Welcome to the Brain for Business, Brain for Life Podcast

The Brain for Business, Brain for Life podcast takes the lessons from evidence-based academic research in the brain and behavioural sciences – neuroscience, psychology, behavioural economics and more – and brings them to life for a business and organisational audience.

Over the series we will speak to a range of neuroscientists, psychologists, behavioural economists, researchers and organisational practitioners, and look at some of the key aspects of human behaviour relevant to business and management practice.  In so doing, we will seek to understand not just the what but also the how and the why – and how it can be done differently

Our overall goal? To build a bridge from research into the brain and behavioural sciences to practical, everyday insights and to help leaders at all levels within organisations enhance their effectiveness and the effectiveness by providing timely and relevant insights.

For regular updates follow us on Twitter – @brainforbiz

Episode 1: Are cognitive bias, learning and leadership a natural fit?


In this episode I speak to neuroscientist Professor Shane O’Mara of Trinity College Dublin and look at some of key issues related to cognitive bias, learning and organisations.

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research (Personal Chair) at Trinity College, Dublin – the University of Dublin. He is a Principal Investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and also the brain systems affected by stress and depression, and he has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.

Professor O’Mara is a graduate of the National University of Ireland – Galway, and of the University of Oxford (DPhil). He is an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (USA), and an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Professor O’Mara’s new book is  ‘In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration’ (WW Norton, 2020). He loves to walk wherever and whenever he can, with walking in cities a firm favourite. He particularly wants to see urban design incorporate ease of walking and movement for all into our daily lives.




In this episode we are joined by Anna Connolly, management consultant and Chair of the Psychological Society of  Ireland’s Division of Work & Organisation Psychology  and ask: what really is the big deal with “evidence-based management”?

Anna Connolly is a Chartered Work and Organisational Psychologist and founder of Work Frontiers, a Business Psychology consultancy. Work Frontiers applies the science of human behaviour to help people thrive in the workplace. Anna uses coaching, learning solutions, and organisational design to improve team performance, develop leaders and  facilitate change. Anna has 13 years management experience in the ICT industry with Ericsson and is the current Chair of the Division of Work and Organisational Psychology in Ireland.

Anna can be contacted at: anna@workfrontiers.ie





In this episode we are joined by psychologist Dr Zoe Walkington to consider whether we – as humans – find stories more convincing, and if so why this might be the case.  Along the way, Zoe shares insights into the power of Harry Potter and the joys of  reading novels, and even lets us in on her secret crush!

Dr Zoë Walkington is Senior Lecturer in School of Psychology and Counselling and Deputy Director for Learning in the Centre for Policing Research and Learning, both at The Open University.

One of Zoe’s key areas of research interest is stories or narratives, and there are two main strands to this research. First, in terms of the impacts that reading can have on individuals psychologically (for example, how reading initiatives can help with the development of empathy). Second, how story can be used to ‘create’ or inform individuals identity.

Beyond that, much of Zoe’s work focuses on Forensic Psychology and related areas and she regularly provides training to detectives on the psychology of suspect interviewing.



Being an entrepreneur is challenging at the best of times and statistics show that many startups fail. This situation is all the more difficult for women seeking to develop startups and new business ventures as for women to be successful entrepreneurs they need incredible resilience, motivation and the right mindset, and must grapple with systemic bias and perceptions of gender roles.

In this episode I speak to Professor Colette Henry of Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Ireland, and UiT-The Arctic University of Norway, to explore the challenge and opportunity of women’s entrepreneurship.

