What does neuroscience have to do with project management?

What does neuroscience have to do with  project management?  Elise Stevens of Fix my Project Chaos explores the whole arena with Carole Osterweil


Listen to Carole’s reply here

Points raised in this podcast


  • Understanding how the brain works helps us understand human behaviour.
  • Our brain’s number one priority is survival, so our brain is always looking out for physical and  social threats
  • Most of don’t think about social threats in the context of work
  • We feel socially threatened when we perceive we have lost Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness or Fairness (the SCARF domains)
  • We respond to threats with a fight, flight or freeze response
  • At work, responses to these threats might manifest as defensiveness, withdrawal, or hesitation to engage constructively with the team
  • If we recognise these are normal human responses, we can adjust our behaviour
  • Psychological safety means being able to show oneself without fear of negative consequences including rejection, humiliation or career uncertainty
  • Leaders should work to ensure team members feel safe to talk openly about projects
  • When you feel psychologically safe you are able to focus on the job that needs to be done . You are far more productive because you don’t waste energy on fight, flight or freeze responses.

That’s the theoretical stuff dealt with.


What does neuroscience have to do with  project management –  at a practical level?

Just take five deep breaths

We’ve all heard this advice when we’ve been stressed or overwhelmed or anxious. But do you know why it helps us relax and focus? Carole also explains

  • How deep breathing helps to suppress the fight or flight instinct.
  • Practising mindfulness can help you check in with your stress levels
  • How learning to relax and focus enables you to make better choices and avoid knee-jerk reactions