Does the brain matter in business?
Applied neuroscience can help organisational performance for the better
Posted May 29, 2017
(First in a series)
There is a huge interest in applying brain science in business at present. This is because neuroscience – the science of brain and behaviour - has emerged as one of the key and exciting sciences of the 21st century. Neuroscience explores the mechanisms that create you as a thinking, feeling and behaving individual, and of us, as humans.
Two good starting questions are:
1. Are there adaptive and practical insights from the behavioural and brain sciences to change business and business practice for the better?
2. More importantly, has progress been made that will allow us to apply such insights?
Happily, the answer to both questions is a resounding 'yes' and 'yes'!
The brain matters in business: without a brain, you have no business. The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. The brain is responsible for each of us being conscious, being able to think, feel and behave. The brain is also profoundly plastic, and can change for the better or worse as a result of experience.
Our brains have many biases, heuristics and predilections, and we know more about how to work with these than ever before. It is also true that behavior change is hard. Adopting tactics and strategies that are well-founded in the science of brain and behaviour can help individuals and organisations to adapt to the demands of the modern world.
Many conventional treatments of organisational life ignore aspects of human behaviour arising from the shared similarities of brain structure and function between individuals. Our starting point should be the simple reality that our behaviour arises from the structure and function of our brains. Modern brain research reflects this.
Neuroeconomics, for example, is emerging as an important discipline, as the sciences concerned with brain function, decision-making, and evolutionary psychology (particularly aspects of evolution concerned with altruism and altruistic behaviour) begin to merge in a common theoretical framework.
Social neuroscience is another important endeavour which seeks to understand how social behaviour is generated by the brain, and how the brain manages and is changed by social interaction.
Adopting tactics and strategies that are well-founded in the science of brain and behaviour can help individuals and organisations to adapt to the demands of the modern world.
My new book 'A Brain for Business - A Brain for Life' is available from June 2017. Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: A background scenario from organisational life. The scenario presented here is threaded through the other chapters, and provides a focus for thinking, and for the exercises associated with each chapter.
Chapter 2: Scene-setting, background information and tools for thinking
Chapter 3: Mindsets, Self-talk and Changing Behaviour: how the science of mindsets and of self-talk provides a potential route to allow individuals to control and change their behaviour.
Chapter 4: Self-regulation and Self-control: neural and behavioural mechanisms involved in the regulation of our behaviour over time, and how it is that we can exert self-control in a variety of different contexts.
Chapter 5: The Importance of Cognitive Biases: how we make reliable and systematic errors in our thinking, and how these systematic biases can affect the decisions that we make.
Chapter 6: Person Perception – How others see us, how we see leaders: how the mechanisms used for person perception and status determination are also the same mechanisms that are used for brand perception, and examines the consequences for leadership and organisational life.
Chapter 7: Working in Groups: how group deliberation and group decision-making occurs, and how to improve group deliberation mechanisms.
Chapter 8: Brain Hygiene, Optimising Expertise and Performance: how to ensure that best performance is achieved during the course of learning.
Chapter 9: Stress, Resilience and Positive Brain States: building resilience in the face of the stresses and strains in everyday life, including organisation life, and it also explores focuses providing the necessary conceptual scaffold required for creativity and for ensuring the sorts of changes in behaviour that may foster positive brain states.
Chapter 10: Gender, the brain and organisations: a brain’s-eye view of gender and focuses on behavioural design to achieve cognitive diversity.
Chapter 11: Concluding Scenario Analysis: an overall tying together of the lessons and discussions offered through the book.
Shane O'Mara (2017). A Brain for Business - A Brain for Life. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.