Reprogramming the Organisational Brain

The Centre for Applied Neuroscience in Business designs and delivers strategically focused Business Emulation technologies and services to help medium and large organisations transform their thinking and dramatically improve their financial performance through the use of highly specialized brain reprogramming techniques.


Our Business Emulation technologies have been applied to a wide range of industries, including Mining, Pharmaceuticals, Transportation, IT, Health Care, Education, Manufacturing, Unions, Engineering, Professional Services, Retail, Finance and new product introduction.


They have typically produced over 400% in performance improvement, increased client revenues by tens of millions to billions of dollars, and delivered the best ROI the company ever made.


How do we produce such colossal changes in performance and financial improvements in such a short time frame?


Ours is a disruptive approach to business model innovation. What do we mean by ‘disruptive’? A recent article published by McKinsey & Company explains this concept very well in the July 2015 issue of McKinsey Quaterly. “Business models are less durable than they used to be.   The basic rules of the game for creating and capturing economic value were once fixed in place for years, even decades, as companies tried to execute the same business models better than their competitors did. But now, business models are subject to rapid displacement, disruption, and, in extreme cases, outright destruction.


“The examples are numerous – and familiar. But what’s less familiar is how, exactly, new entrants achieve their disruptive power. What enables them to skirt constraints and exploit unseen possibilities? In short, what’s the process of business-model innovation?


“For incumbents, this kind of innovation is notoriously hard. Some struggle merely to recognize the possibilities. Others shrink from cannibalizing profit streams. Still others tinker and tweak – but rarely change the rules of the game. Should it be so difficult for established companies to innovate in their business models? What approach would allow incumbents to overturn the conventions of their industries before others do?


“Our work with companies in telecommunications, maritime shipping, financial services, and hospitality, among other sectors, suggests that established players can disrupt traditional ways of doing business by reframing the constraining beliefs that underlie the prevailing modes of value creation.”


The article goes on to explain how “reframing long-standing, often implicit, beliefs about how to make money” is the key to innovating a business model using new forms and mechanisms to create value. Unfortunately, as the article states, “companies then need to transition from their existing business model to the new one, and that often requires considerable nerve and sophisticated timing.”


We couldn’t agree more. Where we disagree is in the belief that this reframing can be achieved “over time”.


We have developed the means to ‘reprogram the individual and organisational brains’ to achieve this reframing on automatic over a period of three days not three months, or three years or even much longer.


It is a well known fact that, under pressure, employees will revert to previously learnt behaviours.


Our client organisations no longer have to train their employees over long periods of time to learn and practise the mechanisms of the new business model.   Over the three days of the Business Emulation exercise, their brains are literally rewired while they sleep to give up their old ways of thinking and doing things. They immediately and permanently adopt and implement productive changes in decision-making and behaviours upon returning to work, even and especially under pressure.

How does the brain reprogram itself?


How does the Brain Reprogram Itself?

There exists an immense body of works that have been published by neuroscientists all over the world since the 1870’s.


Well worth reading is the book “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge in which he explains in simplified layman terms the science of neuroplasticity upon which our work is based.


Similarly, a fascinating television documentary series called “Redesign my Brain” by Todd Sampson has been broadcast by the ABC network in Australia. An absolutely mind-blowing must watch.


In brief, every moment of our lives, our brain’s neurons are constantly making new connections, strengthening old connections or weakening existing connections.


The pattern of firing of our neurons gives us our experience of the world. The brain is purposeful and seeks to save energy and time, an essential survival skill learned well before Neolithic times and honed by evolution. Unfortunately, this economy comes at a price and the brain can run unhelpful behaviour patterns for many years on ‘automatic’, something we have all experienced with difficult hard to break bad habits.


Our Business Emulation work interrupts an individual’s automatic ‘useless’ neuronal patterns and allows them instead to set up new connections and patterns that help get the new job done.


The brain loves to solve problems and achieve goals. Once a difficult problem has been solved, the brain releases highly pleasurable endorphins, which encourages the brain to repeat the behaviour, thus strengthening the new connections and weakening the less useful old ones until they disconnect altogether from lack of use.


If you would like to know more about the science behind our successes, please click here.

What is a Business Emulation?


What is a business Emulation?

A Business Emulation is a specially designed neuroplastic game environment that can reprogram the business thinking of employees and enable them to achieve extraordinary results on their return to work. It provides a ‘safe’ environment in which to rehearse strategies to address current challenges or crises or to anticipate future uncertainties. By targeting dysfunctional cognitive patterns around ‘business as usual’, our Business Emulation technologies have delivered dramatic financial turnarounds for companies on the edge of failure.


