Exploring the role of emotions in strategic change: Insights from Social Neuroscience
An obvious truth for anyone who has been at the sharp end of formulating or implementing organizational change is that strategy-making is a ‘hot’ process, a melting pot of excitement, anxiety, hopes and fears. However, these characteristics are airbrushed out of conventional approaches to strategic management, which are based on the assumption that strategizing is the preserve of rational deliberation. In recent years, however, a growing body of work-based on the insights of the social neurosciences - has made considerable progress in understanding the role of ‘hot’ processes in strategic decision making and strategizing more generally. While it is often said that being a good strategist requires keeping a cool head, these developments suggest that not only is it practically impossible to eradicate hot influences from the strategy process, but doing so would leave strategists and their businesses lifeless. Evidence suggests that successful firms will attain flexibility not by ignoring such influences but by accommodating them in the design of techniques and practices for addressing risk and uncertainty. My central argument is that ultimately the ability to manage emotional mental processes, rather than purely cognitive ones, renders enterprises more able to adapt to dynamic industry and market conditions. Based on this logic, I will examine how techniques and practices for dealing with uncertainty and overcoming strategic persistence might be adapted for enhancing ‘hot cognition’.