HR Should Function like the Central Nervous System in the Organization

I have yet to meet someone who did not marvel at the wonders of the human body.  Billions of cells working together behind the scenes to manufacture life in countless forms of beauty and wonder.  As a self-proclaimed nerd, I immerse myself in documentaries, books, and articles related to the inner-workings of our bodies, especially anything to do with the brain.  The contrast of complexity and simplicity that serves as the basis for life is both amazing and inspiring to me.

For example, have you ever considered the nerve cell?  The human body has over 100 billion nerve cells responsible for transmitting billions of messages to and from the brain.  Neurons in the brain are connected to form a fantastic network allowing synapses to flow through it, alerting us to pain, joy, fear, hunger, thirst and a million other types of messages.  According to an article in in 2015, nerve cells interact much like a sophisticated social media network.

Nerve cells form a bewildering meshwork of connections called synapses — up to several thousand per cell. Yet not all synaptic connections are equal. The overwhelming majority of connections are weak, and cells make only very few strong links. “We wanted to see if there are rules that explain how neurons connect in complex networks comprising millions of neurons,” says Professor Thomas Mrsic-Flogel, the leader of the research team from the Biozentrum (University of Basel) and UCL (University College London). “It turns out that one of the rules is quite simple. Like-minded neurons are strongly coupled, while neurons that behave very differently from each other connect weakly or not at all.”

The same nerve cell that can trigger a message to the brain indicating pain can also send a message of comfort or warmth.  And although these neurons in the brain have millions of connections, the strongest bonds, according to the research above, are shared with like-minded neurons.  But what about the weak bonds? Dr. Lee Cossell, one of the authors of the study, believes the weak bonds represent the opportunity for learning.

“If neurons need to change their behavior, weak connections are already in place to be strengthened, perhaps ensuring rapid plasticity in the brain.”

He goes on to say this plasticity allows us to learn and quickly adapt to our surroundings.  So even in the weakest of bonds, our brains can take information received to grow, adapt and learn.

One of the ways you can employ the NakedHR process and avoid the deadly sin of protecting the business instead of its people is to think of HR as the central nervous system of the organization.  We should take the cliché of having our “finger on the pulse” and transform it to mean we become the pulse.  We should embrace the idea of having stronger bonds with our like-minded counterparts, usually management and executive level employees, while also maintaining the bonds to the weaker connections (or the employees) as a way to measure every synapse happening in the organization.

Think about how amazing it would be if we could become that conduit of communication throughout the body of our organization.  Immersing ourselves in the business, as we discussed in previous chapters, would allow us to know our employees on a more personal level, opening our “nerve network” to messages that may have gone unheard before.  These once weak connections would allow us to learn more, be more innovative and help the organization become nimbler.

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