Our Business Emulations are based on decades of cognitive science research. The heart of the method is a fast paced emulation of the organisation’s real world assets and processes. Cross-silo employees use the emulation to perform their tasks in a high pressure time accelerated environment. The resulting experience transforms their thinking, decision making patterns and behaviour in the real world. A Business Emulation accelerates learning. It elicits innovation and agility by reframing and revitalising the vast storehouse of tacit knowledge that already exists in the individual employees and the collective organisation. It also facilitates the application of these resources to achieving your strategic or operational goals.


The outcome of the emulation is to resolve some critical problem previously perceived as ‘insoluble’, or to transform the organisation culture and operating practices to deliver significant improvements in revenue, productivity and cost. Our Business Emulation technologies deliver high velocity and successful business transformations. As a consequence, some people think of it as a new and highly effective form of change management.


The Business Emulation is a method for organisations to elicit innovation from employees. It allows organisations to introduce new methods, ideas or products, or to adapt to changing markets more effectively and more quickly than their competitors by instilling the cognitive agility required to overcome existing and future challenges.


Our Business Emulations have a history of delivering fast and lasting change and financial performance improvements with a high degree of employee engagement – by simultaneously inducing change from within the individual employees and from within the collective organisation.


The structured multiplayer ‘game’ is conducted in a physical or 3D virtual environment where the participants go through a series of complex exercises in sped up time (20 minutes of exercise time = 1 month of real work time) designed to reorganise and build on the participants’ expertise and ingenuity.


The process of repeated trial and error and rapid failure with feedback activates the participants’ default and automatic cognitive frameworks, and shows them how their default frameworks are not adequate to achieving their goals. It triggers a process of cognitive ‘disequilibrium’ that the brain resolves by spontaneously generating new approaches to the problem while the participants sleep.


This cognitive reorganisation literally restructures the thinking of the participants, even the most resistant ones, and enables them to develop demonstrable productive changes in decision-making and behaviours that are better adapted to current challenges and opportunities.


The design of a Business Emulation is based on the principle that most learning is actually a process of ‘unlearning’ prior decision making patterns (i.e., frameworks and neural pathways) while retaining relevant content knowledge (i.e., industry and situational familiarity, facts and information). This enables content knowledge to be redeployed into new thinking patterns that are more adapted to current challenges and provide a general expansion of the decision making framework.


Since the results are immediate and permanent, this mental reframing leads to marked improvements in the way that work gets done and challenges are addressed when the participants return to work.


Our Business Emulation technologies give individual employees and collective organisations the opportunity to ‘non-destructively’ test their strategies and tactics. They achieve results in days – results that would normally take years to realise. Staff get aligned to goals and know how to deliver them. And the collective organisation gets certainty that the business has found the best solution and approach to executing it.


More than 12,000 people have been through these exercises in more than 50 companies across six continents and there has never been a group who did not exhibit marked performance improvements along targeted goals.


Has this technology proven itself in the market place?

Has-it-proven-itself-in-the-market-place2Has this technology proven itself in the market place?

The Business Emulation methodology has been over 20 years in the making. It is the culmination of diligent research by clever neuroscientists specialising in solving business problems.


By immersing employees in specially constructed replicas of their business and forcing them to fail repeatedly and rapidly before they succeeded in achieving a new business goal, they were able to coax the employees’ brains into giving up old ways of thinking and doing things, and to reprogram new behaviours in these individuals as quickly as in the span of a sleep cycle.


More than 12,000 people have been through these exercises in more than 50 companies and there has never been a group who did not exhibit marked performance improvements along targeted goals.


The results have been well documented. Here are a few examples:


  • A Pharmaceutical Company saw its “unsolvable” back order inventory problem diminish from $800,000/day to $20,000/day within a few months.
  • A large Transit Authority wanted to improve their bus maintenance by implementing a new Computer Maintenance Management System after repeated failures on previous attempts. The hourly staff reached independence with the new system in 6 weeks rather than the expected 12-18 months for implementation. The organization also shifted from a reactive to a proactive maintenance approach, reduced cycle times and increased the “mean distance between failure”, which resulted in a $40 million cost savings in the first year.
  • A failing Bronze Foundry, close to bankruptcy, quickly improved its on-time delivery, increased its cash flow and reduced its scrap rate. It went on to achieve sustained profitability and growth by acquiring another foundry.
  • A leading Gold Mining Company wanted to improve the performance of mining operations and increase its business development (exploration and discovery) activities threefold. The company achieved these goals and doubled its market capitalisation in 18 months, significantly outperforming competitors.


While he was Professor at the Colorado School of Mines, Dr Stephen Enders wrote about the application of Neuroplasticity to the development of new business models in the Society of Economic Geologists Newsletter entitled Discovery, Innovation and Learning in the Mining Business – New Ways Forward for an Old Industry. You can read a copy of it here.


Dr Enders summarises his experience of a Business Emulation while he was Senior Vice President, Worldwide Exploration, at Newmont Mining.

What results can be expected from a Business Emulation?


What results can be expected from a Business Emulation?

