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PIMFA Talk:  How to Create a Physically Intelligent Organisation


Award Winning Authors and Directors of Companies in Motion - Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton (Physical Intelligence Simon & Schuster 2019) will share insights about how physically intelligent people, teams and organisations can create the transformational framework for our post pandemic future.  They will discuss what a physically intelligent organisation might look like, how the workplace of tomorrow can work with rather than against the human system, and the role each of us plays in that journey. They will describe how we can effectively harness the learning from Covid 19 and embed new habits because Physical Intelligence doesn’t just sit alongside but underpins our cognitive and emotional intelligences.


This talk is for everyone interested in understanding the urgency of adding Physical Intelligence – THE human intelligence for the 21st Century – to the agenda of any sustainable and profitable business.


Hello everyone – a very warm welcome to our live attendees and our on-demand delegates. We are Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton, Directors at CIM and co-authors of our book which recently won the Business Book Award for 2020 in the personal development category. Last week, CEO Magazine named our book as one of the top five books for supporting mental health in the workplace. We are delighted to be with you today and to be able to share our thoughts with you - thank you for joining us. I have spent my whole life studying the body and high performance – initially, in the arts and for the past 16 years in the business environment.  Pat, a former C-level executive, has been a leadership and sales consultant for FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies for 30+ years with a heavy emphasis on the financial sector and also has a background in dance and performing arts.


We will be sharing insights about how physically intelligent people, teams and organisations can create a transformational framework for our post-pandemic future and asking:


  •   What might a physically intelligent organisation look like?

  •   How can the workplace of tomorrow work with rather than against the human system?

  •   What role can each of us play in that journey?


We will describe how we can all effectively harness learnings from COVID-19 and embed new Physically Intelligent habits in our daily lives to underpin our cognitive and emotional intelligence.


We at Companies in Motion believe that ultimately, post pandemic organisations will be forced to acknowledge something that Claire and I have long believed, that people, human beings, are our most precious business resources.


To quote a recent McKinsey report, “forward-looking companies know that everything else—such as technology, access to raw materials, intellectual property, and customer relationships— is fleeting and the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgment, and creativity that people bring to work.” Physical Intelligence unlocks that sustainable advantage.


For too long, many organisations have paid lip service to putting ‘people at the center’ of their strategy.

Even worse - much that is being written about the future of organisations is still focusing on law, regulation, ownership, governance, measurement and pre-pandemic descriptions of performance – with little mention of human beings – or if mentioned, employees are referred to as human capital…but we are…all of us…flesh and bone, bodies and brains, hearts and minds.


The time has come to enable the full potential of everyone working in our organisations – whether office based or working remotely. Organisations need people who can achieve more and people want to stress less and live and work more happily.

So how can the workplace of tomorrow work with rather than against the human system and what exactly is PI?


Right now, there are literally hundreds of chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) with familiar names such as Testosterone, Cortisol, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Dopamine, racing through each of our bodies and brains, in our nervous system and bloodstreams.  Those chemicals largely dictate how we think, feel, speak and behave.  Yet, most of us operate at the mercy of those chemicals – experiencing reactions, emotions and thoughts without realizing that we can strategically influence them.  Physical Intelligence is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of those chemicals so that we CAN achieve more, stress less, and live and work more happily.


What specifically can we do to become more Physically Intelligent?  First of all, it is important to recognize that Physiology drives the quality of our performance and productivity in ways that most of us don’t yet fully understand, let alone have started to implement. There are literally hundreds of Physical Intelligence techniques – breathing techniques, movements, thought processes and ways of interacting. While some are more in-depth that others, all are easy to incorporate into your daily life.  Some only take seconds.


While the term Physical Intelligence may be new to you, the techniques have been used for decades in the worlds of sports and the arts and are all underpinned by neuroscience. If we’re working with you, we draw from a broad curriculum to create a solution that is bespoke for you or your team.  We craft protocols for individuals or entire teams based on the unique challenges those people or teams are facing.


