3 ways for leaders to use Neuroscience for organisational success

Yesterday I caught myself looking out the window daydreaming I was being chased by a cup and saucer. Crazy? Thankfully new findings from Neuroscience say its all part of being a creative genius. Phew.

The following blog is written by Shane Sibley, who has worked for the past 15 years developing others in organisational situations.



I attended a CIPD meeting last night and the subject was ‘How Neuroscience is influencing Coaching’. It was interesting to hear how research into brain functions has identified four specific networks that describe how the brain works:

Default network:

This is present when you are not focussed on tasks and you detach yourself from external stimuli (e.g. daydreaming or allowing time just to be creative with your thoughts for no particular purpose)

Control network:

This regulates other networks, it helps us manage and achieve our goals, it is the opposite to default. (e.g. time management, reporting and goal setting structures we put in place)

Reward network:

This is sparked by pleasure, material and immaterial rewards (e.g. I feel good because my manager praised me publicly)

Affect network:

This is activated when our environment effects our physiology which the network then translates into emotions (e.g. when I see my wife, I blush). It also hardwires emotional responses based on previous experiences.

 Although most people intuitively know we have these kind of psychological responses, the question at the essence of the talk was:


“How can this knowledge influence the business environment?”


1) Dare to dream

To produce a rounded performance from an individual, we need to stimulate all four networks in the brain… and this includes the default network. 

The challenges are, how do you convince leaders that giving people time to dream or not focus on tasks has an ROI? 

If you can convince that the “Default network” has value, you automatically turn off control and that is where we normally sit to achieve goals. Leaders may be concerned performance may diminish. 

In this increasingly productive, time efficient, business environment in which we operate like machines, having faith in Neuroscience, and allowing time to dream could be the critical component for success.


2) Understand what stimulates the reward network

Reward is relative to our perception. 

Bankers believe they should be paid huge bonuses. Ifyou are only earning minimum wage this seems outrageous.

The perception of both is driven by their environment: bankers are surrounded by billions every day and this becomes their reality whereas people on minimum wage cannot conceive what this looks like. 

As leaders it is being able to understand what stimulates the reward network within your individual team members. If you continually put a team member down you not only turn off the reward network, you also create a negative emotive response within their affect network and this will and can knock the individuals confidence and belief in themselves.

At school one of my teachers told me continually I was no good at music, the result I have always believed I am no good and have never tried to express myself musically.


3) Stimulate all four networks

Don’t fall into the trap of solely focusing on control. To get the best from any individual you need to develop an environment where all four networks can be revealed.

The results will be an improved performance and the opportunity for organisations is potentially great

Demonstrating this to leaders, or allowing yourself the opportunity to change, is the barrier you need to overcome.      

Have a great week!


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