DevOps Institute

Humans You Need to Know: Dr. Britt Andreatta

Human Aspects

By Helen Beal, DevOps Institute

In this blog series, our chief ambassador and self-proclaimed herder of humans, Helen Beal, writes about the humans she admires for the work they are doing to improve ways of working and our understanding of human behavior. Humanologists if you will.

Who’s the human?

Dr. Britt Andreatta is an author, researcher, consultant, and thought leader who deeply understands the human brain and what’s happening to it when we work. She’s all about helping people reach their full potential. She’s a gifted speaker – check out her TED Talk linked at the end of this post.

She was named one of the “Top 20 L&D Influencers” in 2020 and 2021 and Talent Development magazine featured her as an “outstanding thought leader and pioneer.” Britt has won several prestigious awards, such as the Global Training & Development Leadership Award from the World Training & Development Congress and the Gold Medal for Chief Learning Officer magazine’s annual Trailblazer award.

I know her primarily for her book ‘Wired to Resist’, in which she explains why changing organizations in the way we try to do when we undertake a digital or Agile/DevOps transformation is so difficult from the human perspective. It’s subtitled: “The brain science of why change fails and a new model for success.” Check out her talking about her change matrix here and how to measure change fatigue.

While Britt’s social presence doesn’t describe her as a serial entrepreneur, she has founded several organizations (that continue to thrive), advised startups, and has what has been described to me as a ‘blended portfolio career’ where she works several roles for several different organizations simultaneously. She has a lot of hats and she wears them all.

In addition to the kinship I feel with Britt around our shared interest in neuroscience, her dedication to mindfulness at work also aligns with my own. As founder and president of Soul School, she describes herself as “a spiritual being having a human experience.” Soul School combines neuroscience and mindfulness with spiritual teaching with the goal of bringing our highest selves to work and in the process, transforming the world one workplace at a time. Check out the Wheel of Wholeness.

What’s Britt’s story?

Britt graduated with a master’s in communication from the University of California Santa Barbara and went on to study for a Ph.D. in education, learning, and leadership. She was awarded her doctorate in 1998.

She remained at the university for a further nine and a half years as a director and then as assistant dean of students. During this time she designed and implemented courses for student success, mentoring, and retention as well as teaching and holding a faculty appointment in Education and Sociology.

Britt had a vibrant career in higher education, working at one of the top-ranked research universities in the world (University of California: Santa Barbara). While there she wrote books and developed front-edge programs that were adopted by colleges and universities around the world. 

From 2012-2016 Britt served as Chief Learning Officer at LinkedIn Learning (then Lynda). While since then she has started her own business, she continues to publish courses on the platform. She’s had over 10 million worldwide views.

In 2016, she founded 7th Mind, Inc, where she remains CEO. 7th Mind, Inc is all about helping organizations and people rise to their potential through leveraging brain science and evidence-based research.

Britt’s book on the neuroscience of change, ‘Wired to Resist,’ was published in 2017. As a DevOps coach and neuroscience hobbyist, I read it with great interest. DevOps is fundamentally about change; a change in working practices. I’d used this cartoon in many of my consulting engagements and it rang true. I’d seen organizations suffering change fatigue, I’d watched change agents’ enthusiasm withering in the face of resistance. I was puzzled by how data I collected said people’s appetite for change was high, but the reality seemed the opposite. It was hugely helpful to understand what Britt explained:

“Several structures in our brain are actually designed to protect us from the potentially harmful effects of change. Humans are wired to resist change and we are working against our biology at every turn. It’s well documented that every year 50 – 70% of change initiatives fail.”

In the book, Britt explains how to work with the brain, how to empower people to participate and address fear to make change land.

In 2018 Britt published ‘Wired to Connect’. We know that at the core of DevOps is collaboration and team working, but sometimes I don’t think we fully understand what this means. This book provides a new, neuroscience-based, understanding of how unconscious bias, inclusion, trust, and purpose impact teams and how you can create the necessary conditions for true collaboration and team excellence.

In 2019 Britt published the second edition of ‘Wired to Grow’. The book explains why our neurological design is for learning. This is great news for the DevOps industry where our success depends on our ability to help people unlearn old behaviors and learn new ways of thinking and working. Knowing how this works helps us address cultural debt and remodel businesses as dynamic learning organizations built to compete in a digitally disrupted world.

What does Britt like to do when she’s not working?

While not working, Britt enjoys spending time with her friends and family, including the furry ones. She also enjoys reading, biking, baking and fabric arts. 

What makes Britt a humanologist?

Britt’s background in leadership, neuroscience, psychology, and learning places her perfectly to unlock the best in people and organizations. Her primary interest is helping people rise to their potential. 

As a DevOps coach, I have found taking a science-based approach to understanding mental health and well-being and behavior incredibly useful in our technology-based industry when we can be mistrustful of or unpractised at talking about the soft, squishy stuff. Everything we are trying to do in DevOps boils down to making organizations highly adaptable and that requires significant change in all of the organizations I’ve had the privilege of working with. Fundamentally, the change we are looking for is in all of us, it’s human-based.

Find out more about this human:

Helen Beal is a DevOps and Ways of Working coach, Chief Ambassador at DevOps Institute and an ambassador for the Continuous Delivery Foundation. She provides strategic advisory services to DevOps industry leaders and is an analyst at Accelerated Strategies Group. She hosts the Day-to-Day DevOps webinar series for BrightTalk, speaks regularly on DevOps topics, is a DevOps editor for InfoQ and also writes for a number of other online platforms..

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