Surprise Unveiled: A Pulp Fiction-Meets-Mr. Rogers Tale

First, thank you for being on this journey of “SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement” with me. Now, let’s talk about a Surprise I just encountered myself.

My intended launch was today. However, thanks to an ‘Unexpected Outcome Surprise,’ we’re moving the launch date to October 6th. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.

While writing this book, a realization hit me: We often label events as “failures,” “mistakes,” or “errors.” But aren’t they, in essence, just Surprises? Times when we didn’t have the complete picture, when unexpected factors came into play, just like this book release date I’d set for today. Instead of feeling disappointment, my deep understanding of Surprise has given me resilience and clarity. Instead of seeing them as missteps, moments that take us by Surprise are golden opportunities to reflect, reframe, and act.

Upon personal reflection, this is precisely the kind of real-world benefit that understanding Surprise can offer anybody. This book is not just theory but a practical tool that can change how we see and react to events unexpected, foreshadowed, positive, negative or neutral. We all need this superpower.

Before the book officially reaches your hands, I wanted to share this personal discovery. It’s my hope that as you delve into the pages, you’ll find your own applicable insights about the power of Surprise, how it shapes our lives, and share this knowledge with others.

And as a special gesture, I’m inviting you to enjoy Tales of Insightsville, I’m confident you’ll enjoy an early taste of the book presented as a captivating narrative. Imagine if ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Mr. Rogers’ collaborated to craft tales where an entire town collectively undergoes the many facets of Surprise. It’s not just a story; it’s a masterclass in understanding how you process a Surprise. Register for access and you’re in.

Thank you for your understanding and patience. Embrace the Surprises in your life, the moments that follow are a gift.

With appreciation,
Rich Carr, BcID

‘SURPRISED’ Releases Monday

Come Monday, my latest book, “SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement,” goes live! Here’s what I’d appreciate: When I send the link Monday, kindly buy, gift, or simply forward it to your network with a catchy, “This will Surprise you!” note.

Because you’re loyal to these emails, sneak a peek at the book’s ‘Start’ HERE. It’s surprising!

Seeking A Rising Star?
Meet Kevin Campbell, a Brain-centric grad boasting a deep L&D experience. He’s eager to connect and seek new roles. Reach out via email ( or LinkedIn. Bonus: He might even share his experience from “The Price is Right”!

Brain-centric’s Challenge Question

Have you ever experienced that “aha” moment when everything just clicks, and a foggy concept suddenly becomes crystal clear? Those moments are not random bursts of enlightenment; they’re often crafted, facilitated, and born from structured yet open-ended queries.

Enter Brain-centric’s Challenge Question.

Imagine you’re navigating a maze. Along the way, you encounter signposts. Some are vague, pointing ambiguously. Others, however, pose a challenge: “What if you took the less-traveled path to your left?”

Suddenly, your journey becomes a personal quest.

That’s the essence of a Challenge Question: a personalized signpost that directs you deeper into the maze of understanding.

Why Challenge Questions Guarantee Engagement

  1. Tapping into Natural Curiosity:
    • At the core of our very being, humans are inherently curious. From the infant trying to grasp an object to a scientist probing the mysteries of the universe, questions drive our actions. A well-crafted Challenge Question lures out this intrinsic trait, compelling the individual to engage and seek answers.
  2. Personal Connection:
    • Ever been in a class or seminar where you felt the content just wasn’t meant for you? Brain-centric’s approach ensures that every learner feels the content speaks directly to their experiences and challenges. By relating personally, the content becomes more than just information; it becomes a piece of a personal puzzle you’re compelled to solve.
  3. Measurable Growth:
    • It’s one thing to feel like you’ve learned something; it’s another to see tangible evidence of it. By ensuring that the Big Idea behind every Challenge Question is measurable, learners can track their progress and facilitators can tweak their approaches, ensuring a dynamic, responsive learning environment.
  4. Clear, Direct Pathway to Insight:
    • In an age of information overload, clarity is king. Challenge Questions are concise, eliminating any ambiguity or overwhelming fluff. This precision ensures that learners immediately grasp the question’s essence and can dive straight into introspection and exploration.
    A Personal Surprise: Your Own Challenge Question
    Now, for a little taste of the magic. Reflect on a hobby or activity you truly love, something that invigorates and excites you. Got it in your mind?
    Here’s your Challenge Question: “How might immersing myself deeper in [your chosen hobby] enrich my daily life and relationships?”
    The intent is not just to get you thinking about your hobby in isolation but to engage you in pondering its ripple effects on every facet of your life.
    Brain-centric’s Challenge Question is not a mere tool; it’s an invitation. An invitation to dive deeper, to understand better, and to engage fully. When crafted with care, these questions guarantee a level of engagement that transcends traditional learning models, pulling each learner into discovery and growth.

