Science of Learning - Dr. Srini Pillay

In these times of tremendous economic uncertainty and volatility, today’s new and relevant skills are tomorrow’s archaic and irrelevant competencies. For example, data crunching was once a goal of competent analysts, but has been largely outsourced to Watson. Robots are also rapidly replacing humans in manufacturing. If businesses want the skills they teach to be relevant, adaptable, transferable and quickly executed, they must train employees on the mindset “basics” that will help them remain agile and competitive.

Skills and competencies must lead to actions, and for actions to be efficient, they must be grounded in an optimal mindset. As a start, use the brain-based PACE model below to help structure conversations with hired talent who are learning new skills. This will help your business run more seamlessly and efficiently.

Possibility Thinking

People with a sense of possibility will find alternative ways of doing things. For instance, they will find ways to ship materials after the mail has already been collected, or they will plan ahead to satisfy disgruntled customers when the solution is not obvious.

Amplifying positive emotions improves performance at work. Believing in positive outcomes activates the reward pathways and increases dopamine. Even when there is no evidence that an approach will work, this “belief” also relaxes the brain when opioids are released. Research shows that people with a growth mindset (the belief that they can change negative situations) have greater wellbeing and success. We use a questionnaire called the possibility index to address what is blocking a sense of possibility and the motivation to act.


When people feel authentic, they have greater self-control. This allows them to manage their time more effectively. Feeling connected to a “true” self helps people feel more motivated. Their work becomes more meaningful, they often feel less depressed and their work abilities increase. To address authenticity, consider how people can dress, spend their free time and express themselves safely at meetings. All of these factors can enhance or slow down execution.

Collaborative Ability

Leaders aren’t chosen because of their individual ideas, but because they synchronize their brains with others. Collaborative people can enhance the positive culture throughout the organization. Collaborative goal setting may also enhance buy-in when people feel that they can participate in their own futures. In this way, accountability is shared and not imposed. Also, collaboration helps self-connection by understanding oneself in the context of an organization’s mission.


There are two types of pleasures that can be motivating. Hedonia, or “H-rewards” refers to external pleasures such as money or gifts. Eudaimonia or “E-rewards” refers to internal and less obvious motivators such as having a sense of purpose about the work. E-rewards help employees feel connected to their work, and in activating their brains differently than H-rewards, also protect them from depression. It allows employees to connect their work to a bigger purpose so that they feel optimally motivated to exercise the skills they have learned.

Each of these factors activates the brain to enhance agility and efficiency. When trying to mind the gap in performance, shift the focus of the conversation with these brain-based questions: Do you believe that your life is on a path for continuous improvement? Can you be yourself at work? Do you understand your key role relative to others? Can you connect your work to a greater meaning and purpose in life? With PACE, any skill has the chance to be inspired, which is your first step toward enhanced strategic speed.