A Mind for Profit

The fantastic discoveries of neuroscience transform our understanding of how the mind works, and the very nature of the world we live and work in.  But I’d be willing to bet that there aren’t many people in business right now that care. The struggle for financial survival leaves little bandwidth for anything else.

In this blog, I’m going to demonstrate why managers should care, because the hard data of science can teach them how to improve performance.  For example, Jonah Lehrer’s latest book (http://www.jonahlehrer.com/) draws on brain research to present an airtight case against the objective thinking prized in the business world, and to demonstrate how paying attention to our feelings leads to better financial decisions.

While much of what we’re learning challenges our common sense, it also supports some of our most strongly held beliefs, providing scientific justification for doing the right thing.  In a recent post, Roy Spence and Haley Rushing (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roy-spence-and-haley-rushing) argue for business to be purpose driven.  They write, “Business leaders today need to get over the belief that principles and profit can’t exist in harmony with one another.”

That’s a hard case to make to a manager whose lackluster financial results are jeopardizing her job.  But brain science’s discovery of mirror neurons proves that integrity is profitable.  The brain cells of both our customers and employees mirror the intent behind our actions.  They’re quick to pick up on our character and will imitate our state of mind.

When we act with integrity, they will too.  There’s plenty of data demonstrating that customers are more eager to buy when they trust the character of salespeople, and the performance of employees increases when they believe in the values of their leaders. Both revenue and productivity increase.

While Spence and Rushing believe “history will show” their argument is right, that’s not enough to convince managers to change.  But improvement in objective measures of performance is.

The view of the world brain science gives us is often counterintuitive and yet at times reassuring. But because it teaches us to get results, it’s always going to be profitable.


  1. Sara Miller  |  May 22nd, 2009

    Dear Mr. Jacobs,
    Thank you for writing this blog. I greatly appreciate your contribution of studied reason and moving story to make a change in our thinking of how we “manage” and motivate people. Count me in to help spread the good word, and to stay tuned.
    My best regards,
    Sara Miller

Leave a Comment