to feel discouraged from pursuing a positive change, but we can “outsmart” our brains.
First, believe a decision is truly good for you. Eating healthier and sticking to a running schedule helps me lose weight. If I believe it will benefit me to make a change, I will be more motivated to do it.
But it’s not that easy. Deep down, I also don’t believe I am able to lose more weight. The agile practitioner in me knows this is because I see weight loss as a huge process that can’t be accomplished overnight. When I view behavioral change as this giant rock that I have to push up a hill, I’m willing to forget it altogether.
However, if I embody an agile mindset and believe in my ability to complete small tasks that serve the larger behavior I want to achieve, I’m more likely to succeed. By breaking down large changes into smaller and more achievable pieces, we believe we are capable of accomplishing them. Once our subconscious knows the behavior makes us happy, we believe we are capable of doing it.
Even after you have taken the first steps toward change, it doesn’t mean you won’t encounter hurdles. If something gets in the way, I may get frustrated and go back to thinking I’m not capable. When this happens, the change stops.
We must be on the lookout for roadblocks, but there are tools at our disposal. Tactics like changing your surroundings, changing your perspective, or simply giving yourself permission to change can help.
This is why coaching is beneficial. Independent third parties can see when our environment is getting in the way of our belief in ourselves. Transparency and accountability remind us of the mission at hand and our conviction that it is possible.
If you are desiring change—whether in your personal life or on an agile team—strive to alter your subconscious in order to fuel positive new behaviors.
Chris Murman is presenting the session Brainwriting: The Team Hack to Generating Better Ideas at the Agile + DevOps West 2019 conference, June 2–7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.