Print This Post Print This Post

Is the Brain-worship that we see nowadays in our business arena the new Psychoanalysis? Is the Neuro-explanation of everything, from leadership to marketing a good thing? Neuro-leadersip, Neuro-marketing and Neuro-economics, for example, have landed. They are becoming part of a normal vocabulary. Should we have a view?

Let me address this in 5 parts, one each day, not a pattern that I normally use in this Daily Thoughts, but one that is required for this topic.

But let me start with a personal story. I was a medical student in the early 70s, and I got my qualifications when I was 21. Spain was in pre-democratic turmoil, and the Universities were a fantastic ‘plaza’. ‘Occupy’ movements, such us the modern Occupy Wall Street, had not been invented, but, if they had, it would have been in the form of a reverse occupation: the police seemed to live permanently within our campuses.

The Faculty of Medicine of Barcelona was not an exception. Weak, or politically correct Deans, had consistently allowed the police to enter the long corridors of our big, old building. The police seemed to enjoy beating anybody wandering inside, whether the ones shouting ‘democracy’ or the ones asking each other, ‘what’s the next lesson and what classroom?’ It was surreal.

I was rescued more than once by friendly janitors, who knew me well as somebody who had set semi permanent camp in the Department of Psychiatry, and who dragged me into a Lab of some sort seconds before a stampede of white coats appeared followed by another one of people in grey uniforms.

On one special occasion that I have remembered since, I found myself in the safe space of a lecture theatre where the Spanish brain guru of the time, José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, had been invited to give a lecture. Rodriguez Delgado was a professor in Yale, and was recognised as a maverick of the brain. From his multiple ‘experiments’ and innovations, the best known was the implantation of electrodes in animals as a way to control their behaviour. And from these series, the one with most publicity was the professor himself in front of a bull (with electrodes) running towards him in full attack mode. With a remote control, Rodriguez Delgado, could stop the bull just a meter in front of himself. The bull became as docile as a domestic cat at the pressing of a red bottom. Magic!

That day, he was showing us his slides with domesticated bulls, when we could hear a serious clash of students and police in the street. Some windows in the amphitheatre were open and we could sense a big problem outside, not the usual running in the corridors. Rodriguez Delgado must have seen our faces of anxiety, and the deviation of our eyes from the screen with bulls to the windows and the street noise. He stopped the lecture, and, very seriously, he said: ‘ If you are anxious and worried about what is going on, what you hear that is happening in the street, just think that that anxiety is not more than a blip, blip, blip in your hypothalamic area. That’s all it is’. And he continued with his slides.

That ‘blip, blip, blip’ explanation has stayed with me since. In fact, that was perhaps the first time that a Neuro-explanation of that kind was offered to me and, perhaps, the trigger for the antibodies I have now against reductionism of many forms and shapes, even the ones less grotesque than the blip explanation from the eminent Yale’s professor.

Tomorrow I will go back in history (quickly) and I will explain how our fascination evolved from the Mind to the Brain, how organization and business life have been fellow travellers of this captivation. And what it means for all of us.

Keep up with the Daily Thoughts

Twitter Email


  1. Pierre MORGON

    Dear Leandro,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. As a matter of fact, I have been approached by a “specialist” in neuro-marketing and the pivot of his pitch was that marketing should appeal to the reptilian brain of people, dealing with their fears…
    That pitch triggered a surge of antibodies in me, to the point that I feel I will never need any booster!
    Well, maybe except if there’s more to neuro-marketing in the future than such basic, ill-defined and undemonstrated concepts…
    I’ll be looking forward to reading your next blogs on that topic!
    All the best,

Would you like to comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To search my website, please use the form below.

  Daily Thoughts

September 27th, 2023

Redefining Talent Wealth

The war on talent McKinsey consultants started it with a book of the same title. By focusing on what it […]

September 8th, 2023

What I Learnt From The Monks: A Little Anthropology Of Leadership And Space On One Page

My friends, monks of a Benedictine monastery in the Highlands, Scotland, spend most of the time in silence. I mean, […]

August 23rd, 2023

Can We Rescue DEI From Its Trap (The Label)?

Most of the problems and challenges in organizations, together with most of the solutions, are behavioural in nature. It’s about […]

August 10th, 2023

Restructuring to force collaboration, is likely to create more anxiety than collaboration. Structural solutions for behavioural problems hardly work.

Sometimes restructuring is done with the intention of solving a collaboration problem. ´A people´ don’t talk to ´B people´; if […]

July 18th, 2023

The ‘Impossible To Disagree With’ School Of Management

‘Good leaders have empathy, respect employees and set the example. If you want to change things, you need to have […]

June 29th, 2023

Large scale change is not small scale change repeated many times. Small wins repeated are lots of small wins.

