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29 septembre 2015 2 29 /09 /septembre /2015 17:00

Comme une symphonie la prise de décision demande un chef d'orchestre.

La baguette du chef d'orchestre : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjcBc_v49j0&feature=youtu.be

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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29 septembre 2015 2 29 /09 /septembre /2015 16:57

Prendre une décision n'est déjà pas simple, la faire accepter est encore plus complexe : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XWscY3dF9o&feature=youtu.be

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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29 septembre 2015 2 29 /09 /septembre /2015 16:55

Comment ne pas se laisser aller à la facilité https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtVbl9I0ubI&feature=youtu.be

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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29 septembre 2015 2 29 /09 /septembre /2015 16:50

Comment rendre les décisions en équipe plus performantes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEtukm4OeVM&feature=youtu.be

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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29 septembre 2015 2 29 /09 /septembre /2015 16:44

Prendre nos décisions en environnement complexe demande flexibilité et méthode.

Comment allier les deux ? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNS312AieCo

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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1 septembre 2015 2 01 /09 /septembre /2015 09:30
La boite à outil de la décision

https://youtu.be/zNS312AieCo

Vidéo de présentation de l'ouvrage...

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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10 mai 2015 7 10 /05 /mai /2015 10:51

Si nous partons du postulat qu'une entreprise est un ensemble d'unités ayant chacune une expertise spécifique qui permet de produire un bien ou un service qui sera apprécié dans un contexte donné alors on peut imaginer qu'il y ait une similitude entre le fonctionnement d'une structure professionnelle et celui de notre système central de gestion, notre cerveau.

De plus, une règle simple régit chaque unité de production cérébrale appelée neurone. Elle possède un potentiel d'action qui va s'activer dès qu'il reçoit un stimulus pour produire une réaction elle même devenant un stimuli pour la suivante créant ainsi un réseau de production se finalisant par une action.

Pour modéliser cela on peut poser l'équation

R (réaction) ) = S (stimulus) + P (potentiel d'action)

La réaction dépend donc de ce que le potentiel d'action permet de faire à partir du stimulus.

Si nous appliquons cette règle à un individu, qui est un ensemble de potentiels d'actions, nous obtiendrons : La réaction d'un individu dépend du message (stimulus) qu'il reçoit et de l'estimation qu'il fait de ses capacités à mettre en oeuvre pour répondre efficacement à ce stimulus (potentiels). Ce qui peut s'exprimer par l'équation:

E = M + C

E = l'Efficience, c'est à dire la capacité de la réaction à répondre avec performance à la demande

M = la Motivation, c'est à dire le sens véhiculé par le stimulus (la demande) et l'intérêt qui trouve l'individu exprimer par le rapport Bénéfice / Déficit. Si ce rapport est supérieur à 1 alors l'individu y trouvera un intérêt sinon il y trouvera un désintérêt.

C= la Compétence, c'est à dire les capacités que l'individu estime posséder pour répondre à la demande. Ces capacités dépendent à la fois de l'expertise et de l'expérience de la personne mais également du délai et des moyens qu'elle juge nécessaire pour réaliser l'action.

Donc si une réaction est efficience nous nous trouverons dans le cas où

(E+) = (M+) + (C+)

Ce que nous appelons la performance.

Ceci dit, l'objectif de tout manager sera donc de piloter ces 2 leviers.

Assurer M+ (soft skills) :

  1. Donner du sens au message pour le producteur, c'est à dire mettre l'objectif en adéquation avec les attentes long terme et les valeurs de la ressource humaine.
  2. Prouver que le producteur obtiendra plus de Bénéfices que de Déficits dans le résultat de l'action.

​Garantir C+ (hard skills) :

  1. ​Développer et maintenir les expertises et les expériences de la ressource humaine en adéquation avec son potentiel d'action.
  2. Définir un délai que le producteur accepte comme raisonnable.
  3. Faire en sorte que les moyens dont a besoin le producteur soit accessibles, disponibles et en état de marche.

​Voilà à quoi devrait se consacrer un manager en s'appuyant sur son Intelligence managériale. Cette capacité peut être définie comme la compétence à piloter les intelligences analytiques, émotionnelles et collectives pour assurer la performance.

