How to navigate change within one’s mind

Guest essay from 

Jorge Cendales 

CEO of HumanSpirit

Often employees or even entire teams say yes to a change while their subconscious is saying no. Change starts in your mind. Companies are in continuous change. Those that don’t innovate in today’s world of fast and dynamic markets will probably be three steps behind the competition – as simple as that. But introducing change in a company is often an endeavour that fails. Instead of positive reactions and support, leaders frequently experience mistrust, lack of cooperation or even resistance from their teams. What is it that makes one employee welcome innovation with excitement and another reject it? Are there methods that can help leaders successfully implement change in their teams? Neuroscience is increasingly providing unique knowledge and insights into how to conduct successful change. 


Our brain is hungry for change

Every second of our lives, our brain handles millions of micro-impulses. A key feature of the  human cognitive system is its ability to learn how to deal with an ever-changing environment. From an evolutionary point of view, our brain’s primary task is not to think, but to adapt  to change and survive. Successful evolution means being able to react to continuous change. The belief that humans are rational animals who make their plans with foresight is an incomplete statement of human nature – our actions and behaviours are determined more by subconscious than by conscious motivation. Humans are driven by their autopilot: the subconscious. The subconscious/intuition is far more active, purposeful and independent than we think. It’s telling us what to do and what not to do without us being aware. As already mentioned, the subconscious/ intuition is our autopilot.  


What does this mean for change projects? Very simple: we need to ‘talk’ to the subconscious part of people’s minds. Neuroplasticity is the term that neuroscientists use to describe how our brain evolves continuously. Neuroplasticity enables everybody to change (even the most resistant and stubborn employees can change). The key is to invite minds to understand the purpose and need for change and empower them to make their own experiences regarding what the benefit of the change is. New neural networks are built constantly to understand things differently and create different behaviours. Change, from the neural perspective, is a natural process that always succeeds in achieving a brighter present and future.

Cognition and Intuition


The ‘tip of the iceberg’ scheme is a simple model that describes our brain, the autopilot and ‘intelligence’. Neuroscientists have a very simple description of what consciousness is: everything that we can either verbalise or write. The subconscious is the rest. Consciousness/cognition are ‘less intelligent’ (approximately 20% of our brain), slower and less powerful. The subconscious/intuition is ‘more intelligent’ (approximately 80% of our brain), faster and more powerful.


Source: Various authors / Derived from Sigmund Freud

ERNI - Swiss Software Engineering

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