Using your 3 brains

It has taken me until the age of 38 to discover that I have 3 brains. I’m wondering if this is just news to me or to you as well? Now that I know that, I want to examine the extent to which this is important in the context of the collaborative economy.

Let’s start with the three brains

Before I add my own thoughts on the subject, I would like to congratulate Frederic Laloux on his book “Reinventing organisations”. In it, he does a great job at describing this subject, amongst others, and the impact on organisations. (website and there are lots of videos on youtube which are somewhat long, but interesting).

For a long time, I have known that there were other parts of my body involved in the decision making process. I assumed that this was simply a case of the heart and the guts sending signals to the brain in my head to interpret. Little did I know that I had a second brain in the heart and a third brain in my guts which were capable of guiding some of those decisions alone … if only I’d listen. Perhaps a fun way to look at this is to think about some expressions which many of us will often have heard:

gut heart feature imageGut instinct – there have been cases in my life, and I’m sure there have been in yours, where you thought to yourself, I better trust my gut. At the moment, I’m writing a book which in part is based on a hitchhiking experience I had about 15 years ago. I remember a number of occasions where a car stopped to pick us up and once I sat in the car, my gut starting sending signals to my head telling me “get out, this isn’t a good idea”. Why? I didn’t know the driver so there was no “data” for the brain in my head to process.

About 18 months ago, the brain in my gut was telling me that crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and the collaborative economy are the future. Everything which I have seen and read in the last year seems to back that up though there was very little data in Belgium at the time to assert this. The brain in my head is now able to rationally explain what the brain in my gut has known for a while already. In most cases where my “gut brain” has been in the driving seat, those decisions have turned out to be good ones.

Follow your heart – I have been lucky enough to fall in love and I know that the brain in my heart was very much in the driving seat. How often does it happen in your life that you really listen to your heart? In another blog recently I referred to a speech from Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005 (see quote).  steve jobs quote
He was suggesting to many of us that the heart really should be playing a bigger role in our professional lives, and not just our personal ones. This seems to continue to be “taboo” as there seems to be little room for sentiment in business, at least in Europe.

There was a recent article in Trends-Tendencies which expresses this though not in terms of the 3 brains . They still focus very much on the brain in our heads though they acknowledge that the parts which are more rational have been overused and that the parts controlling instinct, vision and emotion will play important roles in the economy of the future.

Listen to your body, not just your head

There have been a few occasions in my life where my body was sending signals which my “head brain” struggled to interpret and sometimes ignored. The first time was after I had a tragedy in my family nearly 10 years ago. I didn’t find enough ways of evacuating the stress this caused me and ended up loosing my hair . A few years later, I had a difficult professional situation and again, my head was telling me that everything was under control but my heart was telling me that the situation was unsustainable. The end result was a visit to the hospital.

Rather than either of these things being “signs of weakness”, I now think the complete opposite. I have understood that the three brains can serve a very useful purpose and that if I listen to them more often I can avoid those trips to the hospital. It has never been more important to listen to what is inside our bodies and not just inside our heads. Burnout and suicide rates have never been higher and lets face it, Paris was yet another reminder that we are living in strange times, where rationale isn’t always that helpful in understanding what is happening around us. People and companies need to learn to listen to the “whole” and not just the “head”. This is important when it comes to participative management, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and all new economic business models where human relationships are the key success factor.


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