Using neuroscience to create business change: SAP Ariba Live – Day 3

To create lasting change in your organisation, businesses leaders must understand how the brain works, it was argued at the SAP Ariba Live conference in Amsterdam today.

“Ten out of ten of your team have a brain but much fewer of us actually know how it works. How can we re-wire ourselves to become that leader we want to be?” asked Amy Brann, neuroscience author speaker and coach.

“We can do so much with technology and it’s the enabler, but you have got to be there right in it to make that happen,” she said, in the session titled, ‘Leading through change with neuroscience’.

Brann argued that to change your team’s behaviour, companies must encourage social connection and allow small amounts of time for daily practice.

The human brain can grow and develop far into old age, new research in neuroscience has found.

When novice jugglers were made to practice every day for six weeks. At the end of the experiment, scans showed that one area of brain density increased by 5%.

This growth, also known as neuroplasticity, was previously thought to only happen in children.

The fact that it happens in adults, “is good news for anyone who wants any changes to happen in their organisation”, said Brann.

“Organisations are often clear on what they want to create, but then they’ll do something crazy like put their values on a wall or in a book and then they expect you to be those people.

“We know from neuroscience, and experience, that this is not going to change you, even if you have the best intentions,” she explained.

Neuroscience has found that being connected with others has a profound impact on the brain.

“Excluding people has the same impact on the brain as stamping on someone’s foot. This happens to people all the time,” Brann argued.

“If you have a pain in your foot, do you do the best work? No chance. People need trust and connection to perform at their best,” she continued.


The beneficial impact of feeling connected on productivity and thinking when employees are going through times of change can be achieved by spending just 15 mins with other people, according to Brann.

As a business leader, you cannot create change by just thinking something is a good idea. “Unless it is structurally in place, it won’t happen,” said Brann, arguing that companies should work time for human connection into daily schedules.

Brann outlined how various networks operate in the brain individually for different brain performances.

“It is not just one brain doing everything, it is lots of different networks. Innovation needs almost the polar opposite network to the one needed for executive thinking,” said Brann.

“Bright ideas come when you’ve been out for a walk or getting ready in the morning – when we’re doing something differently,” she explained.

She said that nap rooms are “essential” in an office for performance, promoted meetings in interesting places and workplaces that minimise distractions as, “distractions mostly tire out the brain”.

“Create environments that activate the networks that you want for the performance you want from the right people,” Brann concluded.

In an earlier session, Albert van Mastrigt, senior director procurement transformation and business process owner at Philips, explained how he managed to create change in his team and realise his business goals by creating a B2B shopping experience similar to that of consumer online shopping.

“Young people don’t want to go back to a 1990s system when working. We want to bring the Amazon shopping experience to B2B,” said van Mastrigt.

“We had to ask, how will we be B2B 2.0? What is our strategy going to be to really realise our targets?” he added.

Philips worked with SAP Ariba as their technology partner and started building guided buying processes for their clients.

“Procurement policies are often locked away, so most employees can’t access them. We made sure we changed that. We have created 40,000 purchase requests that are now live,” van Mastrigt explained.

He found that his main challenges were around data, particularly gaining approval data.

“The suppliers were not as consistent as we expected so we had to sit together and fix this,” he added.

If he could have done anything differently, van Mastrigt said he would have sat closer to the teams and worked more closely with them.


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