Total-brain Leadership and Innovation
How to be successful in the knowledge economy
Jacques Groenen and Peter Ramaekers1
1 The authors are coaches and trainers in the Dutch company Fun-da-Mental
In order to be effective and successful organizations and nations need exemplary leaders,
leaders who know how to use their fullest potential. Therefore, Warren Bennis (Ref. 1)
focuses on the necessity of becoming a healthy, fully integrated human being before a
person can show exemplary or integral leadership. According to Bennis leadership is
closely connected to personal growth and at each successive stage or level of personal
growth, one transcends and integrates the previous level of being, consciousness, and
identity. The ability to master one's context is essential for any successful leader, and one
cannot master what one cannot “see”.
Most leaders in the present chaotic world are guided by the ‘monkey mind’ to use this
metaphor from teachers of yoga and the martial arts. They have not mastered their
brainwaves, probably because they never saw them. Advanced bio- and neurofeedback
tools can make the waves of our brain, heart and body not only visible on a computer
screen, but can also teach us how to learn to master them. If a leader is not able to
effectively respond to all feedback from the environment, including worldwide
innovations, he or she cannot be a successful leader. Therefore, the more levels of
development one has transcended and included, the more one sees, the more expansive
and profound his/her mastery of content and context is, and the fuller the expression as
exemplary and integral leader.
Robert Quinn (Ref. 2) tells us also that great leadership is about who we are and not what
we do. In facing our fears and harnessing our uniqueness, we bring forth the capacity for
intellectual, emotional, and spiritual integrity, for inspired leadership and for enduring
change. The key to our leadership is an endogenous development, not an exogenous
event and the most effective leaders are those who focus on developing themselves and
formulate a strategy for personal growth, all change is self-change. A profound
integration of the self/other/organization/world contexts is necessary. To explore this
transformative state Quinn describes eight practices: reflective action, authentic
engagement, appreciative inquiry, grounded vision, adaptive confidence, detached
interdependence, responsible freedom, and tough love.
Now, in the beginning stages of the twenty-first century, an abundance of development
techniques drawn from many cultures, belief systems, and rationales is available. These
techniques address the whole person, creativity, concentration, stress management,
emotional and physical health and reaching peak performance. Anna Wise (Ref. 3) tells
us all techniques can be traced back to one principle: self-mastery and this involves
A high-performance mind possesses the potential for using optimum states of
consciousness. It is able intentionally alter these states of consciousness and reach a state
of total-brain control. With the words of Anna Wise: “Thinking feels fluid rather than
rigid. Emotions become more available and understandable. Information flows more
easily between the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels. Intuition, insight, and
empathy increase and become more integrated into normal consciousness.” All these
competencies are characterizing an exemplary leader. (see also Ref. 4)
To make transformative and ‘Total-Brain’ leadership available for everyone we have
developed a simple fractal model to reduce the complexity in the world and to make
personal leadership available for everybody.
Quadrant Models and the BrainMap
Working with 4 quadrant models, in order to have a roadmap for exploring a territory, is
a habit of many scientists and also in the field of organizational change, innovation and
management they are used very often. There is a proliferation of many quadrant models
and in any model the choice of the two axes is crucial.
So let us look at some models. There is a model from the already mentioned Robert
Quinn (Ref. 6) called the Competing Values Model (CVM), this model unites into a
single meta-model four often used approaches of organizations. The four approaches are:
the Open System model, the Rational Goal model, the Internal Process model and the
Human Relations model. The Open System approach focuses on a flexible organizational
structure in which one can exploit quickly and with foresight factors in the external
environment of the organization. The Rational Goal approach is equally externally
oriented but pays more attention to matters aimed at planning and setting concrete goals
and above all reaching results. The Internal Process model is internal and control-
oriented, where systems and procedures are decisively important, and this model is there-
fore also known as the bureaucracy model. The Human Relations model emphasizes
flexibility and is above all internally oriented. Agreement, teamwork and morale are
important points of focus. Good human interaction is the central concept.
It is interesting to see that the four models are brought together by Robert Quinn’s mind
with the help of two intersecting axes, with as dimensions internal/external and
control/flexibility. These dimensions are opposites, hence the name "competing values".
In forming and structuring organizations, according to Quinn, the four quadrants of the
CVM are followed in turn beginning with the Open System approach. This is because,
first of all, a vision is required (the Why). Then this vision is translated into objectives
and plans (Rational Goal quadrant, the what). After that, the manner of execution is
determined (Internal Process quadrant, the How). Finally, the persons who are to be
assigned the concrete tasks are appointed (Human Relations quadrant, the Who).