Et pour en revenir à notre pont avec notre système central de gestion :

L'entreprise pourrait être comparé à notre cerveau en tant que système constitué de sous ensemble de production.

Les unités de production rapprochés de nos neurones, chacune ayant un potentiel d'action défini par programmation (ressources utiles).

Le management assimilé à nos cellules gliales donc le rôle est de :

  1. Faire en sorte que l'environnement de production soit en performance pour assurer la production dans les meilleures conditions. Ce sont les microglies qui constituent la première ligne de défense contre les envahisseurs et qui "nettoient" l'espace dans lequel évoluent les neurones.

  2. Assurer un support aux unités de production en leur mettant à disposition les éléments dont ils ont besoin. Ce sont les astrocytes qui assurent un support mécanique aux neurones, les approvisionnent en nutriments et maintiennent l'équilibre du milieu extracellulaire.

  3. Et pour finir accélérer les échanges et les régulations entre les unités de production pour favoriser leur efficacité, leur autonomie et leur collaboration. Et dans notre cerveau c'est le rôle des oligodendrocytes qui constituent la gaine de myéline qui entourent les axones de certains neurones pour renforcer leur connexion et accélérer la conduction nerveuse.

Souvent on me demande ce que les neurosciences peuvent apporter au monde professionnel, je répond alors : une organisation hyper efficace ou chacun est à sa place avec une fonction bien définie. Notre cerveau est une entreprise "libérée" sans hiérarchie où chaque unités de production fait ce pour quoi elle est faite sans regarder si c'est mieux à coté et où le management n'a pas à prouver son rôle en étant un "super neurones". La fonction des super héros ou des supers tech en tant que manager est elle vraiment utiles?

Pour redonner du sens à la fonction managériale et assurer la performance des unités de production, apprenons à nos managers à faire preuve d'intelligence managériale et à ne plus se concentrer sur l'atteinte coûte que coûte des résultats mais plutôt sur l'adéquation des systèmes de production avec ce pour quoi ils sont définis.

Un système est en performance lorsqu'il est en adéquation avec son environnement c'est à dire lorsque son entourage lui demande de réaliser une action qui fait sens pour lui, dans laquelle il trouve un intérêt à sa réalisation, dont il se sent capable d'en assurer la production dans un délai qui lui semble raisonnable et avec des moyens adaptés.

Et pour conclure : si l'unité de production est en performance alors le résultat sera atteint et même dépassé si bien sûr, la décision était en adéquation avec les attentes du marché.

Rien ne sert de se concentrer sur le résultat, concentrons nous sur la ressource d'autant plus si elle est humaine.

Ma grand mère me disait toujours :"si tu veux arriver à bon port, fais en sorte que ton bateau ne prenne pas l'eau et que tes voiles prennent bien le vent. Rien ne sert de regarder le phare au loin si tu n'as pas de quoi y arriver."

A bon entendeur Salut.

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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8 mai 2014 4 08 /05 /mai /2014 17:11
Le management, pilotage et encadrement

La fonction managériale comporte 2 grandes missions. Une première mission de pilotage basée sur la gestion de ce que l’on appelle les procédures dures. Parce que gérer l’activité, c’est l’organiser, la planifier, et bien sûr la contrôler. Pour mener à bien cette mission, nos managers sont dotés d’outils de pilotage tels que tableau de bord, planning et autres outils spécifiques à la gestion de projets. La deuxième mission inhérente à la fonction managériale est l’encadrement, c’est-à-dire poser un cadre, le faire accepter et vérifier que chaque membre de l’équipe respecte ce cadre. Pour cette mission nos managers semblent un peu plus démunis. On retrouve dans le cadre les entrants d’un projet : coût délai et périmètre, c’est ce que l’on peut appeler le cadre technique. Mais de quoi dispose-t-on pour fixer un cadre qui permette l’autonomie, c’est-à-dire un espace dans lequel chaque collaborateur peut exprimer en toute liberté son pouvoir de décision. Il est vrai que les coûts délais et périmètres limitent la prise de décision mais comme ils nous sont donnés par le contexte, il est très difficile de les faire évoluer ; or un cadre se doit d’être évolutif sous peine de très vite en faire le tour et de ne plus rien à avoir à apprendre de nouveau en son sein.

