GOT ME THINKING—–
I just turned the last page of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. Second time in two days I’ve done that. Rare for me to dig into a book like that. For business I scan for what pertains to a particular circumstance or possibility and then dig in at that point. For pleasure, I zoom through books because I am always famished for the next one. I am a bookworm. Munch, munch.
Pollan’s latest book hit on what interests me in so many arenas that I slowed down but stayed excited. I see so much good coming as various disciplines tiptoe to converging or layering their perspectives. I liked the history of psychedelics because I lived through Timothy Leary and Ram Dass. I see how the kind of research going on now was beaten into oblivion through a cultural scare. It forces the question of what we are cultural killing now through fear. It takes perspective to see our blind spots. Or a truly disruptive and creative experience—like psychedelics or meditation or a devastating experience.
Much about the book concerns a shift in perspective no matter how brought about that reduces ego and allows an expansion of thinking that includes other systems, other people and new ways of seeing and being. I can imagine my former Board of Directors, squirming and wondering what this OD person is talking about. And then I can see them curious—out of desperation for something breakthrough. Most of our companies and institutions are a mess. Old is not working. New isn’t here yet. And we are in a kind of entropy or random chaos trying to redefine, restructure, reinvent and the “re’s” aren’t working (as in “again” and “back”) We are wearing out our companies and our people by digging and digging deeper trenches that don’t branch out into enough possibility, diversity or variance.
This is not one bit woo-woo (ugh, I hate that word only slightly less than Koombaya) when it is used to push away concepts uncomfortable to business. So it was very interesting to read Pollan’s research of the brain brain changes during use of psilocybin or meditation. I’ll let your read the book to understand the chemistry of the brain but here is the nubbin. The default center of the brain shuts down during both of these experiences and new pathways, chaotic pathways, nonsensical pathways, fruitful pathways, refresh the brain with new entries to assimilate and use. This poor CEO of the brain works so hard to keep order and ends up with too much order, too much rigidity, too many repeat solutions, too much dullness, too little joy and awe. Now what does that mean for business, companies and institutions?
Here are a few excerpts from How to Change Your Mind:
1–As I write, the practice of microdosing—taking a tiny, “subperceptual” regular dose of LSD as a kind of mental tonic—is all the rage in the tech community”.
2–James Fadiman (psychologist and writer in psychedelic research and Willis Harman (noetic scientist) administered LSD to artists, engineers, architects, and scientists. All described themselves as stuck on a particular project. Subjects reported greater fluidity in their thinking, as well as an enhanced ability to both visualize a problem and re-contextualize it.
3–Robin Carhart-Harris (scientist) cites research indicating that this debilitating state of mind (sometimes called heavy self-consciousness or depressive realism) may be the result of a hyperactive default mode network which can trap us in repetitive and destructive loops of rumination that eventually close us off from the world outside.
4–Italian Ethnobotanist, Giorgio Samorini talks about a “depatterning factor” during which old patterns fall away. “The more possibilities the mind has at its disposal, the more creative its solutions will be. It’s like variation in evolution. It supplies the diversity or raw material on which selection can then operate to solve problems and bring novelty into the world. “Homo sapiens might have arrived at one of those periods of crisis that calls for some mental and behavioral depatterning (whis is what happens with Psychedelics).
Business and organizations were not the focus of the book. But that is where my mind kept going. (My default center has a will of its own!) Nor am I recommending an LSD trip in the C-suite. But the old patterns for organizations and work need refreshment. We want agile leaders but the entire business has to move easily and freely to adapt. Often when we try to “disrupt” the result is a tweaking of the engrained brain paths of a business.
In my work as an OD executive here’s what helped.
— Designed play that loosened the tightness of thinking.
—Synectics which is a tight method for loosening up ideas.
—Bringing unconventional people into ideation sessions
—More meetingless days than days of meetings
—Digging deep into unrelated industries
—Killing “more, better, faster”
—More purposeless conversation
How to be productively loose during times that create anxiety, demand constant production, create a sense of hopelessness and burnout along with the feeling of being on mean never-ending StairMaster will take a new kind of thinking and leading. Brains need refreshing first. The rest follows.