Greenhouse To Engage

Engagement in communication begins with capturing attention, and that’s where the element of Surprise plays a crucial role. Think of it as a sequence: Surprise, Attention, Engagement. While Surprise acts as a powerful initiator, it’s only a piece of the larger puzzle.

To sustain engagement, Surprise needs to be incorporated into elements like curiosity, relevance, Challenge, and relatability to become essential. Factors like beauty, humor, emotion, and social interaction amplify this engagement, especially when strategically placed for effect.

Greenhousing: A brain-centric approach to learning and development that provides a nurturing, controlled environment optimized for engagement and understanding. Greenhousing fosters improved performance, innovation, and adaptability by providing an environment conducive to inclusive and continuous learning.

Rich Carr, BcID

This understanding forms the cornerstone of Brain-centric Design. This approach aligns perfectly with the brain’s natural processing mechanisms. Within its framework, notably the Challenge Wheel, strategic placement of surprises ensures the audience remains engaged. The Challenge Wheel isn’t just a method; it’s an experience. From the moment it’s introduced, the audience feels a direct connection, as if the content is tailored specifically for them, addressing their immediate needs and concerns.

In this whole-brain, learner-centric approach, incentives aren’t materialistic. The real rewards are intangible yet deeply fulfilling: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The framework’s Multiple Perspectives section ensures varied insights, often from experts, shedding light on the presented Challenge. Here, the Challenge Wheel brilliantly integrates Hebb’s Rule into the mix.

Hebb’s Rule, often summarized by the phrase “neurons that fire together wire together,” is one of the foundational concepts in neuroscience and psychology. Donald Hebb proposed it in his 1949 book “The Organization of Behavior.” The Rule describes a fundamental mechanism for synaptic plasticity, where an increase in synaptic efficacy arises from the repeated and persistent stimulation of one neuron by another.

To say that a bit clearer, describing Hebb’s Rule is like when you hang out with a friend and become best friends. The more you do things together, the closer you become.

In neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science, Hebb’s Rule is highly regarded and fundamental to understanding learning and memory. The concept has influenced theories about neural network learning in artificial intelligence and has been foundational in developing various neural network algorithms.

While it might not be a household name for the general public, anyone who has studied cognitive science, psychology, or related fields is likely familiar with Hebb’s Rule due to its significance in explaining how neural connections strengthen through repeated activation.

Imagine your brain is like a big neighborhood with many houses (these are our neurons). When you learn something new, it’s like making a path between two houses.

At first, the path might be hard to see and easy to forget. But the more you walk on it, the clearer and more permanent it becomes. It’s like when you and your friend walk to each other’s houses all the time; you know the path by heart.

Hebb’s Rule is like saying, “The more you walk on the path, the easier it is to remember and use.” It’s a way scientists talk about how we learn and remember things. It’s like practicing; the more you do something, the better you get at it!

If we take your ‘brain’s neighborhood’ and divide it into four main sections, like four big parks, each park helps you learn differently. These parks represent the four learning lobes of the brain.

Frontal Park (Frontal Lobe):

What it does: This is where you make decisions and figure out how to solve problems.

