Management by gaming: Stimulate happy brain chemicals

28453392_lPeople are highly motivated to do things that stimulate the happy brain chemicals. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin are stimulated by behaviors relevant to survival. However, the brain defines survival in an unusual way, so organizations struggle to tap into nature’s quirky reward system. Management by Gaming is a powerful way to do that. It aligns organizational needs with individual needs so that each team member can feel good when taking steps that enhance organizational outcomes.

The brain chemicals that make us feel good are inherited from earlier mammals. These neurochemical impulses are hard to explain in words because they are controlled by brain structures that evolved long before the verbal human cortex. Animal research makes it easy to understand what stimulates dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin in the state of nature, and transfer that knowledge to the workplace.

Complementing our natural rewards system

In the modern world, we seek distant rewards with long sequences of steps that have uncertain outcomes. However, each of these steps are motivated by immediate brain chemicals as triggered by new information. Management by Gaming can shape this information in ways that complement our natural reward system. The brain is always scanning for information relevant to rewards and threats. Organizations that meet these information needs in new ways will flourish because they align short-term neurochemical rewards with long-term organizational rewards. In a world bombarded by information, this information-management strategy will bring a growing advantage to an organization.

The human brain will always be interested in short-term rewards. We can understand and manage this impulse instead of expecting to transcend it. The brain structures that manage our neurochemicals are inherited from earlier mammals. Instead of thinking of the limbic brain as a weakness that must be resisted, we can enjoy living at a time when it is better understood.

Pathways to new habits and expectations

Our brain evolved to sift and sort information rather than wasting attention on everything in sight. It sifts information using neural pathways built from experience. Old pathways are not always the best guide to new objectives, but we often rely on them because they are so efficient. New pathways are inefficient until we build them with repetition and pave them with happy chemicals. Management by Gaming supports the building of new neural pathways so individuals can focus on the information most relevant to organizational outcomes. These new neural pathways are the infrastructure of new habits and expectations.

A flow of good feelings

A virtuous circle results, as better information leads to better steps, better outcomes and better expectations. A flow of good feelings fuels positive steps and more positive expectations. Management by Gaming is powerful because it works with our brain’s natural operating system. It is likely to play an important role in the practice of management in the future.

This piece by neuroscience author Loretta Breuning, Ph.D. is an excerpt from the whitepaper, “Management by Gaming: Stimulate Happy Brain Chemicals,” and was reprinted with permission from our sponsor, Alliance Enterprises.

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