The Awakening of a Sleeping Giant
Why do we have this enormous lack of knowledge about that sleeping giant we carry around with us all our lives? Because the science of the brain is truly in its infancy. Ninety-five percent of what we now know about the human brain has been discovered in the last 5 years. The brain itself has only existed in its present form for some 45,000 yearsa mere twinkling of an eye in the context of evolutionary history. And, it is only in the last 500 years that scientists have come to recognize that our mental skills are located in our heads.
Indeed, the revolution has already begun! In the brief span of the 1990s, the following epoch-changing and epoch-making changes in global behavior have occurred:
Stock market analysts have begun to watch, like hawks, the "brains" of Silicon Valley and other intellectual capital-intensive areas. When there is even a hint that one might move from company A to company B, the world's stock markets shift.
Skandia, the multinational insurance giant based in Stockholm, changed its standard annual report format to include a major supplement entitled "Intellectual CapitalAn Accounting for the Intellectual Power of its Company and its Customers." Now, more individuals and companies request the intellectual capital supplement than its main report!
Singapore recently stated that it is to be known under the slogan "Thinking Schools; Learning Society; Intelligent Island." It also initiated a vast program of public events and learning festivals to promote thinking skills and the development of intelligence in all levels of society, especially the professional.
The English Manpower Services Commission publishes a survey in which it is noted that in the top 10 percent of companies, 80 percent invest considerable money and time in people development; in the bottom 10 percent, no money or time is invested. National Olympic squads devote as much as 40 percent of their training time to the development of thinking skills, memory training, "mental setting," psychological stamina, and imagination/visualization training.
Learning Organization or Extinct Organization
The business world is swinging irrevocably from a manufacturing orientation to one in which information processing and systems, creative and strategic thinking, and other intelligence-driven factors are the norm. Where manual labor and routine activity once ruled, brainpower and creativity now begin to reign supreme. Brainpower is the new driving force in the accumulation of wealth. In these contexts, consider the following points:
On average, executives spend 30 percent of their time reading and sorting through information, 80 percent of which is forgotten in 24 hours.
Executives spend, on average, 20 percent of their time solving problems and thinking creatively, and over 90 percent have had no training in these areas.
Executives spend 20 to 30 percent of their time communicating in writing or in speech, and most find it arduous, distasteful, boring, and even frightening.
Companies that spend $1 million on training lose $900,000 of that investment within two weeks of the completion of the training, because they do not understand the nature of brain functions or the methods of guaranteeing that the training will be learned, remembered, and applied.
The fact that we use a small percentage of our brains contains some interesting and apparent contradictions: In the 1950s the proportion was thought to be about 40 percent. Each decade has seen a dramatic decline in this estimate, from 40 down to 30, then to 20, then to 10 in the 1980s, and today 1 percent or even lower. This might suggest that people are becoming stupider rather than smarter. But, in actuality, the reason for this decline is that recent research has revealed the human brain to be much more powerful than was once thought. These findings tell us that there are immense opportunities for personal and organizational development. Professor Anokhin, Pavlov's most brilliant student and one of the world's renowned neurophysiologists, declared, "No human being exists who can use all of the potential of his brain." This is why we don't accept any pessimistic estimates on the limits of the human brain. The human brain's potential is unlimited.
The past few years have seen an increasing number of traditional market leaders toppled by more mentally literate and creative-thinking newcomers. It is no coincidence that the leading companies are those who spend the highest proportion of their income on developing their employees, and it is similarly no coincidence that the leaders among these leaders are those who are "front-ending" such learning: teaching their employees to think, create, remember, concentrate, plan, and communicate before they embark on any other personnel development. This ensures that all subsequent training is absorbed and applied appropriately and that it is at least two times more effective than average. It also makes it more likely that all employees will use their vast intellectual resources to gain competitive advantage.
To dramatize this competitive advantage, consider the following scenario: Your company is suddenly cloned, and there are two identical organizations with identical staff, identical buildings, identical equipment, and identical objectives. Your current organization remains as it is, while the "twin" is identical in all ways with the one exception that every member of the staff is deeply skilled in learning how to learn, in memory function, in creative and strategic thinking, and in communication skills on all levels.
The two organizations go into direct competition with the ultimate goal of completely dominating the market. For your own amusement and entertainment, jot down the advantages you think each organization would have over the other, which organization you think would win, and how long you think it would take the winning organization to accomplish victory. In surveys done during the last 5 years, 100 percent of executives and managers chose the mentally literate organization, and they predicted complete victory within 5 years. The reality in the open marketplace is now beginning to reflect this scenario.
A quick overview of a few cornerstones from state-of-the-art research on the functioning of the human brain gives an indication of how the super-bio-computer's momentary problems can be solved by the intelligent application of the brain's research on its own intelligence! I shall touch on seven major areas:
Left and right brain research
Super-speed reading/intellectual power packs
Memory loss after learning
Decline of mental abilities with age
The brain cell
Left and Right Brain Research
It has become common knowledge that the left and right hemispheres of the brain deal with different intellectual functions. The left brain handles logic, language, number, sequence, analysis, listing, and words. The right brain deals with rhythm, color, imagination, daydreaming, spatial relationships, and dimension.
Recently, we have found that the left brain is not the so-called academic side, nor is the right brain the so-called creative, intuitive, emotional side. We now know that both sides need to be used in conjunction for academic and creative success. The Einsteins, Newtons, Cezannes, and Mozarts of this world, like the great business geniuses, combined their linguistic, numerical, and analytical skills with imagination to produce their creative masterpieces.