Perspective: Imagine you’re trying to plan a group workshop to develop your unit’s future vision. Someone might suggest, “Let’s use the Challenge Wheel to help us set up our collaboration on the same page!” This perspective helps you think about organizing and deciding.

Parietal Playground (Parietal Lobe):

What it does: This part helps you understand where things are and how they relate. It’s like understanding the rules of a game.

Perspective: Picture someone showing you a map of the competitive landscape and where each option is played out. This perspective helps you see the big picture.

Temporal Treehouse (Temporal Lobe):

What it does: This is where you remember the lyrics to songs or stories your parents told you.

Perspective: Imagine someone singing a catchy song related to the Challenge Wheel and how it works. This perspective uses sound and memory to help you remember.

Occipital Oasis (Occipital Lobe):

What it does: This part helps you see and understand pictures, colors, and anything visual.

Perspective: Think of someone showing you a colorful poster with pictures of how the Challenge Wheel can be used. This perspective uses images you must interpret to explain things.

When you learn something new, all these parts of the brain can work together. Different people might show you different ways (or perspectives) to understand the same thing. Each method is like taking a different path in one of the parks. The more you visit these paths, the clearer they become.

Another of the Challenge Wheel’s most vital attributes is its emphasis on relatability. The presented Challenge is always positioned in a way that is relevant and beneficial to the learner immediately and in the long run. The process is designed to make learning enjoyable, with the Cognitive 3Rs at its core. These components facilitate reflection and foster a sense of progress in the learner. The embedded social interaction further enriches the experience, prompting individuals to explore and question.

What sets this approach apart is its alignment with brain processes and emphasis on autonomy. The iterative nature of the Challenge Wheel provides comforting predictability while being infinitely adaptable. The underlying foundation prioritizes psychological safety, making it a reliable tool for all learners, echoing the findings in Thomas Boyce’s research known as ‘The Dandelion & The Orchid.’

The “Dandelion” and the “Orchid” concepts stem from Boyce’s research into children’s responsiveness to environmental conditions. Dandelions are robust and can thrive in a wide variety of settings, much like individuals who adapt and flourish regardless of circumstances. Orchids, however, can wilt if conditions aren’t just right but can also blossom extraordinarily when in the right environment. As these children grow up, they can change a bit: Orchids might learn to handle things better, and Dandelions might sometimes feel overwhelmed. Personal growth, life experiences, and environmental shifts can influence how these traits manifest. Generally speaking, once an Orchid, always an Orchid, and once a Dandelion, always a Dandelion.

We designed the Challenge Wheel ‘for the Orchid,’ meaning we created an inclusive learning environment tailored to those who might be more sensitive or responsive to environmental stimuli. Here’s how this approach ensures a conducive learning atmosphere:

Stress Reduction: By catering to Orchids, the Challenge Wheel inherently addresses common anxiety triggers. The structured, predictable nature of the Challenge Wheel provides a clear roadmap of what’s to come, reducing uncertainty.

No Boredom: Surprise and novelty continuously stimulate the learner’s interest. When learners are engaged and can relate to the content, boredom is pushed to the sidelines.

Freedom from Entrapment: The framework gives learners agency and autonomy, fostering an environment where they don’t feel cornered or overwhelmed. They have the freedom to reflect, revise, and review at their own pace.

Safety and Assurance: The predictability of the Challenge Wheel framework, combined with its focus on the learner’s perspective, builds trust. Learners know they are in a space where their emotional and cognitive needs are prioritized.

Engagement Over Worry: With the Challenge Wheel’s emphasis on emotional connection (Affect before Effect), learners are more invested in the content, leaving little room for external worries to creep in.

Now, when everyone in the group, including Dandelions, is placed in such an optimized environment, the collective learning experience is elevated. Dandelions, although adaptable, also benefit from a rich, stimulating, and supportive environment. The entire group achieves deep understanding because the barriers to learning are minimized, and the enablers of engagement, comprehension, connection, and reflection are maximized. When the most sensitive among us are nurtured, everyone flourishes.

Dandelions, known for their resilience and adaptability, also benefit immensely.

