In this blog series, we share simple ways to optimize inspiration. Our last blog looked at the relationship between status and feeling inspired. Today we focus on ways to boost inspiration by increasing our innate need for Assurance, one of the six conditions for psychological safety.

Our brains crave familiar patterns so it can predict the future, helping us feel safe. Even low levels of unfamiliarity or something unexpected can generate a neural threat response. This takes our attention away from more strategic and inspirational goals and heightens our focus on immediate perceived problems.* It’s no surprise then, that experiencing Assurance, like when you know you’re meeting expectations and doing a good job, activates the pleasure and reward circuitry. This frees up cognitive resources for higher-level thinking and helps create the neurochemistry conducive to the highly creative state of flow.

We are hypersensitive to any negative detail in our daily life when we don’t have enough Assurance. We are more likely to make incorrect assumptions because a negativity bias will likely influence our decision-making. Organizations that tolerate toxic behaviours and chaotic leadership styles will struggle to innovate and inspire their people, as employees are likely to feel uncertain about their relationships, their role, and their future.

As leaders, we can increase peoples’ sense of Assurance and certainty in very simple ways, and in the process free peoples’ brains to focus on work that truly engages and inspires them.  Things to try:

Explicit Expectations

Clarify roles and responsibilities to reassure employees that they’re on the right path. Make sure people clearly understand what is expected of them to remove the cognitive distraction of feeling uncertain.  Clarity is calming to our brain. When we know we are on the same page with our manager, we free up cognitive capacity for the higher-level processing required for creativity and innovation.

Create Confidence

Sharing plans, goals, strategies, and feedback gives people information with which to make predictions about their own future. Even if the plans change, regular updates satiate our pattern-hungry brain. Confidence and clarity about where we are headed, why and how, helps build courage to innovate and be focused and resilient, all in service of an outcome that inspires us.

 Calendarize Creativity

Create clear blocks of time, and encourage people to step away from daily work routines to focus on ideas and create space for new insights. Support others to structure their time and create space for work that is personally meaningful. This does not mean micromanaging – which dampens anyone’s inspiration. Instead, promote time to reflect so the state of flow – and highly rewarding inspiration, follows.

Our next blog will focus on the relationship between Fairness and feeling inspired.

* Hedden, Garbrielli, 2006