Friday, December 16, 2016

Project Management on the Brain

By Wanda L. Curlee

Could neuroscience be the next big thing for the project management profession?

Today, there are many theories about leadership, management, and psychology, yet, no one is quite certain how the brain works in concert with these theories—or even if it does.

In the pursuit of more information, neuroscience—including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) —is being used to study what the brain activity of business-minded individual’s looks like during thought and during motion. (This technology can map new neural pathways as they are created—pathways that can be created until death.)
Already this scientific field is creating new fields of study across the business landscape. Neuroeconomics, for example, is “the application of neuroscientific methods to analyze and understand economically relevant behavior such as evaluating decisions, categorizing risks and rewards, and interactions among economic agents,” according to Dr. Zainal Ariffin Ahmad, a professor in the Business Research for Applied Innovations in Neurosciences (BRAIN) Lab at the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Graduate School of Business.

With portfolio management still in its infancy, neuroleadership and neurogovernance could potentially assist portfolio managers. By extracting knowledge from the sciences of neuroleadership and neurogovernance, PMI could differentiate itself and its body of knowledge from the various other project management associations and standards.

By using cutting-edge knowledge about how the human brain works to help create standards, PMI could move project management closer to a profession such as medicine. When the standards of the profession are based on empirical scientific knowledge, rather than good practices done on most projects most of the time, project management could become even more science than art.

What do you think? Can and should neuroscience be part of the future of project management?

Originally published on PMI's

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Neuroscience is pushing the boundaries of business. Did you know that this has actually created new fields? Before we go there, let's get on the same page. Neuroscience is the study of the brain. While psychology is the study of the mind. With today's technology, it is possible to see the brains pathways as we do different things and the way we think about it. In other words, we can link the brain to the mind. Almost sounds like science fiction, but it is not.

Because we are learning more about the brain and how the mind works within the brain there are several progressive business areas that are creating fields combining the brain with business. There is neuroeconomics, neuroaccounting, neuromarketing, neuroethics, etc. But by far the two that are most interesting to me are neurogovernance and neuroleadership. To further understand these linkages between business and the brain click on nueroleadership to go to the article with descriptions.

Governance and leadership are two fields that are integral to project management and more specifically to portfolio management. The C-suite continues to be frustrated by the inability of its employees to implement the company's strategy. There are some within the C-suite that attribute this to employees not having the correct skills or just being inept. Others blame it on the lack of leadership from senior management.

As a professor who teaches leadership, I am constantly baffled as to why those in academic research cannot agree on a comprehensive definition of leadership or the various theories of leadership. There is Machiavellian (rejected by most), transformational, transactional, servant, etc.

If there was a better understanding of how the brain works with governance and leadership the effectiveness of portfolio management would increase. The Portfolio Manager would have a better understanding of how the brain works in this field. This would enhance the portfolio managers ability to create information that would be understood by the C-suite, program and project managers and team members. Today, the portfolio manager needs to move beyond charts and roadmaps and create something the brain truly understands.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) should take heed on the linkage between neuroscience and business. Maybe some research should be funded by PMI in this field.