Enhanced Learning Experience: Even if Dandelions can manage in less optimal settings, they still gain from a more prosperous, more stimulating environment. The nuances and depths of the Challenge Wheel can provide insights and perspectives that they might not encounter in a standard learning setting.

No ‘Coasting’: Due to their adaptability, Dandelions might coast through many traditional environments without being genuinely challenged. The Challenge Wheel ensures engagement and Challenge for all, pushing Dandelions to explore more profound understanding and connections.

Emotional Resonance: While Dandelions are resilient, they are not void of emotions or preferences. The emotional connection emphasized in the Challenge Wheel (Affect before Effect) resonates with everyone, Dandelions included. They, too, appreciate content that speaks to their emotions and experiences.

Peer Learning: In a Challenge Wheel environment where everyone is engaged and contributing, Dandelions can benefit from the insights and reflections of their Orchid peers, leading to a richer collaborative learning experience.

Encouragement of Depth: The design of the Challenge Wheel encourages learners to explore deeper, reflect more, and connect various pieces of information. When given this encouragement, Dandelions can explore depths of topics they might not have otherwise.

While the Challenge Wheel is designed for Orchids, its principles are universal in promoting deep understanding, engagement, and emotional resonance. Although resilient and adaptable, Dandelions still flourish more vibrantly in such a well-constructed environment we often call ‘Greenhousing.’

“Greenhousing” as a term for this learning structure is profoundly fitting. Just as a greenhouse provides a controlled, nurturing environment for plants to thrive, the Challenge Wheel’s design ensures a conducive, safe, and supportive environment for all learners. The emphasis on addressing the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) ensures that the environment minimizes stress and optimizes engagement.

The benefits of “Greenhousing” in a Business Context are instantly appreciated.

Enhanced Employee Performance: When employees are in an optimal state of learning, they absorb and apply knowledge more effectively. This state translates into improved job performance, increased innovation, and better problem-solving skills.

Reduced Training Time: An environment that caters to both Orchids and Dandelions can accelerate the learning process. With everyone engaged and the barriers to understanding removed, businesses can reduce the time and resources spent on training.

Inclusivity and Diversity: By catering to Orchids, businesses inherently support an inclusive learning environment, a key component in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, fostering a culture of respect and understanding.

Higher Employee Retention: Employees value workplaces that invest in their growth and well-being. A “greenhoused” learning environment can lead to higher job satisfaction and reduce turnover rates.

Collaboration and Teamwork: Collaboration thrives when everyone is on the same page, and all voices are valued. The shared experiences in the learning environment can break down silos and promote cross-team collaboration.

Innovation Boost: A safe and inclusive learning environment encourages employees to think outside the box, take risks, and share novel ideas, leading to breakthrough innovations that drive business growth.

Resilience in Change: Businesses constantly evolve, and adaptability is critical. An environment with trained employees to embrace and understand new concepts readily can weather changes more smoothly.

In essence, the “Greenhousing” approach in learning, rooted in the principles of the Challenge Wheel, doesn’t just benefit individual learners. It has a ripple effect, touching every facet of a business, driving growth and innovation, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and continuous learning.

Rose Sanders on Brain-centric Certification (BcID)

We asked, “What was Surprising?”

Rose Sanders from Beacon Building Products as she discusses the game-changing Neuroscience of Learning and the impact of the Brain-centric Instructional Designer (BcID) certification.

This isn’t just about communication; it’s about understanding the essence of how our brain embraces information and what makes us passionate about learning.

Rose Sanders, Beacon Building Products

Said Rose, “I know, they’re like the nested egg and and the process is kind of the main, or I feel like it’s supposed to be, the main takeaway, but the, the thing that I was most surprised by is how much I guess power we have over our brain, and also, at the same time, how much power our brain has over us.

“Like, if if we’re not aware of it, it is running the show. But the more we’re conscious that we can make changes, the more we can make changes.

“And, also apply that same logic to not controlling other people but Using their brains for us, rather than against us.”

