Since mammals developed the prefrontal cortex, bigger things have been on the agenda for those of us who walk upright and have a diet not mainly composed of bananas.
But what does that have to do with project management? And why bother with project management anyway?
The human brain is an exquisite tool, capable of connecting itself in a way that allows base functions to be undertaken without awareness (heart beating, breathing, and similar), temporary information to be used (short term memory), and new skills and situational awareness to be acquired (long term memory). And that merely scratches the surface of the amazing piece of organic machinery in your skull. Literally a lump of organised and connected cells in a dark box, your brain actually sees nothing but relies on all of its inputs from a range of sensory feeds such as your optic nerves and audio system.
But where does project management link in to this?
That prefrontal cortex portion at the front of the brain is responsible for our ability to plan, express our personality, make decisions and imagine the future. It is believed to be the orchestrator of thoughts and actions aligned with internal goals. In fact, in a study by Fuster and Goldman-Rakic the prefrontal cortex allows us to create new information to allow us to possess a ‘mental sketch pad’. An Oxford University study also highlighted the strategic decision making capability in this area of the brain.
And that, my friend, is where project management comes in.
Project management is responsible for imagining the future then organising things to ensure that everyone involves knows who is doing what, what they are to do, when, with what, why and how.
That’s a short sentence for something that is pretty bloody amazing. Think it – make it happen. Awesome.
It turns out, therefore, that part of your brain is already wired to undertake those project management skills. Your prefrontal cortex is your inner project manager. It’s there, right above your eyes. You’re biologically inclined to do project management. So why not be awesome at it?
It’s like any muscle – to get the most from it you need to train it. But it’s there. And ready to help you out.
Why bother with project management?
The backdrop to consider the skills of project management against is this:
Time is a non-renewable commodity.
Every single second occurs only once. There are no dress rehearsals for time. The moments you have should be helping you create a future that you desire while enjoying the process of creation. With that in mind it makes sense to capitalise on the infrastructure in your head to ensure you’re only working on the things that will help your imagined future come to life. Or at least, if you’re not working on them, making a conscious decision to not work on them rather than blaming your lack of progress on something that is actually within your control. Harnessing your prefrontal cortex by acquiring project management skills will help you make better decisions and help you focus on what you need to spend your time doing.
From a learning perspective
Learning about project management allows you to make the best use of your prefrontal cortex. The ability to understand how to imagine a new future that does not yet exist, then be able to do things to make that future happen is immensely useful. In a purely academic environment it’s a wonder to behold. In the education world it’s ideal for working out how to complete assignments in a quick and easy way. And when moving from the world of education into the world of work it’s vital as a skill to help you conduct yourself in a rational and considered manner. It also helps you quickly assess what’s going on and how you can best contribute.
From a project perspective
Naturally, enhancing your inner project manager has got to be useful in a project context. But the fact that your brain is already wired for project-ness means that anyone can tap into this ‘super power’. Projects are complicated beasts and to have a mindset that is capable of dealing with short-term decisions, long-terms decisions while undertaking work and taking on new skills is going to make your life measurably easier. The benefits of project management skills are applicable to more than just the project manager. If everyone in the team understands how to assess what is going on, and to make decisions to help the project achieve its objectives, then the whole culture of the project becomes more dynamic and prone to successful outcomes.
From a business perspective
Businesses need to be flexible to survive. The development of technology and the change in social interaction has meant that businesses need to be able to rapidly identify and exploit opportunities while avoiding risks. The project mindset is perfect for that sort of navigation in the uncertain world of business. Training the prefrontal cortex by learning project management skills means that you will have the ability to quickly assess where to expend effort, how to organise you and your team to enact projects and how best to secure the future of your business. Your business success means you can carrying on making those positive changes in the world.
Project management is the ultimate mindset for achieving competitive or collaborative advantage.
The foundations of project management are already in your head. We can help hone those skills to maximise your project management abilities.
Where could project skills take you?