Becoming Physically Intelligent is all the more important right now because, as we all know, even before the current crisis, we have been living in a time of unprecedented change.  Yet, human beings are not evolving as quickly as the pace of change and most of us have not been trained to cope with the amount and pace of change around us. In 2018, stress was the number one symptom Googled.  In 2019, the WHO designated burnout a "syndrome" defined as "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Pre-Covid research determined that workplace culture was the biggest roadblock employees faced in their efforts to feel healthier and happier.  Today…in June of 2020, what do you think those statistics would be?  We believe they would be even higher.


Some of your organisations may already have a wellness or wellbeing protocol or strategy.  In a recent virtual poll at a session I was speaking at for PIMFA, 51% of attendees reported that their organisations don’t have a formal wellbeing strategy or even an ad hoc approach to overall wellbeing.  30+% of firms told PIMFA that they have NOT re-examined their wellness strategy in light of the crisis and most of the programs already in place are sorely lacking.  Whilst wellness programmes are to be welcomed and recent CIPD research tells us that they will be prioritized in the training budget, the majority of historic programmes are only scratching the surface and starting now and certainly as we look to the future they simply are not enough to unlock the full potential of the people whose efforts will lift us out of this crisis.


It is time to once and for all look beyond the traditional ways of measuring organisational performance and employee support packages and acknowledge that we MUST do better in respecting, nurturing and valuing, as well as challenging these precious resources – our people – even to call them human resources is dehumanizing…we’re talking about the people who fuel all that each of our organizations is accomplishing…the human beings upon whom we rely to generate the ongoing revenue that will sustain us as we navigate the coming economic and operational changes and challenges.  We can’t simply expect people to work harder and trade our way out of the economic impact of the crisis. To create a physically intelligent organization, we’re talking about something different…something more powerful…something that will require a bit of reeducation – for example, by listening to us – and if you invest the time in understanding this and making it available to your people, it will drive better business outcomes.


We’ve talked a lot about making our businesses more sustainable – and we cannot be a sustainable organization without having people who know how to sustain their energy and grow their performance and capacity. One large financial institution we work with decided six years ago to give their entire graduate intake across EMEA the physical intelligence tools to be sustainable. These young people are performing better and staying with the company for longer, getting promoted faster….and the programme is now year on year part of their core curriculum.


Creating physically intelligent organisations must be based on careful thought and should also reflect what we have learned by living through this pandemic. Some people have thrived because they have escaped the commute, team conflict, hierarchy, gained autonomy and the ability to organize their own work patterns.  Others have been through trauma; many have reached the end of their resilience.  Just because people are still employed with you doesn’t mean that they are fully engaged and productive. Some who have gone back into the office are surprised and disappointed to find it isn’t quite what they remembered, especially the lack of social interaction.  Regardless of what your team members are experiencing, we must meet people where they are – consider their current situation and what they have gone through during the crisis, acknowledge that times are different and ask them how they want to be supported – and then provide them with the best well-proven support that we possibly can. Understanding this will determine whether or not they will follow you in to future battles.  The firms that “get this” and then get the response right will emerge stronger. 


You may be thinking that a meaningful response isn’t affordable.  We know that different size organisations have different resources available, so… Here’s a question...What is creating a physically intelligent organization or team worth to you?


  • Is it worth a 12.5% increase in the value of your negotiated commercial deals? Because that’s what one of our client’s achieved within three months of practising Physical Intelligence techniques.

  • How about double-digit revenue growth?

  • or increased operating efficiency, improved client satisfaction and employee satisfaction scores and better reports from regulators?


Our clients have attributed all of those results and more to introducing Physical Intelligence to their people with solutions that are affordable – and have paid for themselves several times over.  Even a short webinar series, well reinforced, can have a life changing impact for people. Physical Intelligence has been proven time and again to power our performance – and create a positive shift at individual, organisational and board levels. 