Plus j’évolue plus mon cadre d’autonomie doit évoluer en conséquence. C’est un principe qui guide notre évolution. Au début en tant que nourrisson nous avons un cadre limité aux bras de nos parents et à l’espace de notre lit. Plus nous grandissons, plus notre cadre s’agrandit, vient l’enfance où nous prospectons notre environnement que représente l’espace de notre chambre. Puis vient l’école, nous changeons alors de cadre et apprenons le cadre social plus vaste, avec plus d’espace de liberté et d’interactions, et donc plus d’autonomie. Arrive enfin l’adolescence, là nous remettons en question notre cadre éducatif, nous voulons voler de nos propres ailes et ne plus être sous le joug de nos parents, en un mot, nous souhaitons définir nous-même notre cadre, et très vite nous nous apercevons que notre cadre est défini par les autres, par des règles communes, des valeurs éducatives et sociétales et une multitude de facteurs. Pour savoir si nous sommes dans le cadre ce sont nos échecs, c’est-à-dire nos sorties de cadre qui nous rappellent à l’ordre. Ces rappels à l’ordre se situent aussi bien au niveau parental qui nous rappelle les règles éducatives, qu’au niveau social pour les règles communes et les lois préservant la liberté de chacun. Nous retrouvons la même notion de cadre dans notre environnement professionnel et ce cadre est régi par les mêmes règles. J’acquière une indépendance, cette indépendance est limitée par un cadre qui me sécurise, j’explore, je découvre et j’intègre l’espace, je gagne en autonomie mon cadre devient trop petit, je sors du cadre, on me recadre, je rejette le cadre, mon cadre évolue et le cycle recommence.

Quand est-il au sein de l’entreprise ? Tous les managers recherchent l’autonomie de leurs collaborateurs mais cette autonomie est synonyme de liberté dans un cadre donné pour le parcourir et le découvrir, c’est un peu notre parc lorsque nous étions enfant. Mais très vite aussi, nous voulons sortir du parc pour explorer le reste du monde, notre parc devenant ennuyeux. Alors on sort du parc et un nouveau cadre se délimite alors. Dans l’entreprise, les cadres étant rigides et relativement étroits, très vite les acteurs les maîtrisent et veulent en sortir or le management a pour mission de les maintenir dans leur parc. Imaginez-vous en train de faire respecter un cadre d’enfant à un adolescent. Premièrement, vous vous confronterez très vite à son envie d’aller voir ailleurs par des conflits récurrents et ensuite il saisira la première occasion pour s’échapper de votre cadre devenu trop étroit pour lui. Ou si vous avez plus de chance, il respectera votre cadre mais son évolution en subira les contraintes. Alors que son cercle social aura une certaine liberté de sortie, il sera obligé de respecter vos règles inappropriées, très vite ne sera plus en adéquation avec son environnement et très vite aussi, il se sentira étriqué et non sécure. Or justement vous lui mettiez un cadre pour le sécuriser. On voit bien que ce cadre d’autonomie doit évoluer en même temps que les potentiels de l’individu évoluent pour permettre d’évoluer dans les meilleures conditions et préserver son niveau d’autonomie.

En figeant le cadre trop étroit, on fige l’individu dans sa condition. Lorsque nous devenons des adultes, ce sont les cadres sociaux qui remplacent les cadres parentaux. Beaucoup plus vastes, spécifiques à chaque environnement, changeants en fonction des cultures et nous avons tout le loisir de choisir dans quel cadre nous voulons évoluer mais également de changer de cadre selon notre bon vouloir tout en respectant les règles de notre cadre de vie. Comment intégrons-nous ces règles ?

