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

Michael J.R. Butler (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




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).


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.


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.


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



Butler, M.J.R. (2017), "Organizational cognitive neuroscience – potential (non-) implications for practice", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 564-575.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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