A Brain for Business, A Brain for Life - Ideas for Leaders

A Brain for Business, A Brain for Life

How Insights from Behavioural and Brain Science Can Change Business and Business Practices for the Better

About Author/s:

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research and a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator at Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include the brain systems supporting learning, memory and cognition; the brain systems affected by stress, depression and motivation; applying brain and behavioural science to organisations and business. He has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.


Advances in our understanding of how the brain affects our behaviour are continuing apace. Trying to align this new knowledge to benefit the way we work as individuals and as teams in organizations is the coming challenge for all leaders. Having a good working understanding of the biases, heuristics and predilections that distort our behaviours and decision-making is therefore important for anyone who want to lead people to produce better organizational performance. This is the second book in Palgrave's 'Neuroscience of Business' series.

Core Idea

Perhaps the best way to understand the brain is to forget its complexity and the wonder of what it can achieve, and focus in on the fact that we humans are just animals who have evolved and adapted to become the all-powerful species that we are today.

O'Mara builds on the foundational discoveries of recent years around neuroplasticity, our brains ability to continue adapting and changing, due to new experiences and reception of new knowledge throughout our lives. This functionality is what drives Dweck's 'growth mindset' ability.

Underlying this positivity though, are the biases, shortcuts (heuristics) and predilections we all adopt and suffer from. The majority of these played important roles when we lived less sophisticated and sedentary lives, but can actively work against us now. The author highlights many of these, the issues around working in groups, and why meetings go awry; the importance of walking (and indeed the benefits of walking meetings – avoiding imposed eye-contact as happens at a table, being just one positive here) for stimulating and maintaining a healthy brain; how our memory works and how to optimise learning.


O'Mara ranges far in this creditably short book. From setting out first principles of current neuroscience knowledge (and its limitations), to exploring how business can benefit from understanding our biases and behaviours better; to tweaks and actions we can take to improve our personal development. The book is fully, but not prohibitively, referenced, so readers can explore further if they wish.


  • Title: A Brain for Business, A Brain for Life: How Insights from Behavioural and Brain Science Can Change Business and Business Practices for the Better

    Author/s Name/s: Shane O'Mara

    Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

    ISBN: 978-3-319-49153-0

    Publishing Date: October 2017

    Number of Pages: 153

Author Knowledge Rating: 1-5 (based on their years of experience, academic expertise in subject areas, and exposure to cross-functional thinking in the area)

Readability: 1-5 score(1=dense and v academic; 5=frantic; page turner)

Appropriate Length: (1=could have been written in 25% of the length;5=could have been longer)

Core Idea Value: (1=nonsense (or entirely esoteric); 5=game-changer)