Featuring Michael Platt, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania | The Wharton School

Michael Platt is leading a multi-disciplinary foray into uncharted territories: how the brain works, how that influences business, and how that understanding can someday improve human life.

Michael is a neuroscientist known for asking some of the most challenging questions in 21st century neuroscience – and conceiving innovative ways to find the answers.

A revered instructor and mentor, Michael won the Master Teacher/Clinician Award from the Duke University School of Medicine. He is the former Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, former Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and founding Co-Director of the Duke Center for Neuroeconomic Studies.

Michael authored over 90 peer-reviewed papers and over 40 review and opinion papers, and his work has been cited over 4,000 times. Michael is an editor of major textbooks in neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience, and he is a former president of the Society for Neuroeconomics.

We recently got the opportunity to interview Michael for our renowned event, HRSE (HR Summit & Expo) Let’s take a look at his enlightening replies:

How has HR and learning changed in today’s digital world?

Answer: The rapid pace of technological innovation, globalization, and social change demand flexibility, openness to exploration, and willingness to change. HR can now harness big data to develop deeper, more precise insights into individual talents, traits, and motivators, and use that information to enhance the fit between employees and their jobs. This approach also empowers both HR and employees to personalize learning to be most effective and efficient themselves and the firm. Data-driven models offer new opportunities for precision HR, thereby accelerating innovation and reducing friction that impedes organizational change.

Your session topic at the summit agenda is The Neuroscience of Change: The Human Side of Transformation.
In your opinion, what are the steps HR can take to apply neuroscience in the workplace?


1. The first step is learning to distinguish fact from fiction and hope from hype. Neuroscience can provide insights that help to identify best practices and provide the scientific motivation to implement them. Learning from the scientists who actually do the science and then validate it in HR-relevant settings is key to getting this right.

2. The second step is accessing behavioural and biological data that drive precision HR. These data permit insights into hidden talents, traits, and motivators that are often opaque to surveys and self-report. I advise companies to work directly with neuroscientists, behavioural scientists, and data scientists at universities to take advantage of their intellectual and technological resources prior to trying to build these capabilities in-house.

3. The third step is implementing trainings and interventions that have been validated by neuroscience, in order to enhance the employee journey. Neuroscience findings can also inspire changes in organizational structure and company culture to simultaneously improve efficiency and employee wellbeing.

What are the top 3 success factors for leading and driving transformational change (whether in HR departments or across organisations)?


All three of these success factors have been validated through neuroscience:

1. Whether you manage through a flat or linear hierarchy, applying the same standards to yourself and your team drives both more effective and more accepted leadership.

2. Effective communication depends on getting on the same page and taking the same perspective as others

3. Getting outside yourself through value affirmation or even kindness meditation opens the mind to change.

How is neuroscience and social science playing a key role in driving and growing inclusive work cultures?


The global and integrated workplace is more diverse than ever. Yet our backgrounds and experience growing up shape the way our brains respond to others who look different or think differently from us. This is a natural consequence of our brains trying to make statistical sense of the world. To overcome these implicit biases, it’s necessary to focus on shared values and goals. This sense of being on the same team makes it easier for our brains to connect and empathize with others, ultimately enhancing trust, improving communication, and creating a more inclusive work culture.

What steps do companies need to take to apply neuroscience and mindfulness to address their most pressing business and HR challenges to improve productivity, decision making, communication, innovation, and job satisfaction?


1. Neuroscience research shows that opposing brain circuits support routine and divergent thinking. Innovation thus requires unplugging from rote tasks like email or filling out spreadsheets. Companies should provide time and space for employees to take breaks and recharge their creative batteries.

2.  Neuroscience research suggests mindfulness meditation activates the brain’s “innovation network” thereby boosting creativity. Brief mindfulness exercises improve both creative problem-solving and protect against stress. Companies can provide employees with prompts and opportunities to engage to incorporate mindfulness into their workday routines.

3.  Brain research shows that decisions can be either fast or accurate, but typically not both. Leaders need to decide whether speed or accuracy is more important in any given situation. Generally, stepping back and slowing down improves decisions.

How can organisations adopt the neuro-agility concept to leadership development to enable leaders and managers to embed sustainable behaviour change, promote resilience, raising awareness of behavioural changes?


Neuro-agility means adopting behaviours, mind-sets, and other approaches inspired and validated by neuroscience to improve resilience, foster divergent thinking, and sustain behavioural change. We know that unplugging, walking in nature, exercising, and mindfulness meditation all boost the brain’s ability to think outside the box and help keep this system healthy and high-functioning. Getting outside yourself through value affirmation and kindness meditation for others opens the mind to change and helps sustain the change you desire.

Why are you speaking at the HR Summit & Expo in Dubai, and why would you recommend that your peers attend?


I’m really excited to speak at the HR Summit & Expo in Dubai to share our work on the neuroscience of change: the human side of transformation. This is the premier meeting for HR practitioners, thought leaders, and scientists to exchange ideas at the cutting-edge of HR science. I recommend this meeting to everyone who cares about business and cares about people in business.

Michael is a keynote speaker @HRSE (HR Summit & Expo).
Attend his session on The Neuroscience of Change: The Human Side of Transformation on November 6, 9:50 AM.