The Brain as Substitute for Strategic Organization

Powell, Thomas C and Puccinelli, Nancy (2012) The Brain as Substitute for Strategic Organization. Strategic Organization, 10 (3). pp. 207-214.


Organizational scholars have begun to explore the links between cognitive neuroscience and strategic organization (Becker and Cropanzano, 2010; Powell, 2011; Senior et al., 2011). The jury is still out, but scholars seem to agree that brain science will enhance our understanding of individual and social cognition in organizations. A neglected fact about brain technologies is that they perform some of the same tasks as organizational ones. For example, people who have been taught about their own brain images have better behavioral self-control than people who have not. To the extent that the devices of strategic organization – formal structure, processes and incentives – are technologies for controlling individual behavior, brain technologies may offer an effective substitute for strategic organization. In the long run, we may see more brain science and less organization structure. Replacing organization structure with brain science may seem far-fetched and Orwellian, and it probably is – but then again, a lot of what goes on in organizations is like that. If we have learned anything from experience, it is that organizations have no aversions to fulfilling Orwellian prophecies, whether they involve bureaucracy, technology, psychological testing, or employee surveillance. Controlling individual behavior is something that organizations already do and the question is whether brain science can help them do it better.
In this essay, we explore whether it is feasible to replace some forms of strategic organization with brain technologies, focusing particularly on technologies for behavioral self-control. We do not go deeply into the moral implications of these technologies, though we are concerned about them. We focus on recent developments in cognitive neuroscience and take it as given that moral considerations rather than technical efficiency should govern the use of technologies, including those involving the human brain. Brain science has the potential to make our lives better or worse, and we hope that this essay stimulates debate on the use of brain science in organizations.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: brain science; strategic organization
Subject(s): Retail
Strategy; Entrepreneurship & Global business
Centre: Oxford Institute of Retail Management
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2013 09:20
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2017 15:27
Funders: N/A

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