Self-hack your way to a brighter business future

Brain Hack

Just as computers and IKEA furniture can be hacked, so too can brains. In fact, NYC-based researcher and entrepreneur Patrycja Slawuta is in the business of helping entrepreneurs ‘hack, rewire and upgrade’ the human operating system to survive in a ‘faster, leaner, smarter world’.

Slawuta is the founder of SelfHackathon, a boutique consultancy in New York that has worked with over 5,000 entrepreneurs across the globe. Slawuta said the consultancy, together with her network of 40+ scientists and experts, employ cutting-edge behavioural science to help high-performing teams in startups and corporations solve real-life problems and capitalise on opportunities through a process of “hacking, rewiring, and upgrading themselves”. She added, “We specialise in embedding what we call ‘deep human psychology’, which consists of the most powerful and applicable science, into several key aspects of what companies do – namely, team dynamics, innovation, product and service design, and meaningful branding and marketing”.

Patrycja Slawuta, Founder, SelfHackathon

Slawuta told Dynamic Business the barriers entrepreneurs face, when striving for success, fall into four categories – the mind, emotions, the body and other people/group dynamics.

“In terms of the mind, which includes our assumptions, expectations sand outlook, a common barrier is the stories we tell ourselves – these can sometimes be disempowering and not helpful,” she said. “Meanwhile, when it comes to emotions, fear of failure (and sometimes success) is a critical barrier.

“Then there’s the body, which can be considered our hardware – sometimes the lack of proper rest (particularly sleep) can be a critical barrier to success. Finally, in the social realm, the combination of loneliness, exhaustion, and burnout is, for entrepreneurs, a powerful barrier to sustainable success.”

“Anxiety, depression and mental health issues are big dark secrets of Silicon Valley companies and beyond. Our human nature is complex and non-linear and ‘unattended’ aspects of life have the capability to create chaos that shakes (and sometimes breaks down) the entire system. Ultimately, success is a mind game that is played in the space between our ears – in our minds.”

Slawuta said entrepreneurs can overcome mental barriers to success by ‘hacking’ old patterns of thought, behaviour and emotion. She explained: “There are three crucial elements of change – awareness, acceptance and change. We start by noticing the old patterns… oftentimes they operate on unconscious level, so spotting them requires thoughtful and non-judgmental awareness. This is followed by acceptance, which is often the hardest part of the rewiring. This is where reframing comes very handy. The final stage is the change where new habits, rituals and patterns are being developed.”

She identified three ‘hacks’ entrepreneurs will immediately be able to benefit from:

  1. Square breathing: “Stress is one of those challenges that seems to be universal in modern life. While animals appear to have a more efficient way of resolving their stress – fight or flight – we humans lead more complex lives and can often become “stuck.” One of the best ways to reset ourselves, especially our bodies, is something called “square breathing.” Square breathing is used often by combat special forces personnel to remain calm and collected under some very stressful situations. It goes like this: breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold for a count of four. And then repeat for 1-2 minutes or as needed. This will naturally reset the body and remove stress and anxiety in the process”.
  2. The “Superman” pose: “Our body is a bio-feedback mechanism for communicating with our brain how we are feeling and doing. Sometimes we can use the body for sending a pre-emptive message to the brain. For example, there are some “power poses” (as researched by Amy Cuddy of Harvard University) that have been shown to create confidence and trust, in not only ourselves but also in others. One of these is the so-called “Superman pose” whereby we hoist our arms upwards, as if ready for flight”.
  3. Decision-making hacks: “Our research has shown that decision making is one of the most important aspects of entrepreneurialism as well as in business overall and in our personal lives. One of the significant maladies in modern life is decision fatigue, which occurs either when we have to make too many decisions or make them ‘perfectly’. Let me discuss two great and related hacks for lightening the decision-making load. The first hack has to do with deciding what to decide on. While many decisions appear somewhat equal, in actuality there are some that are vastly more important than others. So decide beforehand what to decide on and what to leave to others or for a later time. Second, for the secondary decisions, sometimes making “good enough” decisions is vastly better than making no decision at all. Do some research and make a quality decision, and adjust as necessary later on. In that case, you will likely receive information to make the next one even better”.

Slawuta will be giving a keynote presentation at Creative Innovation 2017, which is being held at Sofitel Melbourne from 13 to 15 November.

“My keynote is titled ‘Hacking the Corporate OS. The Art and Science of Meaningful Innovation’,” she said. “The idea is that in a ‘faster, leaner and smarter’ world, many of us already feel like we’re dragging behind, while many keep up but at a cost. Meanwhile, some already gave up and gave in to a growing movement of discontentment and nostalgia for the good old times. But scientific research shows that humans systems not only are incredibly resilient but also adaptive and innovative in a face of change. In this keynote, you will learn how the corporate OS can be hacked, rewired and upgraded to thrive in the age of acceleration. I will also lead a master class titled: “Hacking Wisdom – Intelligence 2.0 and Beyond.” This talk will be focused on the latest discoveries in the science of creativity and innovation.”