Review: Your Brain at Work

David Rock writes an intriguing review of neuroscience findings on how the human mind works and how we can use that information to help us do a better job at work.  While many of the topics it covers might be coined "common sense", there are a few nuggets of new information that add substantially to what we know about work, productivity, and cooperation.

The book is broken up into scenes which tackle a different topic of neuroscience.  The technique the author uses to discuss each topic starts with a fictitious couple who struggle with common productivity issues like information overload, procrastination, distractions, uncooperative coworkers, etc.  A discussion of the science follows in why these issues are common and how to overcome these limitations.  Then, the fictitious story is re-told, except this time the actors avoid the inherit limitations of our brain and instead perform the ideal actions that best take advantage of our brain's strengths.  I found this technique great for motivating the reader while concertizing the science into useful practices understandable to everyone.

For me, the first half of the book seemed to re-iterate much of what I already knew about productivity.  Such lesson as avoid distractions, stay focused on one subject at a time, break down big decisions into smaller easier to handle decisions, handling uncertainty, etc. are all practices I am aware of and practice.  The biggest lessons learned came in the last half of the book discussing how we interact with others.  In particular, I was struck by how to effectively deal with other people, especially when they feel threatened or intimidated.  When others go into a defensive mode, it is hard to get their cooperation.  And here, the science suggests something similar to what I learned from some parenting books of all places (Positive Discipline and Between Parent and Child).  In order to build cooperation, we should not direct but collaborate on answers to questions.  We should respect others' ability to find answers on their own (sometimes this requires directed questions).  If we want to change other people's behavior, we need to get them to see the need to change themselves without putting them on the defensive.  Using a stick is often NOT the best method.  Nor is using arbitrary rewards.

While there are many other great discussions in the book, I'll leave it up to you to find the rest.  I found the book to be a well written, practical guide to improving your productivity at work.  By aligning your actions with sciences' best practices, we can achieve high levels of capability to our work.  It's a great read for anyone interested in improving their productivity at work.


  1. Hi John,

    I just saw this post while considering if I should read this book - it has convinced me to do a skim, at the least. I've also just done a skim of the rest of your blog, it looks packed with great information on achieving goals; I can't wait to read it all.

  2. Thanks, Amit. I hope you find it of value.

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