Social behaviors – like those we see in and around our projects – are driven by two urges: to minimize the perceived threats, and to maximize potential rewards. But what are the sources of threat and reward in the social domain? That is the question answered by David Rock’s SCARF Model.
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Social behaviors are driven by the same brain systems as those that drive our survival responses. David Rock developed a model of five domains of social experience that can trigger our reward and threat responses:
These domains can all activate the primary threat and reward circuits in our brains. Our brains will try to categorize each new stimulus as either:
And, once we have learned the nature of a stimulus, we store the learned approach/avoid response in our amygdala. When we encounter it again, the level of activation of our amygdala dictates the strength of our emotional response to the stimulus.
This is important because the Approach/Avoid response takes control of our limbic system and has a big effect on our cognitive performance.
You can use the SCARF model to provide your team members (and stakeholders) with a safe and emotionally nourishing workplace environment.
Use the SCARF model to choose interactions that:
in each of these five domains.
David Rock’s 2008 paper ‘SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others.’
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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