Some new brain research out of Wharton (UPenn) recently, and while it’s not entirely fleshed out yet and has more potential for research options, this is an amazing section:
One of the fascinating takeaways from our research is that people and animals tend to make very similar kinds of decisions when they are in similar contexts. Moreover, their brains seem to make these decisions using a similar set of mechanisms.
What this means is that we can infer that much of our own behavior, the choices we make, even in a very complex situation, such as a market, are driven by forces that evolved a long time ago to solve the kinds of problems that animals need to solve, such as finding food, finding a mate, and making friends and allies that will help to solve the problems that they need to solve.
Here’s the thing: broadly, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s only 2 percent of our DNA that truly separates us from chimps. That’s a pretty small amount, all told.
But think about this: when you’re running around trying to make complex financial decisions at your business/organization, in reality all you’re doing is a slightly-adjusted version of the same process by which an animal would find food. That’s remarkable to consider. We put so much pride and thought into “decision-makers!” and “executors!” when we hire and promote within organizations, and in reality everyone is just hitting a version of the same targets that an antelope might.
This should have massive implications for how we think about decision-making processes, priorities, and leadership — but in the eyes of most people, it probably won’t have any implications at all.
There’s one other tie here, though, that is important: your brain, just like animal brains, is set up to predict threats. That’s the primarily evolutionary function of the brain. The predicting of threats in a workplace context, which is done by a majority of bosses trying to hold onto their perch, is the essence of why work often sucks for people.
Next time you’re rushing around screaming about deliverables, imagine yourself as an animal chasing a mate/food. It might make you stop and laugh, at least.