Using this basic knowledge of our functioning, it is possible to develop personnel in skills relating to each problem area, often producing incremental improvements of as much as 1,000 percent. One of the modern methods for achieving such improvement is the thinking tool called Mind Mapping.
In traditional note taking, whether it is for memory, for the preparation of communication, for the organization of thought, for problem analysis, for planning, or for creative thinking, the standard mode is linear: sentences, short phrase lists, or numerically and alphabetically ordered lists. These methods, because of their lack of color, visual rhythm, image, and spatial relationships, cauterize the brain's thinking capacities and are literally counterproductive to each of the aforementioned processes.
Mind Mapping uses the full range of the brain's abilities, placing an image in the center of the page in order to facilitate memorization and the creative generation of ideas, and subsequently branches out in associative networks that mirror externally the brain's internal structures. By using this approach, the preparation of speeches can be reduced in time from days to minutes; problems can be solved both more comprehensively and more rapidly; memory can be improved from absent to perfect; and creative thinkers can generate a limitless number of ideas rather than a truncated list.
Benefits of Mind Maps for Management
They improve communication between members of staff.
They make learning more efficient and effective.
They can make marketing and promotion more focused, leading to improved sales.
The clearer thinking that Mind Maps fosters results in better management and organization, leading to a happier, more motivated workforce. (This in turn means fewer working days lost through illness and a better public image for the company.)
Complex issues may be seen on one page, therefore improving decision making.
Super-Speed Reading/Intellectual Power Packs
By combining Mind Mapping with new, super-speed reading techniques that allow speeds well over 1,000 words a minute in conjunction with excellent comprehension (and eventual effective reading speeds of about 10,000 words a minute), one can form intellectual power packs.
Reading at these advanced speeds, Mind Mapping in detail the outline of a book and its chapters, and exchanging information gathered by using advanced Mind Mapping and presentation skills, it is possible for six individuals to acquire, integrate, memorize, and begin to apply, in their professional situation, six full books' worth of new information in one day.
Mnemonic techniques were invented by the Greeks and were, until even recently, dismissed as tricks. We now realize that these devices are soundly based on the brain's functioning and that when applied appropriately they can dramatically improve any memory performance.
When using mnemonic techniques, one uses the principles of association and imagination, making dramatic, colorful, sensual, and, consequently, unforgettable images in one's mind. The Mind Map, being based upon the natural functioning of the brain, is in itself a powerful multidimensional mnemonic.
Using mnemonics, business people have been trained to remember 40 newly introduced people and to similarly memorize lists of over 100 products, facts, and data. These techniques are now being applied at the IBM Training Center in Stockholm and have been a major reason for the success of its 17-week introductory training program.
Memory Loss after Learning
Memory loss after learning is dramatic. After a 1-hour learning period, there is a short rise in the recall of information as the brain integrates the new data, which is followed by a dramatic decline in which, by the end of 24 hours, as much as 80 percent of the detail is lost. The scale remains roughly the same, regardless of the length of input time; thus, a 3-day course is fundamentally forgotten within 1 or 2 weeks of completion.
The implications for business are disturbing. If a multinational firm spends $50 million a year on traditional training, it can be shown that within a few days of that training's completion, if there is not appropriate reviewing programmed into the educational structure, $40 million has been lost with incredible efficiency.
With a simple understanding of the memory's rhythms, it is possible not only to avert this decline, but also to develop personnel in such a way as to increase the amount learned by using associative techniques.
Decline of Mental Abilities with Age
The usual chorus from business executives in response to the question, "What happens to your brain cells as they get older?" is, "They die!" It is usually voiced with extraordinary and surprising enthusiasm.
Dr. Marion Diamond of the University of California has recently confirmed that there is no brain cell loss with age in normal, active, and healthy brains. On the contrary, research is now indicating that if the brain is used and trained, there is a biological increase in the brain's interconnective complexity; that is, intelligence is raised.
People in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s have shown that in every area of mental performance, statistically significant and permanent increases can be made with adequate training.
The Brain Cell
In the last 5 years, the brain cell has become the new frontier in the human search for knowledge. We have discovered that not only do we each have 1 trillion brain cells, but that the interconnections between them can form patterns and memory traces that permutate to a number so staggeringly large as to be functionally equivalent to infinite. The number, calculated by the Russian neuroanatomist, Professor Anokhin, is one followed by 10 million kilometers of standard 11-point typewritten noughts!
With this inherent capacity to integrate and juggle with the multiple billions of bits of data that each of us possess, it has become increasingly apparent to those in brain research that adequate training of our phenomenal bio-computer, which in 1 second can calculate what it would take a super computer, at 400 million calculations per second, 100 years to accomplish, will enormously accelerate and increase our ability to problem-solve, to analyze, to prioritize, to create, and to communicate.
One of the most amazing events in the 1990s was the first filming, by the Max Plank Laboratory in Switzerland, of a living brain cell. This moving (in all senses of the word) image has been shown to business executives worldwide. On a large screen, they see an independent intelligence, which looks much like the hand of a thousand-fingered baby reaching out to touch the infinitely fascinating universe around it. The film is mesmerizing, and what is even more significant than the extraordinary scientific event itself, are the words used to describe the reaction of individuals to the experience of seeing a brain cell live.
These are words that describe the inherent nature of humankind and each individual within humankind, words that describe the proper functioning of that super-computer you invented at the beginning of this article. These words describe the necessary qualities of all management and information systems, and they are the qualities that will bring planet earth and its cargo of intelligence successfully into the next century and millennium.