Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Book I've Read - Brain Rules by John Medina

I met Dr. John Medina in San Diego and we had a chance to chat just moments before he presented his book, Brain Rules - 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.  After just a few minutes of conversation I looked forward to how his observations would help me to be a better sales guy, and a better manager.  I wasn't disappointed.  Medina ties science to early human behaviour with wit and insight.  He suggests the typical caveman, when presented with new stimuli, asked himself a few questions very quickly - Can I eat it (will it eat me?)  Can I mate with it?  Have I seen it before?  We are not that different from the caveman, and if we imagine our audience, customer or employee asking himself these questions subconsciously, we can appeal to that which motivates him or her.  If nothing else, we'll know better when to change the subject (and what to change it to).

Brain Rules is a book you can apply to any role in your life.  Parent, employee, executive, matter who we are and what we do, we all want to do better, to relate to others better, and to be successful, however we define success.  Each of us will read this book and find different rules that seem to call to us.  Here are the three of the twelve that jumped off the page for me.

Brain Rule #1.  Exercise boosts brain power.  Our grade school teachers knew that, and made sure we got regular recess breaks, not just to wake us up or let us burn off some energy.  It turns out that when we came back in we were ready to think better.

Dr. Medina theorises that the average caveman survived because he got lots of exercise, so his brain was firing on all cylinders, he thought on his feet and was ready for the unexpected (like a big hungry tiger, or a tricky negotiation, or an ornery board member).  Medina says we're hardwired for 12 miles walking a day, so to improve our thinking, we've got to move!

Brain Rule #4.  People don't pay attention to boring things.  There is no such thing as multitasking, according to the author.  There are only distractions and wandering minds.  Medina suggests we are better at seeing meaning than recording detail, and that we need stimulus every 10 minutes or so or we'll mentally check out.  Presenters take note - switch it up with a story that appeals to our emotions every 10 minutes or so, or you'll lose us.

Brain Rule #10.  Vision trumps all other senses.  Of all the senses he employed, the early caveman relied most on his vision.  Medina suggests vision takes up half our brain resources, and we learn best through pictures, not written or spoken words.  Good advice for anyone designing a sales brochure or an annual report.

There was a great rule on sleep, Brain Rule #7.  Medina suggests the biological clock for an afternoon nap is universal. I don't mind admitting that since I read this book and heard Medina speak I've had the odd 20 minute nap at 2 pm (there's a specific way to calculate the best mid-day nap time).  I just didn't tell anyone about it.

Just one more reason I sometimes wish my kindergarten teacher was my boss.  She understood.

Brain Rules - 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School
John Medina
Pear Press

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