Neurons Are Like Legos

Why didn’t school inform us that Neurons were like Legos?

Nobody ever presented Neurons as these things that make up our brain that, we could connect together and build incredible things out of?

Things like memories, understanding, adaptive expertise, problem -solving.

No. They pointed to this brain, made us memorize goofy names of things we’d forget about the next day or after the next test.

How would your life be better if you could build understanding of things like Legos?

Just like Lego blocks, neurons can be combined in a variety of ways to create complex functions.

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For example, neurons can be combined to create circuits that allow us to see, hear, and move. They can also be combined to create circuits that allow us to learn and remember.

“Can be” is always stated, but you’re thinking, “That’s cool. But how do I do it? I wanna do it!”

You are halfway there by even thinking this way!

You have now started connecting neurons around the thought, “Neurons are like Legos?”

That starts your brain doing all kinds of crazy things relating to Legos, and how you can learn knew things by snapping neurons together.

When you here somebody saying they ‘learned this new skill’ or ‘I didn’t know that!’ – which means they just learned “that” – you’ll be thinking, “Those neurons are just slapping together now!”

Then you’ll want to learn how to do it with all your communications, just slap neurons together, and live happily ever after knowing what you are putting out there is getting picked up on by everybody.

Being Brain-centric develops intelligence, not artificial intelligence.

Intelligence is the ability of a system to learn, adapt, and solve problems in a way that is analogous to the human brain.

Your brain is your system. Your choice.

I See Brain People

Here’s something wild: Have you ever really thought about, at the end of the day, we’re not communicating with older people, millennials, women, men, LGBTQ, or disabled people.

We’re communicating to a brain, or a bunch of brains, all wrapped in whatever labels we’re using, altering that communication to our ideal.


As a species, we humans have developed quite a noggin.’ That noggin,’ our brain, is the ONE organ we communicate to.

All the other organs muse off this organ.

“The brain is the one organ we can communicate to!”

Rich Carr

Emmi right?

All the more efficient is that most of our brains process communication pretty much the same way.

All the experiences and input we pick up along the way make us who we are.
OUR operating system is Brain

What we place in that operating system, our ‘content,’ and what we do with it, makes us who we are.

Not knowing this operating system is, you know, blue screen.

Could I walk through tomorrow communicating only to brains?

Do it in whatever way works best for you, but wander through the day assuming everybody has a brain and knows how to use it.

It may be different than the way you do it.

Like, chili. You make chili, I make chili, but we both make different bowls of chili, and that’s cool.

Sometimes so cool I ask you for a recipe to pump up my chili with that secret thing you do.

I understand what I do differently because you gave me new information that improved my position.

Brains are brains. Like chili, we agree on what it is, and we all have our own unique ingredients.

Be a non-conformist, communicate with that brain over there, or the brains you work with, lead, follow, or commune with.

The next person you speak with face to face, look past the wrapping and communicate with that brain.

Guaranteed, it knows something you don’t.

Memory Versus Understanding

Memory versus Understanding.

Memory is like a grocery list, reminding you of what items to buy, while understanding is like knowing how to cook a meal using those ingredients.

Understanding is more beneficial because it allows us to make connections between different pieces of information, solve problems, and adapt to new situations.

When we understand something, it’s like a lightbulb turning on, illuminating a dark room and helping us see the connections between different objects and ideas.

What is the best way for me to understand something?

You don’t forget 80% of what you understand.
You forget 80% of what you memorize.

Rich Carr

The best way to answer that question is to forget HOW YOU LEARNED in school.

You know, the sit-down, shut up, listen to a lecture, ask, “Any questions?” model.

That model, called the Behaviorist Model, is what most people imitate today when they exchange new information with another. It’s the only WAY they know how to do!

Think about it…
Sales Pitches…

Lecture, then Test. Apply a label.

The Behaviorist Model is rote memorization. Recall. Search engine stuff.

This three pounds of goop up here called a brain….

It thinks.

If you know how to think, that thinking can bring you anything you think of.

But here’s the rub:

You’ve never been taught to think—only TOLD to think.

And, what to think about. Think about that!

Memory is just you remembering facts like names, dates, and facts.

Understanding is about how these facts relate to each other and how they solve problems or answer questions.

How do you want on your team? A memorizer or a thinker?

Humankind now has the framework of how the brain processes new information and how people love to make it their own.

‘Learning to think’ has become business’ most valuable asset – from learning and development to management – in the face of bots, databases, and artificial intelligence, getting Brain-centric is table stakes today.

