Ten Surprising Concepts that Teams (& Organizations) Should Adopt Now

These days, it seems that the same common concepts are stressed over and over in order to ensure team success. But I believe, from pee-wee to pro, that this standard coaching paradigm is simply not bringing out the best in our athletes. For evidence, just look at the erratic behavior of many well-known players. Not to mention that consistent excellence on the field -- i.e., dynasties (yes, I am aware of salary caps) -- has become a thing of the past.

So, if you and your team, company, or family are after steady achievement, reflect on these ten surprising concepts. Then see if any of them make sense for you.

1. Keep goal-setting to a bare minimum, if instituted at all.

Goal-setting narrows focus, which, contrary to popular opinion, limits opportunities and shrinks the perceptual field (awareness). It's okay to possess the burning desire to win. In fact, I prefer that teams do. However, because winning has no ability to regulate your happiness or self-worth, relish the journey and experience instead of single-mindedly setting your sights on a title. If you do, the imaginative path to success will become evident on its own.

2. Recognize and embrace individuality.

Even within team environments, it is essential that individuality be fostered and encouraged. Why? Free will is the number one ingredient to productive behaviors and performances. A person will simply not perform to the best of his or her ability if the person's inner wisdom (intuition or personal thought system) is compromised.

3. Limit rules and expectations.

To me, codes of conduct do not work. The inner conflict between what a person thinks is right, and what an organization tells the person is right, binds and confuses all individuals. This bewilderment creates dysfunction. Rather, here's a freeing alternative: Hold individuals accountable to acting from elevated states of mind and pulling back from deflated states of mind -- stop telling them which actions are, or are not, acceptable.

4. Encourage love for, and respect of, opponents.

Love and respect are the ultimate symptoms of a high level of consciousness -- "the zone." Hate and disrespect are symptoms of the opposite mind-set. So, just ask yourself, "How do I feel when I am not considerate of others, when I resent my opponents, or when I hold them in contempt?" Now why would you ever want your team to perform from this insecure psychological perspective?

5. Discourage the creation of a pecking order.

When people operate from low levels of well-being, they dwell on their differences. They become insulated and egotistical, and, in a team setting, it often appears that certain members are more valuable than others. Not so. Although roles vary, if you remove one piece from the puzzle the team ceases to be whole and its natural chemistry and functioning become impaired.

6. Do not stress communication.

Believe it or not, one reason that teams fail is because people overcommunicate. They speak when they are not capable (they are in a low mind-set), and listen when they should not (they are in a low mind-set). Lack of communication is never a real issue. A person's state of mind when he or she communicates, or he or she does not communicate, is the only key to productive interactions between teammates.

7. Do not adhere to a specific team "culture."

When forced to adhere to the edicts of once-successful traditions, ethics, or customs, a team is adopting someone else's recollection of the way to perform, which has no relevance now. Buying into a culture binds a person's thinking, thwarts free will, and creates followers who are not capable of coming through in the big moment.

8. Leave the past in the past.

The past, like a culture, is simply a thought system carried through time. No matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate a former triumph, technique, or feel. They are smoke; they no longer exist. Keep in mind, young players don't care about the good old days. They intuitively live in the present -- don't lead them away from it.

9. Drive effort with freedom.

There is a huge difference between hard work and best effort. Yet, teams continue to promote a grind-it-out paradigm that has little to do with success. Achievement is the result of fluent thinking, passion, and freedom. Why, then, when a team isn't in this mind-set, do coaches preach diligence, desperation, or hard work? If a team isn't giving its best there's only one reason: The players are trying to control a natural instinct -- effort. The biggest mistake a team can make.

10. Teach that state of mind is relevant, while behavior irrelevant.

This last characteristic is the foundation for the rest of the list. The most clear thinking leaders recognize that judging a person's behavior serves little purpose. So, since errant behavior spawns from internal suffering or a low state of mind, demonstrate the importance of understanding and supporting all members of your organization -- no matter their behavior or how much playing time you give them. Remember, a high level of compassion always leads to a high level of consciousness, and, in turn, a consistently high level of performance.

Garret Kramer is the author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life, is the founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC. His revolutionary approach to performance has transformed the careers of professionals athletes and coaches, Olympians, and collegiate players across a multitude of sports. Kramer’s work has been featured on WFAN, ESPN, Fox, and CTV, as well as in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications.

For more information please visit http://www.garretkramer.com, find the book on Amazon.com, or follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

© 2012 Garret Kramer

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com/S.Pytel.

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  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

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The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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