Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Tricks of the Mind (by Derren Brown)

Not obvious reading for HR/L&D Professionals - but having had it recommended to me, I recently found myself engrossed in this book.

There seems to be an increasing focus within HR on understanding how the brain works. For example: both David Rock (Quiet Leadership) and Guy Sutton (Director of Medical Biology Interactive/University of Nottingham) have spoken at HRD. [NB: For a great summary of the latter see the Epic blog.]

As stated by Rock: "If people are being paid to think, isn't it time the business world found out what the thing doing the work, the brain, is all about? "

In part, Derren Brown's book 'Tricks of the Mind', helps explore the working of the brain.

There is a wealth of information on Memory - and the tricks of the trade used in memory feats. While it may be debated in this age of 'Google', promoting a good memory of facts and figures is important (vs. developing the skills of reasoning, debate etc...) - at very least it should help trainers rapidly remember the names of delegates attending a course !

A key component of moving 'information' from short-term memory (with its very limited capacity) to long-term involves the power of images. Given that these images need to be relevant to the individual, I'm not sure this insight should have presenters using PowerPoint reaching for the Clipart. Rather let me suggest: learning interventions need to build in reflection exercises that guide participants to link key concepts to pictures they create in their own mind.

Another area that will be familiar territory to many L&D colleagues, is Thinking Traps

The class 'Monty Hall Problem' is included, together with other examples - all of which can be great ice-breakers within relevant training courses !

Clearly the relevance goes beyond fun ice-breakers since, as Brown highlights: "cognitive traps make us unwittingly prone to drastic misunderstanding of probability, which in turn can lead people to make poor decisions".

Within the section on 'Hypnosis & Suggestibility', Brown provides his assessment of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). This is another area that often attracts the interest of trainers.

Brown discusses that: "One of the more sensible tenets of NLP is that the way you represent (anything you feel strongly about, as a) picture or film will affect the way you emotionally respond to it". He then illustrates how the mind can be directed to modify the picture, in turn modifying the associated emotional response.

I'd suspect that the style of this book will not be to everyone's taste, but it provides great insights into the psychology of magic - and as such give helpful perspectives on the working of the human brain !

Also see: