This is Your Brain at Work

John Medina was recently interviewed by the New York Post. The complete article, "This is Your Brain at Work," is available here.

How is work an antibrain environment?

We don't very much know how the brain works, but we do know something about its performance envelope. The brain appears to have been designed to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting in unstable meteorological conditions. And to do that in near-constant motion. That's what the brain's good at. So if you wanted to design a work environment directly opposed to what the brain was naturally good at doing, you'd design something like an office.

If you tore the workplace down, what would you replace it with?

We've known for some time that the more fit aerobically you are, the better a particular series of processes called "executive function" in the brain works. It helps your ability to do math. It helps your ability to control your impulses. It helps with Let's say you're a Boeing engineer. Executive function is the very thing that allows you to design a satellite and, at the same time, keeps you from punching your boss in the nose when you get a bad performance review.

If you take somebody who's fat and sedentary and exercise them three times a week for as little as three months, you can get anywhere between an 80 and 120 percent increase in executive function. In our evolutionary history, we were probably walking anywhere between 10 and 20 kilometers per day. If we sat around in the Serengeti for half an hour, we were usually lunch.

Scotch the cubicle, put in a treadmill and do all your computer work while you're walking two miles an hour.

How does sleep, or lack of it, affect the brain at work?

There's a time in the afternoon when your brain wants to do a reset. And during that time it wants to take a 15- to 20-minute nap. We call it the nap zone. If you don't allow yourself to take a nap during that time, you'll fight being sleepy the rest of the afternoon, and productivity can suffer.

It was measured by NASA. They were able to show that by giving their fighter pilots a 20-minute nap in the nap zone, you'd find an increase of about 34 percent in their mean reaction time performances.

Mark Rosekind, the guy who did the study, goes, "Look, what other management technique can I do that, in 20 minutes, gives a 34 percent boost in productivity?"

Related Links:

Interview in the New York Post

Sleep Slide Show

Why do we sleep?

Exercise boosts brain power

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1 comment:

Dave Robinson said...

John, thank you. I'm enjoying and benefitting from your work immensely. You have an excellent straightforward but still entertaining communication style.

My question is whether 20 minutes of meditation (e.g. simple breath following or simple mantra) would be the physiological equivalent of an afternoon nap (or better or worse)?

Thanks for any thoughts, if you are able to answer.