Me, Here, Now. I’m In!

Learners believe “If it’s about me here and now, I’m in.”

Also known as the attentional aspect of learning, the people that understand this simple aspect of successful communication (aka Sales, Management, Teaching, Parenting, et al) tend to get more of what they want. Why is that?

A group of high-level managers from a large international bank in Silicon Valley was invited to tackle a corporate challenge regarding federal compliance laws that forced employees to work from and learn to articulate carefully constructed business requirements. Instead of the usual conference with a bullet-pointed list and a sandwich tray, we placed these managers in an instant brain-centric state of Me Here Now.

As executives filed into the room, they gasped. It was chaos. The tables were askew, and the chairs were splayed out, some tipped onto the floor. The room was freezing. A laptop set to the side of the room was blaring a stream Polka music. The coffee machine was unplugged and had used paper cups piled next to it. Stale cookies from the previous day’s meeting were still on the main table. Plates and crumbs were scattered around. No one was there to greet them at the door. The facilitator wasn’t in the room at all.

“What’s going on?” asked one manager to another.

After a few minutes, the group became aggravated that started writing a list to catalog everything that was wrong about the meeting so they could document this disaster and complain. They weren’t trying to be difficult—these managers were simply used to things going smoothly. After a few more minutes, the facilitator entered the room, announcing, “You’ve just experienced a lack of business requirements. Thank you for reacting exactly as anticipated. The emotions and actions that have just taken place let you feel, personally, why it’s critical to understand business requirements—so that something like this doesn’t happen with projects you champion.”

That’s the impact of Me Here Now. Instead of telling these managers what they needed to work on, the facilitator showed them why it was necessary. The facilitator made them feel it instead of attempting to understand it intellectually. The learning event is also an example of disequilibrium (Piaget referred to this as a moment disequilibrium), when what you expect is not what you get, which can be very effective to keep people in their best attentional space. When used correctly, disequilibrium instantly hooks a learner. They don’t just want an explanation—they demand one.

Two simple brain-centric tools – Me Here Now and Disequilibrium – intentionally applied for delivering information the way the brain accepts it, and how people love to learn.

These managers were now ‘in the learning’ and had intrinsic motivation to learn the content. In building this experience the attentional aspect was delivered with the intentionality of linking the understanding across the four lobes of the brain to form structured connections of visual, spatial, verbal, even olfactory perspectives anchored in a story.

Some people get more of what they want because they communicate cognitively as in the bank manager’s story. Some people present bullet-pointed Death By PowerPoint and wonder why the hell they’re working so hard and getting nowhere.

Take control of the learning space. The best way to keep their attention is never to lose it.

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