Professor Colette Henry, MBA, PhD, FRSA, FAcSS is Head of Department of Business Studies at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Ireland, and Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at UiT-The Arctic University of Norway. Her previous roles include Norbrook Professor of Business & Enterprise at the Royal Veterinary College, London, and President of the Institute for Small Business & Entrepreneurship (ISBE). Colette is the founder and Editor of the CABS-listed International Journal of Gender & Entrepreneurship (IJGE). She has published 14 books and over 50 journal articles in the areas of entrepreneurship education & training, women’s enterprise, social enterprise, creative industries and veterinary business. She is a Visiting Fellow at CIMR, Birkbeck, London, and holds fellowships of the Royal Society and the Institute for Small Business & Entrepreneurship. In 2015, Colette was awarded the Diana International Research Trailblazer award for her work on female entrepreneurship. In 2017, she was honoured with the Sten K Johnson European Entrepreneurship Education Award (the only Irish recipient to date), and in 2018, was awarded a fellowship of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences.



We all know that walking can help keep us physically fit, but what about the cognitive and psychological benefits?  In this episode we speak to Dr Eric Soehngen, cardiologist and CEO of Walkolution to find out why walking is good for your heart and your mind

Eric Söhngen, M.D. is the founder and CEO of Germany-based treadmill desk manufacturer Walkolution. He is a board-certified senior medical doctor and holds a PhD in stem cell physiology. He is the author of the book “Death by Sitting – Why we need a movement revolution.”  As a mountaineer, he enjoys movement outside the office on the high mountains of our world.

Find out more at www.walkolution.com



What will the future hold for cities, work and mobility?  Will the car continue to dominate the urban landscape or are new ways of doing things possible?  And if new ways are possible, what will that mean for the way we live and work?

In this episode of the Brain for Business, Brain for Life podcast we talk to Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, Chief Visionary Officer of Piaggio Fast Forward and discuss how new forms of mobility will change the way we live and work.

About Jeffrey…

Founder/faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Jeffrey Schnapp holds the Pescosolido Chair in Romance Literatures and Comparative Literature, and is on the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. His most recent books include The Electric Information Age Book([Princeton Architectural Press 2012]); The Library Beyond the Book (Harvard University Press 2014), a publication co-authored with Matthew Battles that explores future scenarios for libraries in the digital age; Digital Humanities (Egea 2015), an essay on cultural heritage management issues recently published in Italian in the Meet the Media Guru series; Forthcoming in late 2016 is an extended essay on mobility and the 130 year history of the Piaggio Group, entitled FuturPiaggio (Rizzoli). He is the editor of the metaLABprojects series with MIT Press.

After three years of service as co-founder and CEO at Piaggio Fast Forward, Schnapp assumed the new position of Chief Visionary Officer effective June 2018. Piaggio Fast Forward is a subsidiary of the Milan-based Piaggio Group, known throughout the world for iconic vehicles like the Vespa and iconic brands like Aprilia and Moto Guzzi. Piaggio Fast Forward’s first generation of robotic vehicles has received worldwide coverage on television, radio, and the www. Its mobile-carrier gita has also won numerous design and engineering awards, including selection as one of the 2018 Beazley Best Designs of the Year at the Design Museum (London) and a 2020 Red Dot award for “Best of the Best” in innovative new products. gita was launched on the US market in late 2019 and is undergoing further testing at the UK’s UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University.

For more information visit https://mygita.com/



Do uncertain times call for different approaches to decision making? In this episode of the Brain for Business, Brain for Life podcast we speak to Professor Mark Fenton-O’Creevy of the Open University Business School and explore aspects of decision making under conditions of radical uncertainty.

Mark Fenton-O’Creevy is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at The Open University Business School . He is an educator, researcher and consultant with three current primary areas of interest.

1) He studies how managers and professionals make decisions in conditions of deep uncertainty. This includes a long standing interest in the work, behaviour and performance of professional traders. and the role of emotion in financial decision-making for traders, investors and everyday financial decision making.

2) He studies the ways in which business and management practices develop and are transformed or corrupted within businesses and organisations. Particular interests include the transfer of HR practices between different national settings and the professional practices of traders in investment banks.

3) He has a profound interest in the relationship between formal and informal learning. He spent five years running a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning the Centre for Practice-Based Professional Learning (http://cetl.open.ac.uk). His book on “Learning in Landscapes of Practice” with Etienne Wenger-Trayner, Beverly Wenger-Trayner, Chris Kubiak and Steve Hutchinson, builds on Etienne’s prior work on communities of practice and the work of the OU centre for Practice-Based Professional Learning.

