Biohacking is rocking the ether these days.
And per my personal hero, Dave Asprey (of Bulletproof coffee fame… or infamy), biohacking is “[the use of] science, biology, and self-experimentation to take control of and upgrade your body, your mind, and your life… The art and science of becoming superhuman.”
In other words, it’s about making tweaks to body and mind that allow us to perform at our peak.
But this piece is about business results. So why are we talking biology and butter? (and yes — I do drink my coffee with butter every morning. And it’s freaking delicious!)
Because biohackers like Dave have discovered the secrets to optimizing human performance at the individual level, and it’s my assertion that leaders of enterprise should heed the wisdom and apply these same principles in business to catalyze peak performance at the enterprise level.
Let’s break down some of these principles and extract the wisdom we can apply.
Principle 1: If it ain’t broke… let’s make it better!
In biohacking, solving a problem is table stakes. The goal isn’t to be unbroken, but outstanding. It’s a persistent quest to generate more of a good thing.
In business, we invest much of our time in problem-solving.
A leader completes a job req to solve for an open role; invests in documenting a process to correct a breakdown that occurred; reorgs his team to deliver a cost-save.
These are all problem-solving strategies.
A biohacker, or one seeking to optimize, might instead consider:
- Proactively building a pipeline of talent so the right person is in our orbit when the role opens
- Assessing, as a matter of course, the structure and functioning of a team to ensure we’re doing “more with less” while keeping burnout at bay
- Establishing process documentation as a norm to allow for greater flexibility in who does what, while mitigating the risk of a breakdown
The takeaway: It’s about the mindset. Proactively optimizing versus reactively solutioning puts us in a position of strength.
Principle 2: Size does matter. And typically, smaller is better
Often in business we go for the grand gestures. We develop and implement a new training program, we deploy a company-wide engagement survey, redesign teams, incentive systems, and performance management processes. And never with a guaranteed result.
In biohacking, we build inertia from the ground up. We focus on the tiniest increment of change that will allow for impact and insight.
We might, for example, try eating breakfast 30 minutes later, infuse one new vitamin supplement, or pilot a five-minute-per-day meditation practice. By isolating a small and single variable, we might learn quickly and simply that meditation has positive results… and over time we might choose to grow our practice.
The takeaway: Testing a five-minute meditation practice yields results without confounding variables or unleashing disruption into the system. In business — where can we implement small, micro-tests that mitigate change while maximizing insight?
Principle 3: Chase the right results. And stay on course
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been part of a reorganization. Now raise your hand if you’ve ever been part of ANOTHER reorganization…with the same company!
WTF???? And yes — I’ve totally been there with you.
How and why does this happen? Isn’t that literally the definition of insanity — repeating the same actions and anticipating a new result?
It’s because we’re being reactive, chasing short-term results. Sure, cutting a team by 10% will achieve a near-term cost save. But refer back to principle 1…does it allow us to optimize our system? It doesn’t.
So what happens? We live with the pain of the cuts until we feel the comfort of the cost save… and then we revert to our old ways.
Biohackers aren’t chasing the short-term. The goal isn’t to lose 50 lbs in three weeks. Biohackers are striving to optimize the system for long-term peak performance. So they make choices that align.
The takeaway: What if we designed our processes and organizations for optimal performance rather than burn and churn our talent? Imagine how amazing that would feel, AND how impactful it would be.
Principle 4: Don’t worship at the altar of Best Practice
In biohacking there are foods that heal and foods that harm…mostly. But ultimately every body is unique and different. Nothing is taken as gospel — every assumption is tested.
Likewise, leaders may seek out the experts with the books and the frameworks — and there is often much wisdom to be found within. But the most important insights come from within your unique system, your teams of people actually delivering your results.
The real imperative for a leader is to be informed by leading practices, but ultimately to do your own research. Ask the right questions of your team (as can be found in the Leaders’ Guide to SuperCandor). This is the data that your unique system can provide.
The takeaway: There is always a place for external expertise. But the answers you need — the simple tweaks and strategies that will allow your team to be optimized — lie within your team. Your job is to unlock.
Principle 5: Learning from failure is alive and well
Ah, learning from failure. The holy grail of leadership and innovation — the value that every enterprise leader espouses… and yet so few truly employ.
In business, we undergo tests or experiments, but when results underwhelm or disappoint, the default response is often hiding, excusing, spinning, and positioning. We expend tremendous energy trying to save face, and surprisingly little actually extracting the learning that can guide us forward.
In biohacking, every experiment is truly an opportunity to learn, and every result — favorable or otherwise — is data.
If, for example, we seek to increase our endurance, then we make changes and evaluate our endurance. If the change had a positive impact, we build upon it; and if an adverse effect, we record the data and choose our next course of action.
There is no hiding from a result, because every result truly informs the course we take moving forward.
The takeaway: It’s essential that we distinguish between a failure of carelessness (from which it might, indeed, be wise to hide!) and failure of outcome. The former may represent a performance problem. But the latter must be leveraged. What practices might you launch to truly begin to create the space and freedom to collect the data your team needs to craft real insights?
What strategies have you found that have translated from individual to enterprise performance?