Premièrement parce qu’elles sont définies et accessibles. Deuxièmement parce qu’elles nous sécurisent c’est-à-dire qu’elles nous apparaissent comme protectrices sans nous limiter de trop ; parce qu’on estime que dans cet espace limité nous pouvons avoir un certain degré d’autonomie en fonction de ses besoins et de ceux des autres. Alors comment, en tant que manager respecter ma fonction de « gardien du cadre » tout en assurant l’autonomie et l’exploration de mes collaborateurs ? Tout simplement en leur construisant un cadre dans lequel ils peuvent évoluer librement, c’est-à-dire avec un espace suffisant pour leur découverte tout en construisant des limites à ce cadre. Et là, nous ne sommes plus dans le cadre formé par les facteurs coûts délais et périmètres beaucoup trop limitatifs, nous sommes plus dans un cadre de type social fait de règles et de valeurs. Du coup la mission de « gardien du cadre » en est facilitée. D’une part, il faut faire respecter les règles qui sont posées et généralement construites pour le bien de l’ensemble (l’entreprise) et d’autre part, faire respecter les valeurs qui définissent et représentent la structure. Ces valeurs existent, elles sont très présentes au sein des Start-up parce qu’elles viennent d’être instaurés et des PME parce qu’il y a promiscuité avec le dirigeant qui les fait vivre au quotidien. Mais dès que la structure s’agrandit, on constate un étiolement de ces valeurs, non pas parce qu’elles n’existent plus mais le plus souvent parce que considérées comme acquises, on ne trouve pas opportun de les rappeler et donc de les faire vivre. Redonnons vie aux valeurs de nos structures en n’ayant pas peur d’en faire le cœur notre communication managériale afin que tous les identifient et que notre mission d’encadrement retrouve son sens en contrôlant leur respect. En gardant à l’esprit que si un individu sort du cadre cela peut provenir de plusieurs raisons. Soit c’est par inadvertance, on ne pensait pas que le cadre était là, on n’avait pas bien compris, soit parce que le cadre actuel devient trop petit pour moi et que mon évolution me permet un cadre plus vaste soit enfin parce que je suis un électron libre et que je n’accepte pas de cadre. Il n’y aura que dans ce dernier cas ou le recadrage demande énormément d’effort au manager pour prendre la bonne décision de recadrage, de la sanction ou de l’éviction.

Si par excès de confiance, nous oublions de poser et faire vivre ces valeurs et donc de rendre ce cadre réel, pouvons-nous décemment reprocher à nos collaborateurs de sortir du cadre ? Comme cette notion de cadre est obligatoire pour notre autonomie, chacun se crée son propre cadre. Chaque collaborateur définit par petites touches son propre cadre et ce n’est qu’une fois terminé que le manager s’apercevra qu’il ne correspond plus au cadre de l’entreprise et donc le travail de recadrage sera d’autant plus lourd et difficile. De plus, les managers ont également besoin de ce cadre. Sans formalisation par la gouvernance, ils se construiront également leur propre cadre en fonction de leurs références individuelles et de leurs propres interprétations du cadre de la structure en restant dans le doute : « Est-ce que le cadre que j’ai défini s’intègre bien au cadre dans lequel mon équipe et moi-même évoluons ? ».

Hormis pour les personnes qui trouvent leur équilibre dans le « hors cadre », nous avons tous besoin d’évoluer dans un cadre accepté et validé de tous pour nous sentir dans un environnement sécure. Faisons vivre nos valeurs pour qu’elles définissent notre cadre d’évolution et d’autonomie ce qui redorera la fonction managériale dont la valeur ajoutée et la mission principale sont basées sur cette notion d’encadrement. Le cadre d’entreprise reprend alors tout son sens et le management aussi.

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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12 mars 2014 3 12 /03 /mars /2014 11:42

Gut instincts: The secrets of your second brain

Emma Young

When it comes to your moods, decisions and behaviour, the brain in your head is not the only one doing the thinking

IT'S been a tough morning. You were late for work, missed a crucial meeting and now your boss is mad at you. Come lunchtime you walk straight past the salad bar and head for the stodge. You can't help yourself - at times of stress the brain encourages us to seek out comfort foods. That much is well known. What you probably don't know, though, is that the real culprit may not be the brain in your skull but your other brain.

Yes, that's right, your other brain. Your body contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons - about five times as many as in the brain of a rat - and is around 9 metres long, stretching from your oesophagus to your anus. It is this brain that could be responsible for your craving under stress for crisps, chocolate and cookies.

Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut "thinking", the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. "A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn't even come to consciousness," says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.