HUMAN RELATIONS OPEN SYSTEM
INTERNAL PROCESS RATIONAL GOAL
It can be seen from this that the four different organizational approaches succeed each
other in time, as is the case during the product lifecycle which is now about 9 months. A
new idea (OS) leads to entrepreneurial action by formulating business goals (RG), the
new company needs rules, procedures and an internal structure (IP) and collaboration
between people with different roles (HR). In this way we are creating a dynamic spiral
(following a circle in time gives a spiral). In our view and experience there are more
ways to go through the 4 quadrants, in fact an organisation process can start in any
quadrant and follow several different pathways. The circle can be reversed and also
lemniscates are possible; every process is completely different and gives completely
different results. In fact order/flexibility is not a real polarity; the real polarity is
order/chaos. We will use this axis from now on for evaluating other models and will see
order/flexibility as a part of it.
Parsons and Habermas
Time to move on to the next model which we find in the work of sociologist Talcott
In Talcott Parsons' conceptual scheme, which Jürgen Habermas also is using in his
Theorie des Kommunikatieven Handelns (1981), human activity is classified according to
four analytical aspects: adaptation, goal achievement, integration and, finally, pattern
maintenance and tension regulation. The first two are externally oriented, the latter two
internally oriented, and this is the same axis as we saw in the CVM.
Parsons' second axis concerns direct and indirect satisfaction of needs through the mix of
combinations of four other factors: affectivity, performance, neutrality and quality.
Interesting is that when we look at affectivity, performance, neutrality and quality using
the Competing Values model, they can easily be placed into the 4 quadrants: Human
Relations, Rational Goal, Internal Process and Open Systems. The second axis of Parsons
scheme has suddenly disappeared. Let us look at Parsons scheme now.
PATTERN MAINTENANCE GOAL ACHIEVEMENT
We immediately see that the CVM for organisations and Parsons’ model for societies
have many similarities. Because the vertical axis is blank we have room to choose for this
axis also order/chaos. We now have the same models for organizations and society and
we have included in our model the new science of chaos and complexity.
Freud and Jung
Models are composed by human minds, so let us move on again. What do we know about
the human mind?
Sigmund Freud is a name which immediately comes to our minds. Paul Heylen
summarizes the work of Freud in the following model:
(woman) sensos ──────────────────────────── expansos (man)
The question is now, is/was a female internal and a male external? When we look at our
own history especially during the life of Sigmund Freud and the present practices of
many people in the world, it looks like this is the case indeed. Woman is queen of the
house and man king of the road. We now have two new candidates for the vertical axis:
eros and thanatos or life and death. Is there a similarity between order and death?
Between eros, life and chaos? Good questions! (Later we will see that matter, death and
order are on one site of the polarity and life, eros, spirit and chaos on the other site.)
Carl Gustav Jung borrowed from Freud the distinction between consciousness and the
unconscious. Within the latter he distinguished a personal and collective part (the
archetypes). We will return to this subject later when we will talk about brainwaves.
The Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator is based on the work of Jung. It uses 4 polarities:
extravert/introvert, sensation/intuition, feeling/thinking and judging/perceiving and by
combining them we get 16 personality types.
Putting this together in a two-axis model gives the following result: extravert/introvert
corresponds with external/internal and judging/perceiving with control/flexibility.
Thinking has ‘Wahlverwandschaft’ (Max Weber) with the internal process model, feeling
with the human relations approach, intuition with the open system approach and sensing
with the rational goal approach.
The result is we now can construct one simple model we can use for person, organization
and society; a self-similar fractal model of human reality is coming one step nearer.
The physical brain models of Herrmann and Lynch
Let us now proceed from 4Q mind models to 4Q brain models. 4Q brain models are
based on research of the physical human brain: left brain/right brain and limbic/cerebral
brain (or the triune reptilian brain/mammal brain/neocortex). Ned Herrmann (Ref. 7) and
Dudley Lynch (Ref. 8) are the names connected with the development of these physically
based 4Q management models.
The BrainMap developed by Dudley Lynch and used worldwide (also by the authors) is
based on brain research by Nobel-Prize-winners Roger Sperry and A.R. Luria, Ward
Halstead and others (see Ref. 9). This tool has been used (among others) to:
• Identify specific kinds of thinking skills in specific individuals.
• Select members of elite problem-solving teams.
• Pave the way for introducing new ideas and needs to a group.
• Demonstrate the value to a team of multiple kinds of thinking.
• Help individuals and groups aspire to develop themselves.
• Develop action plans for changing an organization or team.
• Identify and help frame responses to conflict in organizations.
• Pinpoint strategic weaknesses in a group's behavior.
• Analyze an organization's internal and external cultures.
