There’s a lot about work—how we think, what we feel, the decisions we make—that takes place beyond our head. Many of us have been raised to believe that our brain is the center of all our thinking and doing. We’ve grown up with the belief that training the brain is singularly responsible for how productive we can be as individuals. We also attach brain training to what makes some people successful and others less successful.
The research of Barbara Tversky, a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, challenges this long-held assumption that knowledge originates in the brain or “mind.” Her research demonstrates that spatial thinking—or our actions—underpin our thought processes. It is through our bodies doing that we can draw meanings.
I’m far from alone in suggesting this entrenched celebration of “mind over matter,” of “head over heart” does a disservice to our actual ways of knowing and the wealth of embodied knowledge—the knowledge we gain through doing—that most of us simply take for granted.
If the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that each of us has the ability to adapt how we work, which isn’t to say it was smooth or painless or that the requirements to do so were equally distributed. Our bodies had to acclimate to new surroundings and challenge their learned ways of working—desks became kitchen tables; colleagues became spouses, children. and pets; home became the office. Now, as offices begin to reopen and employees are asked to return to the workplace, we are once again faced with the need to adapt to new surroundings and experiences.