Large scale change, as a series of cascading small scale interventions (often under the philosophy of ‘small wins’) has dominated […]

June 6th, 2023

Culture change is not long and difficult. But we make it so…

I suppose the question is how long is long and how difficult is difficult? In general, business and organizational consulting have […]

May 19th, 2023

Value is an overused term in business and, as such, it’s becoming meaningless

Value, as usually used, means transactional monetary value. Usually it doesn’t mean intrinsic value, or value per se. For example, […]

May 4th, 2023

The importance of ‘critical thinking.’ Your own critical thinking is more effective at making your workplace better than any generic employee survey.

Build your own Employee Engagement argument for free. You can’t go wrong. Here are three baskets full of concepts: Basket […]

April 21st, 2023

´Busy-Ness’ Is A Trap

I went to a big conference where I was introduced by the chairman like this: “Welcome everybody. Lovely to have […]

April 14th, 2023

Training and culture change. The love affair that ends in tears.

It seems to be very hard for people to get away from the idea that if we just put individuals […]

April 11th, 2023

Teamocracies and Networkracies have different citizens: in-Habitants in team-work, riders in net-work

The old view of the organization is something close to the old concept of a medieval city, where citizenship was […]

April 5th, 2023

3 Ways To Get Approval From Your CEO Or Your Leadership Team

Way number 1: My team has developed these three options, A, B and C. Which one do you want us […]

March 29th, 2023

A Cheat Sheet To Create A Social Movement Tip = to shape organizational culture since both are the same.

Mobilizing people. This is another of the Holy Grails (how many have I said we have?) in management. Whether you […]

March 16th, 2023

Critical Thinking Self-Test: A 10 Point Health Check For Your Organization And Yourself. If any of these are a good picture of your organization, you need to put ‘critical thinking’ in the water supply.

Test yourself, and your organization. Do any of these apply? Doing lots, too fast without thinking. High adrenaline, not sure […]

March 9th, 2023

A culture of safety or a culture of training in safety?

Cultures are created by behaviours becoming the norm. Safety is at the core of many industries. Significant budgets are allocated […]

March 2nd, 2023

Empowerment is an output. If you can visualize it, you can craft it.

The real question is, what do you want to see happening so that you can say ‘people are empowered’? Employee […]

February 24th, 2023

A simple question will jumpstart your organization into change. It will also save you from months of pain spent reorganizing your people and teams.

The following line will short-cut months of (building) ‘alignment’, integration, reorganization, team building, coalition building, and any situation in which Peter, […]

February 20th, 2023

Lead Via Peer-To-Peer Networks – If you don’t lead via peer-to-peer networks, you’re only driving your car in first gear.

Peer-to-peer work, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is the […]

February 7th, 2023

Write a script, not a strategic plan

If you care about the journey and the place, you need a story. If you have a good, compelling one, […]

January 26th, 2023

3 self-sabotaging mechanisms in organizations

Organizations, like organisms, have embedded mechanisms of survival, of growth and also of self-sabotage. These are 3 self-sabotage systems to […]

January 10th, 2023

Who should be involved in culture change? All inclusive versus going where the energy is.

Many times, in my consulting work, I find myself facing a dilemma: Do I involve many people on the client’s […]

December 23rd, 2022

Tell what won’t change – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

In any change programme that any organization wants to start, they will start by thinking of the things that they […]

December 16th, 2022

Scale It – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

When creating effective change in any organization, there are 40 rules that, in my experience, are the key between success […]

December 5th, 2022

Assets & Strengths Base – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

For more than 30 years I have been involved in ‘change’ in organizations. Again and again, some fundamental principles, and often […]

November 25th, 2022

Campaign It… is 1 of my 40 rules of change

When you filter out the noise, when you try to extract the core, the fundamentals, those ‘universal rules’ of change […]

October 31st, 2022

Hybrid or not hybrid? That’s not the question…

Culture is the new workplace If you want to have a conversation about the future of work, the nature of […]

October 24th, 2022

‘Powered by Viral Change™’: A Social Transformation Platform for the organization of the 21st Century

When we started to work on Viral Change™, as a way to create large scale behavioural and cultural change, and […]

October 14th, 2022

Corporate tribes, intellectual ghettos and open window policies

We talk a lot about silos in organizations usually in the context of Business Units or divisions. But these are not […]

October 7th, 2022

Peer Networks are the strongest force of action inside the organization

Peer-to-peer works, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is […]