The human factor: re-enchanting the future by mobilizing all the capabilities of our brain

Authors : Loïc Delcros and Muriel Huet

You have understood the ecological challenges of our times, and the magnitude of the transition that is necessary to shape a viable world. You talk about it in your company, with your colleagues, or in your teams. And yet, you don’t understand why these partners, who can be very engaged on other matters on a daily basis, don’t actively join forces for this cause. In this article we invite you to learn about certain functions of the human brain that enable us to take action.

The latest IPCC report unequivocally states that climate change is attributable to human behavior, and that our very own survival is at stake. So why is it so difficult to engage the people, the politicians, and our industries to undertake the necessary changes?

And yet, for millions of years, man lived in symbiosis with nature. Man began to detach from it some 10,000 years ago, in the Neolithic period, with the domestication of living systems. Gradually, man began to perceive nature as an external resource, and the last two centuries have pushed this loss of connection to the extreme.

At Seedlings, we are convinced that the key lies in humans, and that helping humans unfold their full potential with authenticity will, in turn, allow businesses to reconnect with nature.

Have you ever heard of the “human factor”? Hubert Reeves explains that "it's the 'F**** Human Factor' that keeps us from going from what we know, to what it implies".

Let’s take a closer look at this human factor…

Antonio Damasio, professor of neurology and neurosciences, reminds us that, already in ancient times, the Greek philosophers had noticed that man has both an analytical thinking and an emotional thinking. What they valued most was the rational thinking with its deep logic, as they considered it to be more rich. The approach is nevertheless slow, analytical, rational and more time is needed to develop the reasoning in its full potential.

And yet, did you know that our brain processes an average of 35,000 decisions a day and that 99% of them escape our reason? In a hyper-demanding world, our brain is constantly optimizing our energy consumption, thus spending most of its time in intuitive emotional mode, i.e. decisions made in a totally unconscious way. Imagine having to consciously process all the information necessary to drive through a city… that would be unmanageable.

What’s the link with ecological issues and engaging those around you?

Understanding climate change and, more broadly, the systemic extent of the loss of living beings, is extremely complex. It takes time and it asks for our brain to leave its intuitive autopilot mode.

Only by mobilizing the whole of our brain can we act effectively. That means re-creating the space and time to reflect, to question ourselves alone or with others, and to understand and assimilate those fundamental issues, welcoming emotions that lead to improved awareness, and mobilizing our intuitive capacities that lead us to action.

Our brain is addicted to pleasure

We know that one of the major challenges of the century is to reduce our pressure on the Planet, often considered as a simple resource. In his book "The Human Bug", Sébastien Bohler speaks about the striatum, an area of ​​our brain that activates the production of dopamine, the pleasure hormone. It is a mechanism of reward and addiction. There is something that pushes us to enjoy the immediacy, and our society has been built to satisfy this instinct with the search for reward: "a new car", "more likes on my social networks"... But very quickly, the pleasure disappears, and we feel an urge to renew ourselves in order to receive a new dose of dopamine.

Is it a dead end that will anyway lead us to always want more?

Finding meaning to take action

Fortunately, some other parts of our brain are positively stimulated when we find meaning in what we do, and it is possible to put our striatum on a diet and reduce its level of stimulation in order to reconnect with real pleasure.

Look at your organization through this lens: what reward-seeking overdrives can you reduce? What would it mean to help your employees put their striatum to rest?

How can you engage your organization and its ecosystem by reconnecting to nature in order to get free from over-solicitation, by taking the time to think about the deeper purpose of your activities, the changes to be made, and sharing the vision at all levels in the organization ?

As human we are piloted by what we capture around us

The perception of our world is constantly filtered and distorted by our cognitive biases. Faced with climate and biodiversity issues, these "distorting glasses" prevent us from taking action. Indeed, we tend to rationalize to avoid overly strong emotions, or we rely on beliefs such as “tech will save us anyway.” Putting light on these behavioral factors and understanding the potential power of emotions allow us to broaden our frame of reference and provide levers to help us and those around us to get into action mode.

Once you are convinced of the need to act, you might decide to share articles, books, videos or conferences that explain what is happening, hoping to trigger a shift in others. Unfortunately, this often turns out to be ineffective. Most of the time, our brain is plugged into its intuitive emotional mode, and feeding it with “negative” information can generate overwhelm and there is a risk of people freaking out. The brain protects itself by disconnecting and so our first attempts to act are in fact counter-effective.

The warm glow, a lever that acts positively on the human factor

In line with the reward phenomenon, our brain activates a positive feeling when we perform a good deed. Immediate effect: we feel good. It is possible to activate such warm glows within people, and advertisers and influencers have a great role to play here!

The idea is to trigger this positive feeling by encouraging your stakeholders to take action while valuing their results.

In your organization, which Warm Glow levers can you trigger to positively stimulate your teams to engage with the structural changes that are needed? Writing the story of a desirable future with your employees will also create a dynamic that positively mobilizes your stakeholders at large.

At Seedlings, we are convinced of the importance of opening spaces where both our brains, emotional and rational, can play in tune. Together we re-create space and time to generate awareness, alone and with others, and promote resonance, synergy and emergence.