If you look inside the human body, you can't fail to notice the brain and its offshoots of nerve cells running along the spinal cord. The ENS, a widely distributed network of neurons spread throughout two layers of gut tissue, is far less obvious (see diagram), which is why it wasn't discovered until the mid-19th century. It is part of the autonomic nervous system, the network of peripheral nerves that control visceral functions. It is also the original nervous system, emerging in the first vertebrates over 500 million years ago and becoming more complex as vertebrates evolved - possibly even giving rise to the brain itself.

Digestion is a complicated business, so it makes sense to have a dedicated network of nerves to oversee it. As well as controlling the mechanical mixing of food in the stomach and coordinating muscle contractions to move it through the gut, the ENS also maintains the biochemical environment within different sections of the gut, keeping them at the correct pH and chemical composition needed for digestive enzymes to do their job.

But there is another reason the ENS needs so many neurons: eating is fraught with danger. Like the skin, the gut must stop potentially dangerous invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, from getting inside the body. If a pathogen should cross the gut lining, immune cells in the gut wall secrete inflammatory substances including histamine, which are detected by neurons in the ENS. The gut brain then either triggers diarrhoea or alerts the brain in the head, which may decide to initiate vomiting, or both.

You needn't be a gastroenterologist to be aware of these gut reactions - or indeed the more subtle feelings in your stomach that accompany emotions such as excitement, fear and stress. For hundreds of years, people have believed that the gut interacts with the brain to influence health and disease. Yet this connection has only been studied over the last century. Two pioneers in this field were American physician Byron Robinson, who in 1907 publishedThe Abdominal and Pelvic Brain, and his contemporary, British physiologist Johannis Langley, who coined the term "enteric nervous system". Around this time, it also became clear that the ENS can act autonomously, with the discovery that if the main connection with the brain - the vagus nerve - is severed the ENS remains capable of coordinating digestion. Despite these discoveries, interest in the gut brain fell until the 1990s when the field of neurogastroenterology was born.

We now know that the ENS is not just capable of autonomy but also influences the brain. In fact, about 90 per cent of the signals passing along the vagus nerve come not from above, but from the ENS (American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, vol 283, p G1217).

The feel-good factor

The second brain also shares many features with the first. It is made up of various types of neuron, with glial support cells. It has its own version of a blood-brain barrier to keep its physiological environment stable. And it produces a wide range of hormones and around 40 neurotransmitters of the same classes as those found in the brain. In fact, neurons in the gut are thought to generate as much dopamine as those in the head. Intriguingly, about 95 per cent of the serotonin present in the body at any time is in the ENS.

What are these neurotransmitters doing in the gut? In the brain, dopamine is a signalling molecule associated with pleasure and the reward system. It acts as a signalling molecule in the gut too, transmitting messages between neurons that coordinate the contraction of muscles in the colon, for example. Also transmitting signals in the ENS is serotonin - best known as the "feel-good" molecule involved in preventing depression and regulating sleep, appetite and body temperature. But its influence stretches far beyond that. Serotonin produced in the gut gets into the blood, where it is involved in repairing damaged cells in the liver and lungs. It is also important for normal development of the heart, as well as regulating bone density by inhibiting bone formation (Cell, vol 135, p 825).

But what about mood? Obviously the gut brain doesn't have emotions, but can it influence those that arise in your head? The general consensus is that neurotransmitters produced in the gut cannot get into the brain - although, theoretically, they could enter small regions that lack a blood-brain barrier, including the hypothalamus. Nevertheless, nerve signals sent from the gut to the brain do appear to affect mood. Indeed, research published in 2006 indicates that stimulation of the vagus nerve can be an effective treatment for chronic depression that has failed to respond to other treatments (The British Journal of Psychiatry, vol 189, p 282).

Such gut to brain signals may also explain why fatty foods make us feel good. When ingested, fatty acids are detected by cell receptors in the lining of the gut, which send nerve signals to the brain. This may not be simply to keep it informed of what you have eaten. Brain scans of volunteers given a dose of fatty acids directly into the gut show they had a lower response to pictures and music designed to make them feel sad than those given saline. They also reported feeling only about half as sad as the other group (The Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol 121, p 3094).

