Framing the Dialogue

Brain Rules

Exercise, survival, wiring, attention, short-term memory, long-term memory, sleep, stress, sensory integration, vision, gender, and exploration…These are the twelve principle exposed by author John Medina to keep your brain healthy, wealthy, and wise.  These are fully outlined in Medina’s Brain Rules.

In Medina’s chapter on attention he addressed our spans of attention…generally a full ten minutes.  As an introvert who now enjoys giving presentations that often last longer than that I was interested in his theory.  He doesn’t suggest that you cannot talk for more than ten minutes, you may just have to grab their attention every nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds.

Medina’s book often contains detailed discussions about brain function, structure, and neurons.  Ordinarily details like this put me fast asleep, but Medina practices what he preaches and sprinkles anecdotes throughout the chapters that illustrate the subject.  His placement probably came close to less than ten minutes of reading, but it was a great demonstration of the technique and one that I’ll put into practice. 

Medina starts off with a bang;

“If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.  If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle.”

Having gone through a Catholic education system (lots of structure and discipline contained in a very poor structure/building) and spent years working in cubicle cities I can agree.  I can affirmatively declare that there is no worse business environment to be creative, successfully, or even effective than a cubicle.   There is perhaps nothing worse than to be trapped in your cubicle by a fellow employee who has nothing to do. 

There is no escape from a cuble, but there is hope though;

  1. Exercise:  “Physical activity is cognitive candy.”
  2. Survival:  “We took over the Earth by adapting to change itself, after we were forced from trees.”
  3. Wiring:  “The brain is constantly learning things, so the brain is constantly rewiring itself.”
  4. Attention:  “The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time…turn off your e-mail, phone, IM program, or BlackBerry-and see whether you get more done.”  [I am now committed to only driving when I am driving]
  5. Short-term memory:  “You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.”
  6. Long-term memory:  “Like many radical university professors, our retrieval systems are powerful enough to alter our conceptions of the past while offering nothing substantial to replace them…In an attempt to fill in missing gaps, the brain is forced to rely on partial fragments, inferences, outright guesswork, and often (most disturbingly) other memories not related to the actual event.”

    Author John Medina

  7. Sleep:  “Sleep well, think well.”
  8. Stress:  Describing my last job; “The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two malignant facts: a) a great deal is expected of you and b) you have no control over whether you will perform well.”  [I would add the knowledge that you have no way to achieve “a” and no way to convince the expector that this is the case]
  9. Sensory integration:  “Our senses evolved to work together-vision influencing hearing, for example-which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once.”
  10. Vision:  “Vision trumps all other senses.” [he probably should have used an “!”]
  11. Gender:  “Male and female brains are different.”  [he provides the research]
  12. Exploration:  “Babies are the model of how we learn-not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.”  [sometime we just need to discover for ourselves that the stove is hot]

Perhaps the two best compliments that I can give a book is to recommend it to friends and family [I do] and to keep the book for my library rather than sell it on Amazon [I have a spot for it in my library].

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