Our curriculum is based on these four elements. If we want strong, flexible, resilient and enduring businesses then we need to develop strong, flexible, resilient and enduring employees. Who doesn’t want and need all four of these! Especially today…


So, what does a physically intelligent organisation look like?  When you look across the floor of the Physically Intelligent financial institution I mentioned earlier…you see young bankers thriving in a fast paced and ever-changing environment. Some are deep in thought at their screens and their posture tells you that they are feeling strong and confident. They move frequently to maintain their energy and motivation and engage with their colleagues to strengthen relationships. In a meeting room you can see a small group deep in debate…they know how to encourage divergent and convergent thinking. They are smart people…a very diverse group, who have worked hard to build trust and they know how to handle difficult conversations to achieve maximum collaboration and results. Your eye lands on a young woman who is speaking with a client on the phone– she is politely but firmly holding her ground. She knows how to not only sound calm and authoritative…but she also FEELS strong and knows how to maintain clear thinking and decision making under pressure. The pace is fast…sometimes with conflicting priorities…but these young bankers are highly flexible and can quickly respond to changing needs. A couple of people in the right-hand corner of the floor are laughing and joking for a few moments…interesting as when they first joined they didn’t get along at all – both have learned to flex and appreciate each other’s strengths. In the main meeting room there is a debrief – a deal has been lost and it’s important to know why. It is analysed calmly and without blame…everyone knows how to process this, learn lessons, let it go and remain efficient and effective.  Jill and Adam have just left the office to have coffee…Jill really supported Adam when he joined and was finding the demands quite a challenge…it’s now Adam’s turn to give back a bit of support and understanding. A few other people are leaving for the gym and to go for a run…it’s encouraged here and all the young bankers know how to look after themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.


When you look across the floor you see a group of people who are enjoying their work…who look well…are highly motivated and are building the foundations for long term professional and personal success.


Fast forward a few weeks…this team has successfully transitioned into remote working without missing a beat.  The leader read the signs and sent everyone home a week before the official lockdown, allowing many young people working in cramped flats in London to get home to family where they had a better working and living environment.


If you were a fly on the wall…you would see their leader now working from home. This leader has maintained disciplines that they know support their performance…time with their business coach and conversations with mentors.  They leverage their networks and have the resilience to manage a heavy workload.  This leader agrees on clear plans with their direct reports…then lets them get on with it! No micromanagement.  They have however stepped up their remote coaching…you will observe that every Direct Report has regular 1-1 coaching with this leader (and that pattern persists throughout the organisation); it’s embedded in the culture and has been for some while – only difference is it’s now all remote. The coaching investment reaps returns because it develops the team, which in turn allows this leader the space needed for clarity of thought and quality decision making. The leader is perfectly comfortable with their accountability and the teams hold themselves accountable too…there are high levels of collaboration and productivity. This leader is humble, open and supportive. This is a post Covid leader…a leader for the 21st century with a high performing team who are able to withstand today’s adversarial conditions and have the determination and energy to achieve their goals.  This is also a true story.


So, how can the workplace of tomorrow work with rather than against the human system?


To answer that, let’s start by looking at impact certain key chemicals have on our performance.  Pre-Covid most of us were operating far to the right of this Building Performance Grid.


High Cortisol levels impair individual and corporate performance. If ‘corporate cortisol’ levels are too high, decisions are made in a ‘catabolic’ state and can be damaging to the business. High DHEA, a pre-cursor of Testosterone in men and Oestrogen in women, underpins great performance. DHEA is taken as a supplement by some people as a performance enhancer, however it is a banned substance at the Olympics. We can create in naturally every day by using PI techniques. 


Most of us are aware of the activation scale between adrenalin and acetylcholine but how we are activated is what really matters and this is represented by the DHEA - Cortisol scale - which measures underlying ‘state’.


In PI we focus regularly on the basic building blocks of breath and posture because these fundamental techniques bring you to the centre of the grid. In order to spend more time on the left of the graph there are a range of other techniques as well introduced during a complete programme.


Moving towards the left on this grid occurs when we can skilfully influence our chemical cocktail, and this can be a transformational shift for many people. Look at the impact on the high performance chemistry of individuals and organisations….when we spend time on the cortisol part of the graph. The first step to a PI organisation and the scenarios above is boosting DHEA. This is game changing.


A Strong organization is one where everyone has the fortitude to make quick decisions with confidence, keep a cool head under pressure, and act and speak decisively and wisely in complex, high-risk situations without threatening others or feeling threatened. Strength means creating cultures without fear, where people are able to hold their ground because great ideas don’t get shouted down, which positions those organisations to drive innovative change.

