How truly understanding the brain helps internal comms

May 30, 2017

Concentrate. Here comes the science bit.

Unfortunately there’s no Jennifer Aniston here to make the whole process of understanding neuroscience easier.

However it is important if you work in internal communications – because the value of truly understanding brain power can make you far more effective in your job.

Sound like a wild, headline-grabbing claim? Not according to leading experts in the field of the brain science.

Being able to decipher what makes people tick is a huge step towards engaging them in the workplace.

Highly regarded US neurologist Stanley B. Prusiner summed it up neatly: “Neuroscience is by far the most exciting branch of science because the brain is the most fascinating object in the universe.

“Every human brain is different – the brain makes each human unique and defines who he or she is.”

The discipline, which can be described as the scientific study of the brain, has been cited as a method of enhancing effective communication with colleagues.

Dr Kevin Fleming

Dr Kevin Fleming, founder of a global neuroscience-based consulting and advisory firm Grey Matters International, said: “The relationship between internal communications and neuroscience is multi-faceted.
“It truly influences all parts of the information processing chain between sender and receiver.”

The brain’s reaction to change can be variable – and is something IC practitioners need to be aware of.

Change in the workplace – and indeed life – can be difficult to accept, primarily because of our natural instincts.

As Clare Edwards, director of neuroscience consultants BrainSmart, explained in this excellent blog post: “Our brains developed with one purpose in mind – to keep us safe.

“We learnt to scan our environment five times more for threat and danger than for pleasure or reward and this is still the case today.

“What this means for many staff in change situations is that change equals threat.

“Our brains crave certainty and predictability, two conditions that change doesn’t offer.

“We are conditioned to move away from threat and when faced with it we display negative emotions of the change curve such as anger, denial and fear.”


Regardless of the type of personality they possess, it is essential for IC professionals to understand that people’s emotions are central to successful messaging.


They play a fundamental role in the way we communicate – or wish to be communicated with.

And a positive mental attitude is a key part of successful employee engagement.

Research reveals employees with a upbeat outlook are more likely to be innovative, collaborate more effectively and, generally, be more engaged.

Dr Fleming continued: “Neuroscience and employee engagement is everything.

“The ‘bubbles above the head’ house the truth of employees more than what they say.

“And that internal dialogue is mediated all through the nervous system, when you boil it all down.

“Do we feel threatened? Do we feel safe?

“Do we really trust our employers don’t see us simply as a number? Are we really in love with our job?”

It is quite clear: the need to understand employee behaviours in the workplace has never been greater.

But how do we begin to tackle this?

Dr Fleming, who has helped clients across the globe dealing with behaviour change and irrationality, added: “It is best to start with humility.

“Most of our problems in solving this lies in ego and self-deceit: our addiction to superficial knowing of things versus cultivating a deep understanding of things.

“We settle for what makes sense rather than what is fully true.


“Neuroscience also plays a big part in our decisions towards wellness, setting boundaries, and self-care.

“Just exercise alone does do wonders to the increase of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), a protein that helps maintain healthy neurons and creating new ones.”

So the experts are clear: the brain game is an underlying factor in a huge swathe of the employee engagement mix: change; communication; well-being and understanding behaviours.

As a scientific discipline, neuroscience has come on leaps and bounds in the past two decades.

However the vast complexity of the human brain means the further research leads to more questions rather than answers at the moment.

Yet Dr Fleming is adamant that the progress – no matter how small in terms of understanding the brain – will soon pay dividends for the generations of employees in the future.

He added: “We don’t have the time nor interest in truly learning the depth and breadth of these implications of bringing neuroscience truly into the room. It would shake up our world too much.

“And we are more interested in our attachments of knowing what we want to know and believe.

“But the more we improve with neuroscience innovations around the world of mental health the better we will get at aligning internal motivations/desires/affections with ‘optimal performance’.

“Coaching and team building can be a waste of time and money when we are truly running on past trauma patterns that are immune to rational influence. “THIS is where the secret sauce of ROI rests.”

** Dr. Kevin Fleming is the founder of neuroscience-based advisory firm Grey Matters International and has worked with clients on five continents, helping many breakthrough irrationality and behavior change quagmires. He can be reached at info@greymattersintl.com.

“Neuroscience and employee engagement is everything.

“The 'bubbles above the head' house the truth of employees more than what they say.

“And that internal dialogue is mediated all through the nervous system, when you boil it all down."