He acts as a consultant to a range of organisations with a particular focus on change management and international HR management and on supporting and improving decision-making processes.

Mark has acted as an academic advisor to a range of BBC documentaries: The Money Programme; ‘Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS’; ‘The Love of Money’; Escape from the Boardroom; and (with Adrian Furnham) created the ‘Big Money Test for the BBC’s LabUK and the Watchdog programme, and ‘Right on the Money’.

Specialties: Practice-Based Learning, Pedagogy, Distance Learning, International Management, Financial Trading, Investment Psychology, Management of Change
Mark blogs regularly at https://emotionalfinance.net/

Episode 8: Rethinking Organisational Change


When leaders think of organisational change they almost inevitably think of linear models of change and human behaviour. Yet as Jo Kearney, Leader of Learning Strategy for Facebook Global Operations by drawing on new approaches such as Organizational Network Analysis, more effective ways of leading and implementing change are possible.

Jo Kearney leads learning strategy and change for Facebook’s global operations. Prior to this, Jo was responsible for internal and client talent and change transformations for Accenture for over 15 years in a global capacity.

Jo has over 15 years’ experience in leading strategic change and people-related research and projects across various industries including the high tech, luxury retail and government sectors. Jo has led over 30 global people projects, working extensively across Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the USA. She has acted in a leadership and learning advisory capacity to senior public and private sector officials.
Jo has also guest-lectured in learning, organizational innovation and agile change across academic institutions as well as acting as a regular speaker and facilitator in numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Jo sits on the board of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy and is a certified Gallup faculty and positive psychology coach. Jo is also pursuing further studies in Organizational Psychology at Harvard University. Jo is passionate about the power of storytelling, design thinking and harnessing networks for organizational change. Jo is also a qualified nutritional coach and interested in all aspects of nutrition as medicine.

Episode 9: What is the value and impact of behavioural research for business and organisations?


The Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on consumer behaviour but what will this mean longer term?

In this episode I am joined by Claire O’Rourke, Research Lead at Dentsu Consult in Dublin to examine how behavioural research can help businesses and leaders understand key market trends and, as a consequence, better connect with their clients and customers.

Claire O’Rourke is an experienced dual researcher with qualitative and quantitative research experience and a background in psychology. She has worked with a range of public and private sector clients and always seeks to explore the motivations and triggers, to look at predicting rather than just describing behaviour. Claire was previously an Associate Director in Amárach Research and is a published researcher with peer-reviewed publications in numerous academic journals.

Episode 10: How do we deal with biases? And what do they mean for us?


We hear alot about bias and biases, but how do we and should we deal with them? And what do they mean for us – both as individuals and leader?

In this – our 10th episode – I am joined again by neuroscientist Professor Shane O’Mara of Trinity College Dublin to further explore some of the implications of cognitive biases for leaders

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research (Personal Chair) at Trinity College, Dublin – the University of Dublin. He is a Principal Investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and also the brain systems affected by stress and depression, and he has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.

Professor O’Mara is a graduate of the National University of Ireland – Galway, and of the University of Oxford (DPhil). He is an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (USA), and an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Professor O’Mara’s new book is ‘In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration’ (WW Norton, 2020). He loves to walk wherever and whenever he can, with walking in cities a firm favourite. He particularly wants to see urban design incorporate ease of walking and movement for all into our daily lives.


Episode 11: Is exercise really so good for the brain?


In this episode we speak to eminent psychiatrist and physician, Professor John Ratey of Harvard Medical School to discuss his decades-long research into the cognitive and psychological benefits of exercise for people of all ages.

Professor Ratey is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an internationally recognized expert in Neuropsychiatry. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, and 11 books published in 17 languages, including the groundbreaking ADD-ADHD “Driven to Distraction” series with Ned Hallowell, MD.

With the publication of “Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” Professor Ratey established himself as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain-fitness connection, something he has continued with his more recent book Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization: Eat Fat, Run Free, Be Social, and Follow Evolution’s Other Rules for Total Health and Well-Being.

Keep up to date with Professor Ratey’s research on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnRateyMD

Episode 12: What really motivates us to buy local?


In this episode we speak to Professor Barry Quinn of Ulster University Business School and explore the motivations for our buying decisions. In particular, we examine some of the key drivers that lead us to buy local when the online options can be so appealing. Barry Quinn is Professor of Retail Marketing at the Ulster University Business School. His areas of expertise include SME growth and innovation in various sectors, including food and retail. He has published widely in journals such as Journal of Rural Studies, Journal of International Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, International Marketing Review, and European Journal of Marketing. He has worked closely with SMEs on several European projects that have looked at policy support and business development needs.

Episode 13: Why accents matter… particularly when it comes to the court room.


While we might like to think that all accents are regarded equally, this is far from the case. Research has found that even in supposedly neutral and objective settings such as court rooms, accents can play a crucial role in defining our understanding of and engagement with a person with significant impacts on the outcome of criminal proceedings.

Dr Lara Frumkin is a Senior Lecturer at The Open University’s School of Psychology. She is a chartered psychologist, fellow of the Higher Education Academy, associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and international affiliate of the American Psychological Association. She has previously worked in government and non-profit organisations as well as in academia. After receiving her academic training, Dr Frumkin worked at the American Psychological Association, focusing on policy and informing the public about psychological research and practice. She subsequently worked at the US Department of Justice linking psychology to relevant aspects of justice, national security and crime.   

A community and social psychologist by background Dr Frumkin’s current research is centred around applying psychological principles to law enforcement and security services. This includes detecting deception, the impact of extralegal factors on case outcome, how lawyers prepare and interact with clients with mental health difficulties, and community responses to terrorism and extremism. More recently, Dr Frumkin has started to look at the role of human interaction on cybersecurity.



In a recent article in The Conversation, Professor John Quiggin of the University of Queensland asserted that the Covid-19 pandemic might just have helped us to stumble on the biggest productivity increase of the century? But is this really the case? And if so, what are the longer term implications for societies, most particularly when the threat of the pandemic recedes?

John Quiggin is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and a Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.  His work has been acknowledged globally, and in October 2020 Professor Quiggin was named the 20th most influential economist in the world.

A prolific author and blogger, Professor Quiggin’s most recent book, Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly, was published by Princeton University Press in April 2019.  Professor Quiggin blogs regularly at https://johnquiggin.com/

The original article in The Conversation is available here: https://theconversation.com/have-we-just-stumbled-on-the-biggest-productivity-increase-of-the-century-145104

Episode 15: How can we take a more evidence-based approach to Learning & Development?


With resources stretched and organisations under more pressure than ever, the need for Learning & Development interventions to have the greatest possible impact and relevance has gained greater importance. So what does the evidence say?
In this episode we are joined by Professor Claire Gubbins of Dublin City University to discuss how practitioners can draw on the research and evidence in order to take a more evidence-based approach to Learning & Development.

Professor Claire Gubbins is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour & HRM at Dublin City University and director of DCU’s Executive MBA Programme. She is an Associate Editor for Human Resource Development Quarterly and Deputy Director of the LINK Research Institute (Knowledge and Learning).

Claire is a Member of the CIPD, the US Academy of Management, the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) and the University Forum for HRD (UFHRD). She also works closely with the Irish Institute of Training & Development on a number of research projects.

Awards for her work are numerous and include a Fulbright Scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University.

Professor Gubbin’s latest book – Learning & Development in Organisations: Strategy, evidence and practice – is available now and is published in association with the Irish Institute of Training and Development: http://www.successstore.com/sampler-learning-development-in-organisations.html

Our theme song, La La La song (Electronic beat time and dream sequence) by Lorenzo’s Music is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike License.