Is Your Team Wired For Success? The 4 Types Of Work Modes

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Have you heard? Everything you learned about being Right-Brained or Left-Brained has no hard science backing it. Recently there has been more support for the theory of Top Brian, Bottom Brain and with it the understanding of Cognitive Modes.

The four “Cognitive Modes” are Stimulator, Mover, Adaptor and Perceiver and represent the dominant role an individual plays when operating in a group. According to the theory of cognitive modes, humans rely on each other to act as a cognitive crutch or social prosthetic. Understanding this idea is crucial when developing your marketing team, whether it is in-house or not. When a team of marketers, communicators and publicists do not understand how to cognitively work in unison, insuring productivity becomes less likely.


Identifying which Cognitive Mode your coworkers or employees operate in is the first step in utilizing the value of social prosthetic systems, which in turn will increase efficiency. As we all know, the world of marketing and public relations moves fast. To insure that no opportunity is left unexplored, everyone must know their role.

Just like a well-oiled machine, Volume builds marketing communications programs comprised of different dominant modes that all work in harmony to create, execute and perfect our pubic relations services. In order to create the best possible work for our clients we have to evaluate our team on the individual level and foster precise and timely work.


Since these modes are optional reactions to your environment, everyone has embodied each. That being said, every brain does favor a mode in their day-to-day operations. Just like your grandmothers secret cookie recipe, there is no ingredient or mode that is superior or inferior – all are necessary to execute a complete product.

The following are descriptions of people who habitually rely on a specific mode. Are you a Stimulator, Mover, Adaptor or Perceiver?

Stimulator: Stimulator Mode results when the top-brain system is utilized but the bottom-brain system is not.

When people think in Stimulator Mode, they often create and execute plans but fail to consistently and accurately register the consequences of acting on those. They may be creative and original, and may be able to think outside the box even when everybody around them has a fixed way of approaching an issue or situation.

According to the theory, people who habitually rely on Stimulator Mode play a crucial role as a team member; however, to be most successful, they should not be the sole leader and would be better off working with others who can help them adjust their plans as events unfold.


Mover: Mover Mode results when both the top-brain and bottom-brain systems are utilized.

When people think in this mode they are inclined to make and act on plans and to register the consequences of doing so, subsequently adjusting their plans based on this feedback. If a Mover is placed in a situation they do not have experience in they will perform inadequately, as they quickly become exhausted with on-the-job learning, or if assigned in a role where they aren’t able to be the leader, results can backfire and can typically result in offended coworkers.

According to the theory, people who habitually rely on Mover Mode typically are most comfortable in positions that allow them to plan, act, and see the consequences of their actions. Such people should typically be well suited to being leaders. They might head a company or act as a principal of a school.


Adaptor: People who rely on Adaptor Mode utilize neither the top-brain nor bottom-brain.

According to the Theory of Cognitive Modes, people who habitually operate in Adaptor Mode often “go with the flow” and may tend to be seen as free-spirited. In addition, they often are “action-oriented” and responsive.

People who are thinking in this mode are valuable team members because they can easily adapt to plans. In business, people who typically operate in Adaptor Mode would often form the backbone of the organization, carrying out the essential operations.


Perceiver: Perceiver Mode results when the bottom-brain system is utilized but the top-brain system is not.

People who operate in Perceiver Mode try to make sense in depth of what they perceive; they interpret what they experience, put it in context, and try to understand the implications. They may use narratives to make sense of what they perceive, but they do not initiate complex or detailed plans.

According to the theory, people who rely on the Perceiver Mode play a crucial role in a group; they can make sense of events and provide a bigger-picture perspective. In business, they are often crucial members of teams, providing perspective and wisdom but not necessarily always getting credit.


Curious to know which role you embody? Take the quiz from the authors of Top Brain, Bottom Brain, Stephen M. Kosslyn, Ph.D, and G. Wayne Miller:

For more information about The Theory of Cognitive Modes and social prosthetic systems check out this insightful piece from Psychology Today:


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Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards is the founder of Volume PR, Engagement Science Lab, and creator of The Frequency of Understanding; an international movement to combining behavioral science and neuroscience with communication strategies to accelerate understanding and change.

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