Our work has consistently shown a step improvement in the share price of a publicly traded company after the Business Emulation lessons have taken root and the market begins to respond to the performance of the ‘New Company’.


Depending on the goals selected, the client organisation should expect to achieve the following results:


  • Reach or exceed the Non-Negotiable Goal – a goal so bold that the client organisation would have thought inconceivable prior to the Business Emulation
  • Quickly and profitably grow revenue
  • Realize ‘twice the throughput at half the cost’ (400% improvement) with no change in headcount in the organisation’s most critical business functions
  • Produce a significant reduction in costs across the organisation
  • Increase the value of the organisation
  • Increase share price
  • Increase the long term, sustained viability of the organisation
  • Improve the organisation’s competitiveness and its competitive ranking in its Industry segment
  • Sustain predictable performance and build the credibility of the organisation’s Management Team with the Market
  • Effectively diversify into new markets in short time frames and decrease exposure to shrinking markets
  • Achieve more complete exploitation and harvesting of entrenched business segments and thereby ‘take more than its fair share’
  • Achieve operations excellence
  • Complete projects on time and on budget
  • Maintain a good Business Development deal flow pipeline of accretive and smart acquisitions
The transfer to the real work world of the new behaviours, skills, capabilities, tools and methods learnt during the Emulation will be nearly immediate and will improve and consolidate over a period of about eight weeks after the Business Emulation.




The client organisation will also notice generative improvements in the participants’ behaviours:


  • They will become increasingly more integrated and coordinated
  • They will employ tools and methods that they developed and learnt during the Business Emulation
  • They will rapidly evolve individually and as a group
  • They will practice the successful behaviours of a highly integrated, goal-focused winning team
  • The organisation will notice strong cross-functional communication and effectiveness in decision-making and output across each function and the entire Management Team
  • The organisation will be able to identify participants who are functioning at a higher level and those who are not
In brief, there will be large benefits in the areas of inter-functional coordination, improved fact-based decision-making, and a greatly broadened solution set for addressing responsibilities.


Additionally, if the Business Emulation includes future potential strategies and scenarios, ones that are not yet being pursued by the organisation but that might become important in the foreseeable future, these can be ‘war gamed’ in the Business Emulation by the participants to ‘bullet-proof’ their strategy.

Can a Business Emulation be used multiple times?


Can a Business Emulation be used multiple times?

Once a model of the Business Emulation has been created, it can be replicated and administered over and over again to more employees, in more divisions, subsidiaries, geographical locations, etc. to solve specific problems within the client organisation. It can also be used to induct new hires in the culture of practice.


New applications to address other problems or optimize new business opportunities for the organisation can be developed and replicated in the same manner.


We have designed our Business Emulation to be fully scalable in order to be able to:


  • Develop a replicable model of the first Business Emulation exercise to be repeated and cascaded throughout the organisation
  • Conduct these Emulation exercises in a virtual 3D environment
  • Cascade and support the full integration of the technologies and ongoing training
  • Develop in real time training tools and documentation, work process software, data and analytics engines and new planning frameworks
  • Conduct a Train the Trainer programme to enable the organisation to become self-sufficient and conduct its own Business Emulations in-house and to implement them throughout the organisation
  • Train all new hires in the new culture of practice
  • Develop further applications to address other opportunities or problem areas within the organisation

Because of this, we are able to very quickly train the client organisationʼs staff to get maximum repeatable results from their own Business Emulations and to provide guidance and support as needed.


How does this work in practice?


Let’s use the example of a client organisation in the Mining environment. In this case, the client has multiple mine sites and wants to achieve a certain performance improvement at each site.


We begin to build a model of the Emulation from the moment we conduct the interviews and gather the data, install the framework, develop the tools and documentation, build the game environment, deliver the Emulation exercise and report our findings and recommendations to our client. In parallel, we train the client’s staff in every step of the process.


Once an Emulation has been built for one mine, it can be adapted to other mines with fairly modest modifications of operating parameters like grade, production, recoveries and so on. Using the tools and framework from the first Emulation, the client’s staff design, develop and deliver the second Emulation with our help. By the third Emulation, we stand by and monitor while they do it on their own.




The client may choose to license the technology (model) and cascade it throughout all its sites, or they may want us to do it for them.


We develop similar applications for other areas of concern or divisions within the client organization, train their trainers, cascade the implementation and integration of the applications and provide support.


You can easily assess the value of engaging us.  You may be, for example, one of the many mines struggling with commodity prices marginally above (or possibly below) your cost of production, trapped in a take or pay transport contract, and you have debts to service or roll-over.  Run the basic numbers and see what happens if you could cut your mining costs in half in under 12 months.  Now run the numbers again to grasp what happens if you also double the throughput.  It’s a compelling impetus to pick up the phone and talk with us … isn’t it?  You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain from that call.