AmygdalaThe amygdala is a small almond sized gland that sits deep inside your brain, It is primarily responsible for taking control of your brain whenever a sudden and unexpected event happens.

The amygdala is a very early structure of the brain. Sometimes it is also referred to as the lizard brain and had a very important role for our ancestors, where it ensured that whenever you met a danger in your path you were ready, in an instance and without any thoughts, to either fight or flight.

The amygdala manages to do this, in part by making your brain excrete the stress hormone adrenaline and cortisol that heightens your senses and triggers a (in the short term) positive stress response, anabling you to run faster and react quicker.

For a modern knowledge based human, this response is a destructive and counterproductive state of mind.

The reason for this is that when your brain is in a high stress situation and your amygdala and lower brain parts are in control, your frontal lobe gets disconnected – and it is in your frontal lobe that creativity, imagination and future live.

People with extensive frontal lobe damage will, on the surface, seem normal, but if you ask them what they will do tomorrow they have no clue, not because they do not understand the concept of tomorrow, they do, but they do not have the actual capacity to think about the future and imagine what will happen there.

This ability to think about the future is what makes a creative knowledge worker valuable, because they can imagine how they will assemble small pieces of a puzzle into a solution.

The conclusion from the researchers is that whenever you are in a stressful situation, your ability to use the frontal lobe is diminished and hence your creativity, happiness and productivity go down.

The simple “solution” to this is to stop being stressed, but again we have to understand that stress is something that originates from two places; external stress from our customers and managers (you know, when they drop hand grenades in our lap) and internal stress from our brain imagining all the horrendous stuff that will happen in the future if we do not get the current task done on time.

Your internal stress stems from two sources, either a continuing external stress that trains your brain to be anxious about the future or your own imagination. The surprise is that research has shown that the more imaginative you are, the more stressed you can be about the future.  So the more creative a person is, the higher their need is for calmness and safe structures.

The latter internal stress can be dampened with the help of mindfulness/meditation/Tai Chi/Yoga or similar exercises, and the external stress can be dampened by a structure that facilitates calmness for makers.

For a maker to experience calmness and a stress free environment, they need to be left “alone” to do their job during the week, effectively minimizing interruptions and they need to know about the imminent and more distant future.

The best way I have found to do this is by synchronizing my entire team every Monday morning, agreeing on what needs to be done, and then leaving them alone for the rest of the week. But your way of doing that might be different?