Can Brains Manage?

Mark P Healey, Gerard P Hodgkinson, Sebastiano Massaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In response to recent calls to better understand the brain’s role in organizational behavior, we propose a series of theoretical tests to examine the question ‘can brains manage?’ Our tests ask whether brains can manage without bodies and without extra-cranial resources, whether they can manage in social isolation, and whether brains are the ultimate controllers of organizational behavior. Our analysis shows that, to accomplish cognitive tasks in organizations, the brain relies on the body, interpersonal and social processes, and cognitive processes that are distributed across external technologies and artefacts. The results of our tests also suggest that the brain is more appropriately conceived as a regulatory organ that integrates top-down (i.e., social, artefactual and environmental) and bottom-up (i.e., neuronal) influences on organizational behavior, rather than the primal cause of that behavior. Drawing on a socially situated view of cognition in organizations, our analysis supports a framework that connects brain, body and mind to social, cultural, and environmental forces, as significant components of complex cognitive systems. We discuss the implications for the emerging subfield of organizational neuroscience and for conceptualizing the brain’s role in organizational behavior more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14005
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Can Brains Manage?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this