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Female Disruptors: Britt Andreatta of 7th Mind On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

In general, I think disruption is positive because it means that someone has challenged the standard ways of thinking and doing, whether that’s within an industry, market or individual organization. In marketplaces, disruption is generally healthy and a sign of an open economy. Sure, the organizations being disrupted may not be happy but it indicates that innovation is happening and those disrupted have a choice to evolve or double down on their original brand and/or value proposition.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Britt Andreatta.

Dr. Britt Andreatta is an internationally recognized thought leader who creates brain-science based solutions for today’s challenges and regularly consults with organizations on leadership development and learning strategy. The former CLO for Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning), Britt has 10 million+ views of her online courses. Named a Top 20 Influencer in 2020, Britt has authored several books and trademarked models.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Even in high school, I’ve always been someone who likes to help others be better. For the first stage of my career, I did that with college students, in my role as professor and dean. I created college success and leadership courses that have been adopted by several other universities. Then I pivoted to working with adult professionals on a variety of skills. I was the chief learning officer at Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) and it was during that time that I began studying neuroscience. Honestly, neuroscience was introduced to me in therapy–learning about the amygdala hijack started my ongoing curiosity.

I started learning about the neuroscience of learning to better my own craft. And then I knew I had to share what I was learning. My first book was on the brain science of learning, Wired to Grow: Harness the Power of Brain Science to Learn and Master Any Skill, which has become a go-to source in the learning industry. Through that experience, I became a keynote speaker and consultant, working with organizations around the world. I’ve since written 2 more books on the brain science of success, one on leading effective change and another on creating peak-performing teams. When people began asking if they could get certified in my models, we launched the trainer certification aspect of my business. I now have this perfect blend of research, writing, speaking, consulting, and training with each part informing or enhancing the others.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’d say my work creates lots of little disruptions across a wide range of topics. My research brings new insights to common workplace challenges by adding a deeper understanding of how humans are wired neurologically. The modern workplace often asks employees to work against their biology, which leads to challenges to things like collaboration, change, innovation, teamwork, productivity, and professional growth. My research and models have created significant shifts in how people approach and resolve these challenges, which leads to higher employee engagement, productivity, retention, etc.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once was invited to make a pitch to the founder and CEO of a company. In doing my research, I watched several of his speeches and he consistently framed his product as part of his passion to help people become better. I aligned my pitch to be a series of how I’d be helping his people become better. After my opening statement, he stopped me cold and said, “It’s not my job to help my people become better. They can do that on their own time.” I was so stunned, I said, “But you say that in all your speeches.” And he replied, “What I say to sell something is not the same thing as what I care about.” Needless to say, I didn’t land the gig, which was fine because I’m not sure I would have enjoyed working for him. But, I never went into another pitch without asking deeper questions about people’s real values and goals, not just the ones listed on their profile or marketing plan.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve been fortunate to have different mentors at different stages along my career. During my years in higher education, Dr. Michael Young told me that your leadership is only as good as the relationships you have built. He talked about how important it was to get to know people on a personal level and remember what is happening with their family, their pets, and their interests.

Lynda Weinman, the founder of Lynda.com, continues to be a great mentor. She challenged me to really see the value I bring to an organization and to ask for what I am worth. I’m grateful she helped me overcome something that can hold a lot of folks back.

I believe in hiring the best and smartest people so my team mentors me every day. They are each brilliant in their area of expertise so I am constantly learning from Claudia Arnett, Teresa Fanucchi, Lisa Slavid, Jenefer Angell, and Pema Rocker.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In general, I think disruption is positive because it means that someone has challenged the standard ways of thinking and doing, whether that’s within an industry, market or individual organization. In marketplaces, disruption is generally healthy and a sign of an open economy. Sure, the organizations being disrupted may not be happy but it indicates that innovation is happening and those disrupted have a choice to evolve or double down on their original brand and/or value proposition.