There is further evidence of links between the two brains in our response to stress. The feeling of "butterflies" in your stomach is the result of blood being diverted away from it to your muscles as part of the fight or flight response instigated by the brain. However, stress also leads the gut to increase its production of ghrelin, a hormone that, as well as making you feel more hungry, reduces anxiety and depression. Ghrelin stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain both directly, by triggering neurons involved in pleasure and reward pathways, and indirectly by signals transmitted via the vagus nerve.

In our evolutionary past, the stress-busting effect of ghrelin may have been useful, as we would have needed to be calm when we ventured out in search of food, says Jeffrey Zigman at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. In 2011, his team reported that mice exposed to chronic stress sought out fatty food, but those that were genetically engineered to be unable to respond to ghrelin did not (The Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol 121, p 2684). Zigman notes that in our modern world, with freely available high-fat food, the result of chronic stress or depression can be chronically elevated ghrelin - and obesity.

Gershon suggests that strong links between our gut and our mental state evolved because a lot of information about our environment comes from our gut. "Remember the inside of your gut is really the outside of your body," he says. So we can see danger with our eyes, hear it with our ears and detect it in our gut. Pankaj Pasricha, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology in Baltimore, Maryland, points out that without the gut there would be no energy to sustain life. "Its vitality and healthy functioning is so critical that the brain needs to have a direct and intimate connection with the gut," he says.

But how far can comparisons between the two brains be taken? Most researchers draw the line at memory - Gershon is not one of them. He tells the story of a US army hospital nurse who administered enemas to the paraplegic patients on his ward at 10 o'clock every morning. When he left, his replacement dropped the practice. Nevertheless, at 10 the next morning, everyone on the ward had a bowel movement. This anecdote dates from the 1960s and while Gershon admits that there have been no other reports of gut memory since, he says he remains open to the idea.

Gut instincts

Then there's decision-making. The concept of a "gut instinct" or "gut reaction" is well established, but in fact those fluttery sensations start with signals coming from the brain - the fight or flight response again. The resulting feeling of anxiety or excitement may affect your decision about whether to do that bungee jump or arrange a second date, but the idea that your second brain has directed the choice is not warranted. The subconscious "gut instinct" does involve the ENS but it is the brain in your head that actually perceives the threat. And as for conscious, logical reasoning, even Gershon accepts that the second brain doesn't do that. "Religion, poetry, philosophy, politics - that's all the business of the brain in the head," he says.

Still, it is becoming apparent that without a healthy, well-developed ENS we face problems far wider than mere indigestion. Pasricha has found that newborn rats whose stomachs are exposed to a mild chemical irritant are more depressed and anxious than other rats, with the symptoms continuing long after the physical damage has healed. This doesn't happen after other sorts of damage, like skin irritation, he says.

It has also emerged that various constituents of breast milk, including oxytocin, support the development of neurons in the gut (Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, vol 55, p 1592). This might explain why premature babies who are not breastfed are at higher risk of developing diarrhoea and necrotising enterocolitis, in which portions of the bowel become inflamed and die.

Serotonin is also crucial for the proper development of the ENS where, among its many roles, it acts as a growth factor. Serotonin-producing cells develop early on in the ENS, and if this development is affected, the second brain cannot form properly, as Gershon has shown in mutated mice. He believes that a gut infection or extreme stress in a child's earliest years may have the same effect, and that later in life this could lead to irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterised by chronic abdominal pain with frequent diarrhoea or constipation that is often accompanied by depression. The idea that irritable bowel syndrome can be caused by the degeneration of neurons in the ENS is lent weight by recent research revealing that 87 out of 100 people with the condition had antibodies in their circulation that were attacking and killing neurons in the gut (Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, vol 18, p 78).

If nothing else, the discovery that problems with the ENS are implicated in all sorts of conditions means the second brain deserves a lot more recognition than it has had in the past. "Its aberrations are responsible for a lot of suffering," says Pasricha. He believes that a better understanding of the second brain could pay huge dividends in our efforts to control all sorts of conditions, from obesity and diabetes to problems normally associated with the brain such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (see "Mental illnesses of the gut"). Yet the number of researchers investigating the second brain remains small. "Given it's potential, it's astonishing how little attention has been paid to it," says Pasricha.

