Waste in business is any activity that uses up a resource, but creates no value or competitive advantage. Most businesses are experts at spending resources, without understanding how they can be leveraged or even how they’re produced. Managing scarce resources is a year-round concern and the scarcest resources must be used optimally. More companies are looking towards sustainable/renewable resources to improve processes, pursue growth and add value to their companies, because it affects the bottom line now and for years to come.
But, there’s one resource you must understand how to leverage and renew, because without this one renewable resource you’re putting your career/business at greater risk while creating voids to be exploited by your competitors and you’re losing more and more of this resource every day.
If you’ve committed your life to a business, to create wealth & security for your family and have people working with you, then you owe it to them and yourself to get optimal performance and maximum results of your resources. Conventional wisdom says time is your scarcest resource, but with on-demand services and instant access to information many tasks can be outsourced, effectively “buying” more time. So, if it’s not time what is the scarcest resource?
Attention is actually your scarcest resource, because the brain’s information processing and neurochemical production supporting attention requires large amounts of resources and energy.
Read, Listen, or Comprehend: Pick Two
Numbers vary, but the brain processes about 400 billion bits of data per second, but the conscious mind processes data at no more than 60 bits per second. Considering 50-60% of those bits are used up listening to someone speak, you can understand why it can be difficult to understand two people talking at the same time.
Modern distractions & interruptions only make things worse. Notice your attention right now. What thoughts are going through your mind, as you read this? Are there notifications from your phone, websites or people asking, “Hey, you got a minute?” that are competing for your attention? Interruptions can also affect a company in significant ways
- Executives are interrupted an average of 50 times a day, putting them constantly in react mode and possibly focused on things not related to business results.
- Employees lose 3-5 hours every day to interruptions, or 40%-60% of productive time
- Basex research showed interruptions cost the U.S. businesses $588 billion a year.
- Interruptions force people to restart tasks by reassembling the resources, thoughts, and readiness. On average it takes 20min to regain full focus on complex tasks.
- Distractions cause the brain to use more resources to rebuild pathways, causing more frustration.
- Interruptions also lead to more errors, quality problems and re-work.
Executives are Paid to Think
Each day the senior leadership of a business makes countless of decisions affecting the employees, the company’s reputation and their own personal future. If they make enough good decisions the business will succeed, if they make too many bad decisions the business will fail.
There are plenty of techniques and strategies available to help manage attention and reduce interruptions, such as prioritizing, Pomodoro techniques, chunking down, batch processing, and creating interruption free times/zones. But, even if you eliminated all interruptions and implemented every processing strategy, you can’t make brilliant decisions all day, when your brain isn’t performing optimally.
Your brain makes up 2% of your body’s mass and accounts for 20% of its energy requirement. Just like driving a car with a small battery, at some point the car won’t drive as fast because the power is too low. You don’t have resources left to focus on the work at hand. And the more you try to drive it, the less energy there is.
Executive performance should be one of the top priorities of any company, because often the brain power behind a corporation is pushed the hardest, face the largest amount of interruptions, stress, extensive traveling, sleeping less, and mal-nutrition while eating on the run.
What if you managed attention the same way financial assets, like stocks, gold, or cash are managed? Would you have tight controls on spending? Would you figure out ways to generate as much as possible? Would you leverage attention to get the best return on assets?
What Makes It Possible for You To Develop Optimal Attention?
In order to have attention, the executive team in your head must be motivated and interested. The molecule most responsible for drive, motivation, attention, decision making and learning is dopamine.
Of the 100 trillion synapses in YOU, Inc’s executive suite, only 1% produce dopamine and yet it’s so powerful dopamine effects range from:
|Low Dopamine||High Dopamine|
|Lack of motivation||Anxiety|
|Inability to experience pleasure||Cognitive acuity|
|Inability to change||Hallucinations|
|Low Energy||High energy|
|Mood swings||High libido|
|Inability to focus and concentrate||Learning|
|Inability to connect with others||Mania|
|Sugar cravings||Muscle twitching|
|Caffeine cravings||Organization of thoughts|
|Inability to handle stress||Paranoia|
|Inability to lose weight||Productivity|
Note: Sometimes the same effect can be caused by too much or too little dopamine
Dopamine is not the “feel good” chemical, that title belongs to endorphins & opioids. Dopamine increases your general level of arousal and goal-directed behaviors (ex. want, desire, and search) and serves as a biological advantage, keeping us motivated to move through the environment, learn, make choices and survive. However, dopamine also deals with abstract concepts, makes us curious about ideas, searching for information and drive to achieve higher goals.