Scientific research supports the power of paced breathing techniques, enhancing cognitive function for a group of bankers by 62% after 3 weeks of dedicated practice.

We also know that an open and expansive body posture improves our confidence and risk tolerance.

Imagine a culture that puts Flexibility first, and actively trains people to be creative, innovative, and collaborative, embracing change, and adapting quickly…demonstrating agile thinking in what has become and will continue to be an ever-changing environment, encouraging a combination of convergent and divergent thinking, often while operating seemingly at the speed of light! 

For example:Let me share some impressive research on the impact of movement (walking and spontaneous movement) on innovative thinking acollaboration and purpose has an enormous impact across the entire organization.

Resilience is all about our ability to recover quickly from adversity and conflict – physically, mentally, and emotionally – remaining optimistic and constructive, adopting a learning mindset, and supporting and inspiring team members, while putting practices in place that will protect us against burnout and building teams where we are all committed to looking our for signs of burnout in others.

There are plenty of theories about change, but only if people approach change in a physically intelligent way can they learn to let go and bounce back quickly and with practice, do so with minimal effort.

As we move forward it is going to be essential that the majority of people can genuinely sustain effort over the long haul, without losing their passion and motivation. Endurance is important because while in some places, restrictions are lessening, the crisis is far from over.  This pandemic will have a long tail as we navigate economic challenges, operational challenges, market challenges and more.  People will need the resources to sustain that effort.

Research shows us that core strength and firming our muscles improve will power and emotional and mental endurance. That doesn’t mean we train people to be body builders.  It is the case that muscle use is a huge generator or power and positivity.

And if we want to be focused and fired up, we need to narrow our attention on the goal and if we do that, it appears more attainable.

In addition…over 100 studies show that physical movement improves our intelligence, including IQ levels and task efficiency. (slide with multiple studies animating in)


We believe that Physical Intelligence is vitally important for the development of every man, woman and child across the globe and that the sooner organisations realise the benefits and begin to provide this level of development, the sooner they will also benefit in terms of business outcomes. Based on the neuroscience that supports what we teach, as well as the measurable business results Companies in Motion has helped our clients achieve, it is clear that Physical Intelligence doesn’t just sit alongside but underpins our cognitive and emotional intelligence. The more Physically Intelligent we are, the more successful we and our teams will be in ways that drive business results. We describe it as THE human intelligence for the 21st century.


Our best-selling book contains 80 techniques some organisations start by providing this for their employees. It’s a small token but small tokens mean a lot. It’s available on Amazon, or we can order in bulk at a reduced rate for you from our publishers.

  • Podcasts: For the COVID-19 crisis we have recorded a series of five podcasts that you can buy for your teams, for around £2000 and for PIMFA members we’ll give you the first one on resilience at no cost.

  • VILT (Virtual Instructor Led Training) – If you want your people to learn more actively, we have developed virtual instructor-led training.  Many companies are choosing this option as a way to engage their people more actively, introducing them to Physical Intelligence whilst they are working from home. The Virtual Instructor-led sessions can be short 45-60 minute sessions that give people a handful of techniques they can apply right away.  Others provide a more in-depth introduction to Physical Intelligence with a webinar series that includes combination of theory as well as techniques they can immediately apply.

  • We are also speaking at many virtual conferences about this important topic.


…which means that creating a physically intelligent organization is far easier than you might have thought when you signed up for this talk.  It simply requires prioritizing your human beings.


If we provide enhanced training in personal performance for everyone, and understand that where people grow, business grows, then we can hold our heads up high and say, ‘yes, people are truly developing, being nourished and we’re growing the only source of vitality in the organization, the people.


Only if we invest in the personal performance of people now, today, this year, and let them know we genuinely want them to thrive, and will support them in doing so, will we be able to take the lead in creating the new, agile business cultures of the future, positioning ourselves to be the business success stories that emerge from COVID 19, built on the flesh and bone, bodies and brains, hearts and minds of the people within our organisations.


We would welcome the opportunity to guide you in implementing a more robust solution to caring for your human beings.  We wish you an endless supply of strength, flexibility, resilience and endurance and wish you all well as you continue your personal journey through this crisis and beyond.

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