Neuro-Empowerment of Executive Functions in the Workplace: The Reason Why


Michela Balconi, Laura Angioletti and Davide Crivelli


The successful achievement of pre-established working goals and the ability to respond appropriately to workplace demands depends both on efficient and flexible cognitive and social functioning.

Previous research has proposed that executive functions (EFs) play an essential role in work performance, with successful professionals displaying better social, cognitive, and executive functioning (Bailey, ; Willoughby and Blair, ). Therefore, the demand of assessment procedures and empowerment protocols dedicated to the EFs is growing rapidly.

EFs are considered a family of top-down mental processes including inhibition (self-control and interference control), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (Miyake et al., ; Diamond, ). They are high-level cognitive functions that foster goal-directed behavior and are a pre-requisite for sustained focusing, regulation of attention resources and automatic responses, and rapid and flexible adjustment to the changeable requests of the environment (Miller and Cohen, ; Burgess and Simons, ). These components sustain more complex cognitive functions—such as reasoning, planning, decision-making, creativity, and problem solving—which represent critical skills for professional success and optimal workplace performance. As posited by Diamond (), “EFs make it possible for us to mentally play with ideas, quickly and flexibly adapt to changed circumstances, take time to consider what to do next, resist temptations, stay focused, and meet novel, unanticipated challenges” (p. 155).