Interested? Classes are starting: and

SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement

🎉”SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement” – Launching September 25! 🚀

Have you ever stood at the precipice of a revelation, I mean, right there between what you know and what you know you’re about to discover? That exhilarating feeling is about to take ahold of you again!

I’m totally jazzed (and yes, “Surprised”) to announce the upcoming launch of my book, “SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement”, set to hit shelves and digital platforms on September 25th 🙂

📖 What’s the Buzz About?
Surprise isn’t merely an emotion; it’s a handy-dandy bridge between an engaged person and an unengaged person. This book explores the instant power availed when you wield Surprise for effect, and how it elegantly spans the chasm between the engaged & not-engaged audience. In the same vein as Brain-centric’s transformative frameworks, this work focuses on the application of Surprise and its specific influences on engagement, personally and professionally.

📌 But Wait, There’s More!
Before we step into the official release, I have a surprise box of insights and sneak peeks planned for you:

  • Exclusive Excerpts & Insights: Stay tuned to your inbox as I share glimpses into the pages of “SURPRISED,” providing a taste of what’s to come.
  • Live Webinar: Join me for an immersive session where we’ll explore the nuanced dance between the Science & Art of Engagement, all through the lens of Surprise. It’s a deep dive you won’t want to miss!
  • Early Bird Specials: Be among the first to access online training sessions and one-on-one consultations, tailored to integrate the principles of “SURPRISED” into your world.

Here’s to new opportunities and that delightful feeling of being pleasantly Surprised!

Keep it cognitive,

Rich Carr, BcID
Author | Emergent Thinker| Cognitive Explorer

Robots are for answers, Humans are for questions

Imagine, if you will, a world where our friendly neighborhood robots have taken over all our mundane tasks.

They are churning out reports, handling customer inquiries, even brewing our coffee to perfection.

Pretty cool, right?

But wait, you might ask, where does that leave us mere humans?

In charge! We still have a brain!

With AI everywhere, how can I leverage my own brain to succeed no matter what?

What AI brings to the table is efficiency, precision, and the ability to process vast amounts of data – all fantastic assets in today’s fast-paced business world.

However, what it doesn’t have is the ability to ponder the mysteries of the universe, adapt to unfamiliar situations on the fly, make intuitive judgments, or empathize with a customer who’s having a bad day.

And that’s where we come in.

In an AI-filled business world, it’s those uniquely human cognitive skills – like curiosity, adaptive expertise, analytical judgment, and emotional intelligence – have become our superpowers.

We won’t just be valuable for what we can do, but for how we think, how we adapt, how we connect with others, and how we ask questions that no one else has thought of.

The big difference between us and AI is emotional intelligence, the ability to recognize, understand, AND MANAGE our own emotions and the emotions of others.

Analytical judgment is a big homosapien bonus and is about more than crunching numbers.

Again, it’s about asking the right questions, identifying patterns, and making intuitive leaps that an AI, bound by algorithms and data sets, simply can’t replicate.

The ability to write prompts that push AI to generate better responses requires an understanding of not only how AI works, but also how humans communicate, think, and learn – a fascinating blend of technological knowledge and psychological insight.

The demand for these cognitive skills is soaring, because while AI can automate, we innovate.

While AI follows algorithms, we follow curiosity and intuition.

Our ability for emergent thinking, the ability to think outside the box, to connect disparate ideas and come up with innovative solutions, the secret sauce that keeps businesses on the cutting edge and drives innovation and growth… Well, In a sea of AI-driven efficiency, it’s our human spark of creativity that sets us apart.

Focus on enhancing your uniquely human skills and leveraging them to their fullest potential. As the brain saying goes, “Robots are for answers. Humans are for questions.”

Why Neuroscience? Why Now?

We are facing a skills shortage.

The world of work is changing rapidly, and businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills they need.

The Learning Sciences in Cognitive Neuroscience help us to identify the skills that are most important for success in the future, and to develop programs that help people to acquire those skills.

If you take a good look around, you’ll see a lot of what surrounds you, shapes you, and guides your future is artificial.