• Help individuals with career and retirement choices.
• Build personal self-awareness and help in defining personal goals.
The 4 quadrants of the BrainMap are amazingly similar with the 4 quadrants of a model
of Ned Herrmann as the following figure shows. The words on top in every quadrant are
of Ned Herrmann and below it are the words of Dudley Lynch, between brackets are
words of the CVM and Jung
(Rational Goal) ( Human Relations)
The 4Q Cyclic Innovation Model of Berkhout
The above ‘4Q brainmodel’ can be directly linked to the ‘Cyclic Innovation Model’
developed by Berkhout (Ref. 10):
In his treatise, Berkhout proposes to replace the static and sequential innovation models
with an integrated alternative, the Cyclic Innovation Model (CIM). CIM essentially is a
4Q model describing an innovation driven society as four coupled cycles, each cycle
representing a network of multichannel forward and backward innovation processes
between the knowledge and business communities. These interactions based, feedback
processes demonstrate that innovation is accelerated by creating novel, boundary-
crossing combinations of (re)new(ed) complementary building blocks. Innovation may
also be slowed down by intracyclic or intercyclic barriers. Removal of these barriers -
both at the individual level, and at the group, organizational and (supra)national level - is
the main challenge of the 21st century. This requires changes in the way knowledge,
engineering, production and service providing processes are organized.
The CIM model of Berkhout is described in Figure 3, presented in a similar set-up as the
4 Q physical brain model:
Portfolio - Thinking) Creation - Intuition)
(Rational Goal – (Human Relations -
related to societal needs)
Figure 3: The Cyclic Innovation Model of Berkhout in a 4Q representation which is
directly combined to the 4Q Brain Model
When we follow the direction of the arrow in the lemniscate (note this lemniscate is a
circle in the CVM and the fractal model of person, organization and society), we notice
that when we for instance start in the lower right Quadrant changes in society, which are
related to society needs accelerate the creation of new knowledge (the upper right
Quadrant), and new knowledge drives towards product development and the required
technological changes. Technological research and service provision are the driving
processes behind the society of the future. They are at the same time interconnected
through disciplinary science and product development: a never-ending loop of four
innovation cycles coupled by multichannel feedback and feed forward interaction
processes. These feedback and feed forward processes are vital in order to cross
boundaries between the four different innovation cycles. Barriers in these processes mean
stagnation during innovation!
What we can derive from figure 3 is that innovation policy should be a boundary
crossing policy, in 3 levels at the same time. The individual level (especially the
leaders involved), the group or company/organization level, and the regional or
(supra)national level. The direct consequence of this insight, and here we fully agree
with Berkhout (Ref. 10) is that national or federal governments (such as the European
Commission) should replace their traditional science, technology and industry policy
with a boundary-crossing innovation policy which is linked to all dimensions. (For
more details we refer to the work of Berkhout)
The unique insight in innovation processes given by this simple figure cannot be
For the first time a direct link between the individual dimension and the group,
organizational and (supra)national dimensions in innovation processes is given (in the
last paragraph we will see how this can be developed even further). The consequences are
enormous: the very complex process of interacting cycles is described in a relatively
simple model which can be used at all levels in innovation and change processes.
A few remarks considering the interdisciplinary aspects and consequences:
Technology is to be considered as ‘frozen thinking’ (a well-known saying of
sociologist Max Weber). The 4Q Brain and CIM Models formulate an integrated
framework of vertical and horizontal building blocks in terms of goal-driven processes,
human tasks and matching competencies, especially of leaders. This framework shows
how to ’liquefy‘ frozen thinking into new and sustainable products, services as well as
employment. No less than: The Future of Work!
Another remark concerns the important link which is made by the 4Q models to
developments in learning and in the psychology of learning. How to learn in the most
effective way, and how to develop your personal core competencies? The most important
issue however remains, and here we come back to the main questions of the Introduction:
How to be an exemplary leader? How to reach total-brain leadership?
A key is in the crossing of the boundaries between the Quadrants. An uninterrupted flow
in innovation and change requires uninterrupted interactions across the boundaries. The
nature of these interactions is referred to in the words ‘feedback and feed forward
processes’. Feedback (and feed forward) of information is crucial. We will not go into
the nature of feedback at the organization or regional/national level. Here again we refer
to Berkhout (Ref. 10).
In this publication we will restrict ourselves to the feedback processes at the personal
level, needed to reach total-brain control, and to become an exemplary leader.