As important as dopamine is for learning and decision making, it doesn’t work alone. Here’s a very simplistic view on how dopamine works together with other neurotransmitters.
- In order to learn or make decisions, your brain must correctly encode the constant stream of information, data and patterns it receives from the environment and rate the importance.
- Dopamine (motivation) encodes the choices you make (they don’t have to be all good or all bad).
- As you struggle to interpret this new data from the environment, regulated levels of cortisol (stress response) increase neuronal growth and your ability to learn and retrieve memories.
- Typically, if a beneficial choice is made, endorphins (feel good/reward) increasing the chances you’d repeat that choice in the future.
- The hormone progesterone (growth) acts as a neuro-steroid and anti-inflammatory neuroprotective to allow new neurons to mature.
- And melatonin (sleep) shapes neurons to forms a proper neural network to learn new information and dissolve unneeded pathways.
If everything is in balance, choices that provide an advantage will be re-enforced increasing the probability of the same choice in the same context being repeated in the future. But to ensure the survival of the system, depending on how different environmental signals are perceived, where attention is focused, how potential actions are prioritized, and when action is taken a new path should be created providing a choice and if the old path is no longer advantageous and not being reinforced, it will be eliminated to remove obsolete thinking patterns.
Could Dopamine Imbalance be the Root Cause of Why Your Business is Stuck?
This means poor choices and lack of motivation to change are tied to problems with improper dopamine signaling or low dopamine levels in the executive functions of YOU Inc., making it very difficult to go through change, and can lead to you, your business or your species to going extinct.
In one study done by behavioral neuroscientist John Salamone ,rats were given the option between one pile of food or another pile of food twice the size but behind a small fence. Rats with low levels of dopamine almost always chose the easier option, rather than going for the greater reward over the fence.
In another study, scientists at Vanderbilt University completed brain scans of “go-getters” and “slackers” and found those who worked hard for rewards had higher dopamine levels in the areas impacting motivation and reward. The slackers showed dopamine present in the area of the brain involved in emotion and risk perception.
“Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself.”
One of the major reasons people fall into dogma and constantly repeat the same patterns is because they lose curiosity as dopamine falls in the brain. Now you might start to have an idea why your employees, your team and even you keep making bad decisions hindering your progress and profits.
Whether you like it or not, the ideas and environment you surround yourself with greatly influence your thinking & decision making.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Although you might think it’s ideal to surround yourself only with positive, supportive people who think like you do. If you seek only validation that rewards you with a hit of dopamine and your brain only wants to keep doing more of what “feels” good, you will quickly find yourself stuck when some sudden disruption changes your industry over night or you are not developing new innovations to out-pace your competition.
It’s necessary to include people who think differently and challenge your ideas. Strategic business leaders seek out negative feedback, so they can make advancements and progress. If this idea makes sense and you already have a mastermind group of different trusted sources who continuously challenge, improve and optimize your business, then there’s a great chance your dopamine pathways are still working well, for now… Research shows the environment YOU, Inc. operates in greatly affects you more than you realize and unfortunately modern business life is constantly destroying your dopamine levels.
Although dopamine can be made chemically or supplemented, brain cells can’t control concentration properly and many side effects result. Dopamine is optimally produced when it precursor tyrosine (an aromatic amino acid) is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, but,
Reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), show average Americans spend 93% of their life indoors (87% indoors and 6% is in transit). Only 7% of an Americans entire life is spent outdoors, which comes out to just half of one day per week!! So on average people aren’t exposed to enough sunlight to generate the necessary dopamine.
Gallup Polls show, executives and knowledge workers are working for an average of about 47 hours a week, with nearly one in five (18%) working 60 hours or more.
HR consulting firm Right Management found, only a third of American workers say they take a full lunch break. While, 65% of workers eat at their desks or just don’t take a break at all.
Office workers are indoors during the times when UV light from the sun is available to generate dopamine. Worse yet, they work in front of LED computer screens and on mobile device screens for hours upon hours inside offices lit with LED/fluorescent lighting emitting excessive amounts of blue light. What do lights and computer screens have to do with dopamine?
Although bright light has been known to stimulate dopamine production in people with seasonal affective disorder. Chronic bright light exposure especially in the 400-480nm blue wavelength reduces dopamine neurons and has be implicated in Parkinson’s disease development. (http://http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3589725/b22)
Another reason Dopamine levels drop is due to the MAO-B enzyme. You may have heard of people with depression being prescribed an MAO inhibitor(MAOI) to suppress the activity of the enzyme and raise dopamine levels. Well, MAO-B is stimulated at 412 nm. which is in the blue range of light.
Essentially the research shows artificial light exposure over produces dopamine which at first can have some positive benefits, but chronically stimulated dopamine production can reduce dopamine production, desensitize dopamine receptors and stimulate MAO-B enzymes further interrupting dopamine pathways.
Cortisol and melatonin are also affected by blue light. Blue light suppresses melatonin and stimulates cortisol production. This is useful during the daytime when cortisol is supposed to be high and melatonin low, to keep you alert. However, at night time when melatonin is supposed to be high and cortisol is supposed to be low, artificial light from digital device screens, lights inside and around buildings and cars is disrupting the natural rhythm of YOU, Inc.’s wake/sleep systems
So is it any wonder that a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) report showed 1 in 3 American Adults do not get enough sleep, But what does lack of sleep have to do with your decision making?
At night when melatonin is supposed to be at its highest, it’s used to shape new neuron pathways and dissolve old pathways while you sleep this is known as memory reconsolidation. If you can’t shape new and pathways and eliminate old thought patterns. you become stuck in dogma, repeating the same patterns and find it very difficult to change. Also recent research shows an inefficient sleep cycle will lead to a decrease in dopamine receptors, which dramatically impairs your focus and attention.
Now on top of that The American Institute of Stress showed 80% of workers feel stress on the job, with almost half reporting the need for help to manage stress and 42% claiming coworkers needing help? Support of neuron growth requires regulated amounts of cortisol. High stress elevates cortisol to high uncontrolled levels impairing neuron growth and if the levels of stress become chronic, you will not be able to produce enough cortisol to meet demands and will further impair neuron growth.
Because of interruptions of these negative feedback controls, people will seek out ways to stimulate more and more dopamine in hopes of overcoming the brains low dopamine production and/or high dopamine resistance to feel the reward signals. This is the beginning of addiction, and ironically all addictions regardless of source (food, sex, drinking, drugs and taking unnecessary risks) all increase dopamine release and lower dopamine receptor signaling.
I understand you probably aren’t even aware of these choices, but YOU, Inc’s board of directors is aware and will either pay a biologic expense or gain biologic revenue to ultimately determine the success or failure of your business.
People with lower dopamine levels are creatures of habit; chronic procrastinators stuck in the past trying to go forward in reverse and wonder why nothing is improving. Now you understand why this is happening whether they’re aware of it or not, use it to your advantage and save your business from chronic poor decision making, because a narrow mind will be the most expensive thing you’ll ever own,
As a leader you must protect your team from their own Achilles heals, anything you can do to increase the flow of dopamine and regain the feedback control through incremental progress, embrace it.
Implement systems that automatically help to better manage and optimize focus and attention for you, your team and your business, because telling someone to “pay more attention” or “Suck it up and work harder” is no solution.
Here is just a basic dopamine protocol, but it’s a great start.
- Get an Adrenal Stress Index test done. This will allow you to track the levels of these important hormones and make sure that they are working in a proper rhythm. Depending on the results you may want to develop protocols to support hormone production.
- Increase your daily seafood intake (focus on cold water oily fish and crustaceans such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, oysters & shrimp. DHA has been shown to sensitize dopamine receptors.
- Get outside for at least 20 min a day (without glasses)
- When the sun goes down protect your eyes from blue light
- Sleep at 10pm every night.
- http://ftp.iza.org/dp1538.pdf – Limited Attention as the Scarce Resource in an Information-Rich Economy – Josef Falkinger, University of Zurich
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811851/ – Hirsh, J. et al. “Roles of Dopamine in Circadian Rhythmicity and Extreme Light Sensitivity of Circadian Entrainment.” Current biology : CB (2010): nihpa161745. PMC. Web. 3 June 2016.
- Applications of Flow in Human Development and Education: The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22732134 – Progesterone and neuroprotection.
- Differential Effects of Stress and Glucocorticoids on Adult Neurogenesis http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F7854_2012_233
- Journal of Consumer Research, “Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek And Respond To Negative Feedback,”