Businesses and organizations are increasingly looking for evidence-based approaches to learning and development and Cognitive Neuroscience provides this evidence the Brain-centric model.

How would work change around you if everybody you work with had the skills to get what you do done?

Businesses are facing increasing competition and are looking for ways to improve employee performance because, get this, they now see happy people, happy business.

Boost Performance and Productivity

Improved Employee Engagement

Deep, lasting knowledge versus Memorizing facts

The amazing benefits of embracing different ways of thinking and how that guarantees innovation and creativity.

Developing human capital – including investing in education and skills – is a core theme of the World Economic Forum.

As companies continue to navigate the challenges of the 21st-century workplace, such as remote work, rapid digital transformation, and increasing diversity, cognitive neuroscience offers valuable tools and insights.

The Most Potent of Surprises

How can making your audience uncomfortable help you succeed?

Answer: When you know what you’re doing.

Disequilibrium is a powerful instrument in learning and communication. But, like nuclear power, it can be used in many very bad ways. Revising your communication and teaching approach to the Brain-centric frameworks ensures the successful application of this remarkable learning instrument.

Disequilibrium in communication refers to a state where a person’s existing knowledge and understanding is challenged by new information or experiences that don’t fit into their current understanding or schema. This results in a sense of imbalance or discomfort, as they try to reconcile the new information with what they already know.

It happens in an instant, and you must manage the other side.

The concept of disequilibrium originates from the work of Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget proposed that learning is a process of achieving equilibrium, or a state of balance, between what we already know and what we are learning. When we encounter new information that doesn’t fit our existing understanding, it creates a state of disequilibrium.

Why should you keep reading?

Because when you are communicating to another – selling, facilitating, managing, parenting – you are doing so for a reason. You may not have literally defined the Big Idea, but you are expecting some sort of change of behavior or action to take place.

And this is where you are wrong.

Back up a couple of sentences to ‘literally defined the Big Idea’ and know that I implore all future communications not only have a defined action or behavior you expect the audience to walk away with (Big Idea), but you need to also define how you know were successful at achieving that resolve.

Disequilibrium is then very easy to implement because when you know what you want them to walk away with when you are complete with this communication, you can easy insert – at the proper time – what you want them to walk away with in it’s most unstable state.

Example: I’m teaching people to deep fry a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Disequilibrium would be to show them a house on fire. Deep frying a turkey at its most unstable state in :56-seconds of deep fried turkey accidents:

If you watched the video above, you might of thought to yourself, “Dumbasses,” “Morons,” or even, “What in the hell were they thinking?”

The great part is for you even to have one of those thoughts, you were thinking about deep frying a turkey in a safe and more informed way and their way of doing it instead of the way you would do it, even though you might not know how to do it.

Television News LIVES by this technique.

It’s the lure of every magician everywhere.

It should be in every communication that you have a well-defined goal, what they audience will walk away with, and also know how you know you were a success at doing so.

As a key learning instrument in the Brain-centric frameworks, Disequilibrium is a part of nearly every communication, strategically to align with how the brain processes information and these other key cognitive benefits:

Stimulates Learning: The discomfort or cognitive tension that comes from disequilibrium can motivate individuals to resolve the tension by seeking new information, exploring different perspectives, and learning more about the topic at hand. It essentially acts as a driver for learning.

Facilitates Deep Learning: When learners are in a state of disequilibrium, they are more likely to engage in deep learning processes, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, to resolve the inconsistencies and achieve equilibrium again. This promotes a deeper understanding of the material, rather than just surface-level learning.

Encourages Adaptability: Disequilibrium helps learners to become more adaptable and flexible in their thinking. In the process of resolving disequilibrium, learners often have to re-evaluate their existing beliefs or understandings and modify them to incorporate new information. This enhances their ability to adapt to new situations and challenges in the future.

Promotes Cognitive Development: According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs through a process of adaptation (adjusting to new information) and organization (structuring that information into a coherent understanding). Disequilibrium plays a crucial role in this process, as it signals the need for adaptation and reorganization of knowledge.