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Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science

By: Charles S. Jacobs, Portfolio, 2009.

Take everything you think you know about management and throw it out the window. According to Jacobs, the latest brain science proves that people simply don’t work the way we’ve been taught: incentives and threats don’t change behavior, lofty goals won’t change organizations, and managers would get better results if they did far less management.

Instead, he reports, our brains are hardwired to do the same things in the same ways until a major threat disrupts those habits. At that point, we don’t want to be ordered to change—we’d like to figure it out for ourselves.  And we’re particularly good at responding to change via storytelling, not facts.

Comparing Patton’s failure to the success of Henry V at Agincourt, he says that people respond to leaders who can tell inspiring stories, who admit that the situation is difficult, and who empathize with their audience because they have failed themselves: think FDR, Churchill and JFK.

While it may not convince you to scuttle everything you’re doing today, it certainly may cause you to rethink your management strategies.

Good for managers, even better for those aspiring to be leaders.
I’d give it an 8.5 on the LL Innovation Meter.

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About Lynda Lawrence

Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.