Better RFP Responses & Management
Structural Plasticity

Structural Plasticity

Have you heard about brain/neuroplasticity?

There are two types of neuroplasticity, including:

    • Functional plasticity: The brain’s ability to move functions from a damaged area of the brain to other undamaged areas
    • Structural plasticity: The brain’s ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning
      Very Well Mind: How Experience Changes the Brain

So this plasticity/malleability is a good/bad news thing.

It seems our brains do learn from making mistakes:
They learn how to make them.
– Big Think (longer extract below)

Oops. I hate it when that happens.

Habits can be good or bad. That’s something to consider with respect to our proposal processes. If we’re not getting what we want, if we can clearly see that we’re making the same mistake again and again . . .

  • Bidding on projects that are too big for us
  • Over-complying and over-pricing
  • Failing to set and enforce quality and style standards
  • Implementing late-to-need editorial reviews
  • Scheduling our Red Team too late in the process
  • Making the costing completely obscure
  • Scrambling like crazy at the last minute

. . . then we should stop. And then we should deliberately do something different, over-riding our ingrained habits. We should change our team structure or our processes (or both). We should learn how not to make that mistake.

I used to tell teams that my aim was to fall into better-quality holes each time. Hahaha. But the neuroscience says it’s not quite as silly as it sounds.


It has to do with neural pathways that get created as we do things. When we do something right, a pathway is created. Unfortunately, a pathway is also created when we something wrong. We basically build habits this way, both good and bad. So the reason we keep making the same mistakes is that we slip by default back into existing neural pathways.

It’s the same phenomenon that means you can only get somewhere by getting lost the same way you did last time, or that you keep putting things down in the same spot until they seem to be lost when in fact they’re just underneath the most recent thing you put down.

More significantly, this happens with bigger screwups, like being attracted to the wrong kind of person or other misguided decisions you habitually make. It seems our brains do learn from making mistakes: They learn how to make them.

Big Think