Organizational cognitive neuroscience – potential (non-) implications for practice

Michael J.R. Butler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to highlight the potential implications and non-implications for leadership and organization development of a recent systematic review of empirical developments in organizational cognitive neuroscience (OCN).

Design/methodology/approach: Butler et al.’s (2016) systematic review of 40 empirical articles related to OCN is re-interpreted in terms of its potential to reveal (non-) implications for practice. OCN is critically discussed, then related to the research findings from studies with two methodological designs.

Findings: At this stage of OCN’s emergence, it appears that neuroimaging and physiology-based research methods have equal potential in their implications for practice, though hormonal data poses ethical public interest dilemmas. Both methods cannot be reduced to specific forms of application to practice, but they set an aspirational direction for the future development of leadership and organizations.

Practical implications: There appear to be two paces of translational activity – practitioners are moving more quickly than academics in applying OCN to practice. It is suggested that a meeting of minds may be needed to ensure that any risks associated with applying OCN to practice are minimized or eliminated.

Social implications: Inter-disciplinary research, like OCN, requires a social consensus about how basic research in cognitive neuroscience can be applied to organizations. A think tank will provide opportunities for deeper engagement and co-production between academics and practitioners.

Originality/value: Critically exploring the potential implications of OCN for practice, by basing the discussion on a systematic review of empirical developments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-575
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership and Organization Development Journal
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2017


  • knowledge exchange
  • leadership
  • management
  • organization development
  • organizational cognitive neuroscience


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