Mental illnesses of the gut

A growing realisation that the nervous system in our gut is not just responsible for digestion (see main story) is partly fuelled by discoveries that this "second brain" is implicated in a wide variety of brain disorders. In Parkinson's disease, for example, the problems with movement and muscle control are caused by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. However, Heiko Braak at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, has found that the protein clumps that do the damage, called Lewy bodies, also show up in dopamine-producing neurons in the gut. In fact, judging by the distribution of Lewy bodies in people who died of Parkinson's, Braak thinks it actually starts in the gut, as the result of an environmental trigger such as a virus, and then spreads to the brain via the vagus nerve.

Likewise, the characteristic plaques or tangles found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's are present in neurons in their guts too. And people with autism are prone to gastrointestinal problems, which are thought to be caused by the same genetic mutation that affects neurons in the brain.

Although we are only just beginning to understand the interactions between the two brains, already the gut offers a window into the pathology of the brain, says Pankaj Pasricha at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. "We can theoretically use gut biopsies to make early diagnoses, as well as to monitor response to treatments."

Cells in the second brain could even be used as a treatment themselves. One experimental intervention for neurodegenerative diseases involves transplanting neural stem cells into the brain to replenish lost neurons. Harvesting these cells from the brain or spinal cord is not easy, but now neural stem cells have been found in the gut of human adults (Cell Tissue Research, vol 344, p 217). These could, in theory, be harvested using a simple endoscopic gut biopsy, providing a ready source of neural stem cells. Indeed, Pasricha's team is now planning to use them to treat diseases including Parkinson's.

Emma Young is a writer based in Sheffield, UK

Jean Marc Santi - dans cerveau
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10 mars 2014 1 10 /03 /mars /2014 08:58

Carolyn Gregoire

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don't have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they're complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it's not just a stereotype of the "tortured artist" -- artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

"It's actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self," Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. "The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self ... Imaginative people have messier minds."

While there's no "typical" creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently.

They daydream.

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time.

According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled "Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming," mind-wandering can aid in the process of "creative incubation." And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state -- daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it's related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.

They observe everything.

The world is a creative person's oyster -- they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom "nothing is lost."

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

"However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable 'I,'" Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. "We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker."

They work the hours that work for them.

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.

They take time for solitude.

"In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone," wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming -- we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

"You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it," he says. "It's hard to find that inner creative voice if you're ... not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself."

They turn life's obstacles around.

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak -- and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and -- most importantly for creativity -- seeing new possibilities in life.

"A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality," says Kaufman. "What's happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that's very conducive to creativity."

They seek out new experiences.

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind -- and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

"Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement," says Kaufman. "This consists of lots of different facets, but they're all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world."

They "fail up."

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives -- at least the successful ones -- learn not to take failure so personally.

"Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often," Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein's creative genius.

They ask the big questions.

Creative people are insatiably curious -- they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.

They people-watch.

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch -- and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

"[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books," says Kaufman. "For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important ... They're keen observers of human nature."

They take risks.

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

"There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it's one that's often overlooked," contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. "Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent -- these are all by-products of creativity gone awry."

They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.

Nietzsche believed that one's life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

"Creative expression is self-expression," says Kaufman. "Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness."

They follow their true passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated -- meaning that they're motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

"Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,"write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.

They get out of their own heads.

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

"Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present," says Kaufman. "The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind -- I like calling it the 'imagination brain network' -- it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking."

Research has also suggested that inducing "psychological distance" -- that is, taking another person's perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar -- can boost creative thinking.

They lose track of the time.

Creative types may find that when they're writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get "in the zone," or what's known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they're practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you're performing an activity you enjoy that you're good at, but that also challenges you -- as any good creative project does.

"[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they've also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state," says Kaufman. "The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you're engaging in."

They surround themselves with beauty.

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

A study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians -- including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists -- exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.

They connect the dots.

If there's one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it's the ability to see possibilities where other don't -- or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

They constantly shake things up.

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

"Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience," says Kaufman.

They make time for mindfulness.

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind -- because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such asDavid Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.

And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked withimproved memory and focus, better emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity -- all of which can lead to better creative thought.

Jean Marc Santi - dans Management
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