On first look, it may seem that the best approach into more progressive innovation, is to decrease the number of older workers. Fire the old guys who hold back the organization. In contrast to that approach, MITA programs draw upon novel discoveries about an aging brain’s surprisingly innovative capabilities. Programs about the aging brain’s unique value offers advantages at work, and at the same time adds challenge. My lifetime research, which combines neuro-discoveries as they impact innovative leadership, supports the value of an inclusive workplace. A work community that motivates older staff alongside their younger peers, empowers people to become the change they seek, through fostering innovative iniatives. Specifically, MITA programs offer brain based strategies such as mutual teaching and learning teams, as a way to build innovative research among diverse cultures and across all ages at work.
When I see older workers at times left behind in fast-paced workplaces that appear to be increasingly speaking language they fail to understand, I see why seniors may dig in heels and refuse to support change. In an opposite approach, MITA programs support seniors who seek to learn and grow alongside younger workers. One of the basic claims of neuroplasticity shows the aging brain's need for novelty. Dr. Doidge supports the value of ongoing learning in his claim: "We must be learning if we are to be fully alive, and when life or love becomes too predictable and it seems that there is little left to learn, we become restless - a protest, perhaps, of the plastic brain when it can no longer perform its essential task." An entire organization wins when experienced staff tap into newly discovered plasticity for innovative change and help to advance improvements across diverse settings.
Unfortunately, in the midst of recession, older workers tend get being left behind needlessly, when they could be part of the upturn for new opportunities at work,.
MITA draws support from life-changing stories about the wonder of the aging brain, and transforms these stories into strategies to keep both age and youth alive at work. In one such story Paul Bach-y-Rita, famous for his work in neuroplasticity, tells of his father’s crippling stoke in New York. After a month’s therapy and little progress, mainstream medical experts assured the family that no more could be done. Respected doctors suggested Bach-y-Rita be sent to an institution. Brains cannot repair themselves every medical leader argued, and under that flawed thinking, nothing else could help their 65 year old father to walk or talk again.
The senior scholar spiraled from well respected professor at City College in NY, into complete dependency on others for his basic needs. It made sense for mainstream experts to expect no more – if you accept the fact that older brain simply winds down. It makes no sense however, to waste or neglect valuable experienced brainpower, if you become aware of an older brain's magical ability to reconfigure itself for innovative advances.
On that note, one son, George brought his Papa back to Mexico and began to teach him to crawl again. Using the wall to support his limp shoulder, Bach-y-Rita, inched along clumsily for months. His sons created marble games to play on the floor, challenges that required a reach and consistent movement. Cynics in medical schools warned that these repetitive games simply wasted time, and neighbors criticized the Bach-y-Rita family when their papa crawled outside, saying, “They are treating this old man like a dog.”
With every spark of progress, the boys persisted more to help their papa do activities that strengthened skills lost because of the stroke. They found innovative games to stir stiff limbs to move and word games to coax back language.
Eventually progress began to show, as the brain reorganized itself to take over where damaged parts destroyed abilities. After many more months of crawling and learning to talk again, and through the same painful building of new neuron pathways for language to take over where damaged brain cells failed, Bach-y-Rita returned to teach at City College in New York, at 68, and three years after his stroke.
Research shows the value of mature staff who help to resolve workplace problems, and reshape prosperity. It’s a matter of helping older staff to recognize their brain’s proclivities for progress. When staff simply act and persist on the other side of problems – solutions soon begin to appear.
Younger son, Paul’s life was shaped by what he described as seeing with our brains and not our eyes, as his papa’s brain reorganized itself for new directions. Inspired by his papa’s progress, Paul went on to lead the research of plasticity’s ability to rewire and find solutions. It’s harder when cynics and naysayers shout words of doom and disaster just as it is when older workers lose confidence and they leave the workplace poorer without their presence.
MITA’s mission is to help seniors identify areas that are weakest for them at work. The question is raised, "How could an older peer's brain’s plasticity help to reorganize itself to become the innovative solution at your workplace?"
Over the past few years we have developed strategies that depend more on engaging the working memory – which encourages older workers to:
- Find stimulating solutions for workplace problems by suggesting people propose solutions for any problems named at work.
- Listen to music that increases focus and raises opportunitiies to invent, by changing brain wave speeds and impacting moods.
- Recognize how regular workplace routines rewire the brain for doldrums daily and can literally shrink gray matter, while innovative tasks reconfigure brains for leading improvements at any age.
- Benefit from the advantages of diversity, that researchers such as Cedric Herring (2009) shows can increase business sales and advance revenue.
- Hook new facts onto what they already know or do, to activate the frontal section of their brains as a switch from learning into remembering modes in brief periods of time.
- Chase after “aha” moments that lead to new neuron pathways toward novel solutions that advance workplace innovations.
- Engage others actively and continue to learn and teach from multiple intelligences – while at the same time running from old school lectures that work against human brainpower.
- Capitalize on the unique differences between men’s and women’s brains in ways that value the dynamic differences in both.
By showing older staff the real capabilities of valued brainpower, through creating doable brain changer strategies, we remove common myths that show the future business ventures as youthful opportunities that leave senior workers behind. For instance, there are many mainstream brain doctors who still hold that plasticity cannot be applied to improved intellectual performances at work. It takes integrating the cognitive and neuro- sciences and applying both to actions in the workplace, to jumpstart more innovative brainpower from the older generation. Yet, the results tend to increase serotonin brain chemicals which can alter the morale and productivity of work in life-changing ways.
We plan to develop further new programs to launch learning and growth opportunities in an online format.
Solutions: With support from progressive leaders such as the MIX group, and with strategies consistent with neuro-plasticity research, workplace approaches can continue to develop innovative older leaders.
Currently at MITA we currently:
- Collaborate to build university department that learns and leads innovation
- Guide well respected media learning and leading renewal projects
- Model diverse work setting where senior workers learn and lead brain based tools
- Show steady profitability through accessing wider worker talent
- We also hope to team with technology experts to standardize MITA brain based leadership tools
Most of the nation's resources remain invested in systems that ignore insights about the human brain. MITA's innovation work has taken a lifetime to craft, and no part of it has come without sacrifice to its leaders. It takes risks that come from daily commitment to change that adds growth. It requires continual personal renewal to act and lead thoughtfully with the brain more in mind, in spite of traditions that suggest for instance, that innovative brainpower cannot grow in older brains.
The key is to study the theory you plan to implement, and then design strategies that implement what works well into practical approaches that will lead to innovative growth. Our 17 basic theories are laid out in the MITA Manifesto -- as are the tenets from neuro-discoveries that we transform into practices at work.
We fully plan to help MITA brain Based work to replicate further as it has begun to do in several innovative initiatives.
Neuroplasticity research by Drs. Paul and George Bach-y-Rita support innovative growth in older workers
Article on the brain’s ability to remember http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/serotonin/expect-memory-by-outsourcing-facts/
Article on a brain’s abilities for regeneration http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/plasticity/good-news-adult-age-cell-growth/
Article challenging workers to age voraciously rather than settle for graciously. http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/multiple-intelligences/age-gracious-or-voracious/