In the last two decades the combination of information technology and neurotechnology
has enabled methods for learning and training ‘Quadrant crossing at the personal and
interpersonal level’. These methods are summarized with the names Bio- and
Bio- and Neurofeedback
Scientific progress in the 90’s related to brain and body functioning including the relation
between mind and body has been significant. Technological advances, especially in
software and sensor technology has allowed the development of various techniques in the
approach of the mind and body at a level never before imagined. Among those techniques
Biofeedback stands out as a successful and promising approach to mental and
physiological functioning, and therefore is considered as one of the training and therapy
methods most likely to prevail in the 21st century.
Biofeedback is a technique to voluntarily control physiological functions of which people
are usually not aware, with the purpose of recovering, to maintain or to improve the
health and/or performance. Biofeedback is a method to make involuntary bodily
functions (e.g. heart rate, skin resistance, temperature, muscle tension, etc.) perceptible
(visible and /or audible). This is done through the use of sensors that measure accurately
and instantly the physiological function under study, informing the subject, about the
value of physiological parameters that are being monitored.
With this information, (and sometimes guided by a trainer or therapist) the subject has the
possibility of altering such values, according to their will and in order to change them to a
more desirable level. For example subjects can learn to constrict their blood vessels
without the help of chemical substances, in order to treat migraine. Biofeedback therapy
presents many positive points when compared with other kinds of treatments. Unlike
what happens in the treatment by drugs, biofeedback therapy doesn't present side effects.
Since it is non-invasive, the therapy is practically free of hazards, and completely
painless. People can also learn to suppress pain with biofeedback, when they are shown
the activity of a pain-control region of their brain, according a recent article by Helen
Phillips in New Scientist of May 3 2004. Another important point is that the person has
the control of the evolution of the training or therapy. Conscious and voluntary
participation plays a decisive part in the success of biofeedback.
In the last 40 years an impressive amount of research has been published on voluntary
self regulation (biofeedback). Biofeedback uses special instruments attached to the body
in order to give a person information about what is happening in the body. The
instruments serve to amplify the signals that the person may not otherwise be able to
detect so they can then use this visual or auditory feedback to learn to regulate certain
Biofeedback training is a technique whose application is not of exclusive use of a
particular professional class. It can be performed by professionals in different areas, in
peak performance training of professionals, in the health area and in the educational area.
Neurofeedback is a special case of Biofeedback. The neurofeedback or electro-
encephalographic Biofeedback measures the electric waves of the brain, just as it happens
in the classical EEG. So it is possible to train a person to produce or to decrease their
production (amplitude and/or frequency) of any one of the bands of cerebral waves, in
any of the cerebral hemispheres, or in both, according to the physical and subjective state
that it aims to reach.
Neurofeedback training assists the person in recognizing the inner experience of optimal
state and learning to replicate that state. Managing arousal and balance in performance
means synchronizing mental and emotional imagery with logical thinking.
Neurofeedback is transformative in improving attention, control, and steadfastness and
helps in dissolving memories and barriers to performance.
So, the technique of Neurofeedback is very well placed to assist in learning to cross the
boundaries described in the 4Q model. It is the main technique where a person learns to
master his or her context and transform into an exemplary leader. The ultimate result is
self-mastery through total-brain control, the prerequisite of successful transformation
and innovation. Learning across boundaries also means new learning experiences and
making (self-organizing) new connections between neurons and between glia cells in the
brain (see also Scientific American of April 2004). Making new connections between
people is also very important during innovation processes as one of the authors recently
made clear in the article (Dutch) “Innovatie van de Innovatie” (Ref. 11).
Brainwaves and leadership competences
Brainwaves are based on electrical activities in the brain and are measured in frequency
(cycles pro second, or Hertz the velocity of the electrical pulse) and amplitude (intensity
of the brainwave). A frequency of 1 means a cycle of one pulse pro second.
There are 5 kinds of brainwaves varying from the low amplitude/high frequency Beta till
the high amplitude/low frequency Delta:
Beta: 14-38 Hz: normal wakefulness, focus on the external world, active thinking,
normal problem solution, logical thinking, making decisions, also feelings of separation,
stress, fear and ‘fight or flight’.
Alfa: 8-14 Hz: physical and mental relaxation, the bridge between consciousness and
deep consciousness, relaxed focus, faster learning, open for other people, feelings,
visualising, fantasizing, and daydreaming.
Theta: 4-8 Hz: deep consciousness, memories, (memory training!) and emotions,
creativity and inspiration (innovation!), REM-sleep, imagination, trance, meditation.
Delta: 0-4 Hz: dreamless sleep, deep trance, deep meditation, loss of body-
consciousness, radar, orientation in space and time, ‘rapport‘ with other people, intuition,
entrance to the collective deep consciousness (Jung’s archetypes), synchronicity, merging
with the mind of other people, blindly understand each-other in management and sport