We often think of disruptors as startup companies but other things can be disruptors too, like climate change, geopolitical strife, social unrest or a global pandemic. COVID is challenging all businesses to innovate their services and processes, at least for the short term, and some of these shifts are actually improving business and will become part of the new normal. The protests following George Floyd’s murder are disrupting beliefs and practices around policing, justice, privilege and oppression and have the potential to make society better.

The disruption that my research shows can be negative is more on an interpersonal level, where one person’s words or actions can harm or negatively impact the group by threatening or destroying safety, either physical or psychological. Individual employees can impact each other, and managers and leaders have the ability and influence to impact a department or even the entire organization. This can harm trust, employee engagement, productivity, and eventually the organization’s ability to succeed. Learn more in my book Wired to Connect: The Brain Science of Teams and a New Model for Creating Collaboration and Inclusion.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Jennifer Hudson was mentoring a group of singers about how to succeed in the music business and she said, “Be someone who is good to work with and you will always have plenty of work.” I realized that applies to every industry and it shapes how I engage with all my clients.

The best boss I ever had is Dr. Kelly McGill. I remember watching her navigate sticky situations with grace and I asked her how she did it. She told me that people often try to convince others to change by telling them what’s wrong, like “Hey, that shirt you’re wearing is ugly.” But she said you first have to align with them and then lead them to a better place. Like, “Wow, that’s such a great shirt. I have this perfect scarf that will make it even better. What do you think?” When I am faced with similar situations, I start looking for the scarf.

The third is from Greg McKweon and his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It’s easy to get split into a million different directions, working on too many good ideas. His advice that if it’s not a “Hell yea!” then it’s an automatic “no” has really helped me stay focused on what matters.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m about to release my Brain Aware™ Manager Training, which weaves neuroscience into a six-session cohesive program that gives managers key skills for bringing out the best in others. I will follow that with my Brain Aware™ Leader Training in 2021.

I’m also starting to research my next book, Wired to Become, on the brain science of purpose, creativity and innovation. And believe it or not, I hope to not leave this earth until I write a musical play. I have one sketched out and it’s fun to work on it now and then.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Frederic Laloux’s book, Reinventing Organizations, is about the conscious evolution of humans and how it is shifting both organizations and societies. It really opened up my eyes and gave me a broader framework for my own research.

Dr. Brené Brown’s work has impacted me both personally and professionally. I find myself referring to her research often and her podcast, Unlocking Us, has helped me so much during this global pandemic and all the chaos it has brung. Every guest has aligned perfectly with something I am moving through myself.

In college, I was introduced to research on privilege, oppression, and bias, through Allan Johnson’s book Privilege, Power, and Difference. As a white person, this journey of awakening is both shocking and deeply uncomfortable because we learn that everything we were taught to believe about the world — by teachers, parents, the media, etc. — is wrong. Recent events have moved this conversation to the mainstream and I continue to learn from leaders like Ibram X. Kendi, Austin Channing Brown, and Laverne Cox.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m always inspired by Margaret Mead’s words:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It always reminds me that change is always possible and that we all have more power than we realize. This seems especially relevant given our current times.

In addition, I had a challenging childhood and it manifested as crippling panic attacks when I was turning 30. I had to do a lot of healing work and through that journey, this quote really resonated for me. As a result, I have always been open about my own challenges because I know we are all moving through life the best that we can.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I feel so fortunate because I’m already doing it. I am trying to change how work is done on this planet by making our workplaces better for all of us and I can see the results in organizations that use my work.

At this specific moment in time, I realize that we cannot allow college education to be the main pathway for people to learn about science. Both the pandemic and climate change are teaching us that human survival depends on every citizen having a certain level of science literacy. This means that workplace learning needs to expand to include some aspects of citizenship and how we can all be productive members of our societies and the planet.

How can our readers follow you online?

On LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter or Instagram.


Female Disruptors: Britt Andreatta of 7th Mind On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.