The primary difference between memory and understanding is that memory is the ability to store and recall information, like facts or events, while understanding is the ability to make sense of that information and apply it in different situations.


Never Taught To Think

You have never been taught to think.

Only TOLD to think.

Think about that.

Rather than being taught the skills and processes necessary to think critically and independently, we’re just told to think.

It’s like being given a map without ever being taught how to read it.

Be a non-conformist. Think!

Rich Carr

Just like a map is useless without the skills to read and interpret it, information is useless without the ability to think critically and evaluate it.

Consider how much of your thinking is influenced by others, whether it’s the media, your peers, or authority figures…not much of your thinking is really your own, and it is more a reflection of the views and opinions that have been handed down to you.

Ask yourself, “How would knowing how to think benefit me?”

People are beginning to understand that our culture values conformity over independent thought, compliance over thinking independently and critically.

Without the ability to think critically and independently, individuals struggle to analyze information, make informed decisions, or question the status quo.

It’s a bit unsettling to realize that you may not have been taught how to think, it’s also a chance to take control of your own thinking and become a more independent and effective thinker.

Thinkers are characterized by their curiosity, open-mindedness, and willingness to consider alternative viewpoints.

They are not afraid to challenge assumptions and biases, and are always seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.

In addition to being analytical and reflective, thinkers are often creative and innovative. They are able to generate new ideas and approaches, and are willing to take risks in pursuit of their goals.

They’re also the most valuable asset in any business, group or activity.

Or, you can simply accept information at face value without questioning it, rely on others to provide you with opinions and beliefs and how do that thing you do.

Like ‘laugh tracks’ on television shows…

Laugh. Here. That was funny.

Fun 😐 Sad.

Go ahead, be a non-conformist. Learn to think!

Question assumptions, Evaluate evidence, consider multiple perspectives, practice reflection, seek out challenges and realize this brain is an instrument you can learn and utilize for the things you naturally think of.

Thinking and communicating clearly is important because it helps you make good choices and solve problems.

When you can think carefully and talk with others, you can understand different ideas and make smart decisions.

We are drowning in information, and information is useless without the ability to analyze and interpret it.

That’s One Right Answer

As a proponent of Brain-centric Design, I firmly believe that individuals can unlock their full potential by embracing a growth mindset. One statement that can be incredibly powerful in promoting this mindset in others is “That’s one right answer.”

At its core, this statement encourages individuals to think critically about a problem and consider multiple solutions. It acknowledges that there is not always a single “right” answer and that there can be value in exploring different perspectives and approaches.

When we embrace the idea that there can be multiple solutions to a problem, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and opportunities for growth. We become more curious, more creative, and more willing to take risks.

In contrast, a fixed mindset sees problems as black and white. It believes that there is only one correct answer, and failure to arrive at that answer is a sign of incompetence. This type of thinking can be limiting and discouraging, leading individuals to shy away from challenges and opportunities for growth.

“That’s one right answer” is a statement that can be applied in many contexts, whether we are working on a complex project, tackling a personal problem, or engaging in a group discussion. It can be a powerful tool for promoting collaboration and innovation, as it encourages individuals to share their perspectives and ideas without fear of judgment.

By embracing a growth mindset and encouraging others to do the same, we can create a more positive and supportive environment that fosters learning, growth, and innovation. So the next time you are working on a project or engaging in a discussion, remember that there can be multiple right answers. Embrace the opportunity to explore different perspectives and solutions, and see where it takes you.

Cognitive Brain Training on the rise as AI Dominates the Workplace

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance and reshape the workplace, people are increasingly turning to Brain-centric Instructional Designer Certification to ensure their abilities to think critically and creatively make them more valuable and relevant to their employers.

In today’s marketplace, where automation and algorithms are becoming more prevalent, individuals must distinguish themselves by harnessing their human cognitive abilities. Certification training offers a comprehensive approach to enhance critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills that are essential for the evolving job market.

“You’ve never been taught to think. Only told to think.” said Rich Carr, founder of Brain-centric Design. “Individuals and enterprises are recognizing the need to develop their cognitive abilities to remain relevant in their industries and to stand out in an ever-evolving job market. Globally, that’s what we do!”

Brain-centric’s approach has yielded global success stories, such as the experience of Andrea Reindl owner of Legacy Creative, a branding & instructional design firm that recently completed certification training with their whole staff. “This training has taught us how to communicate clearer, develop better creative solutions for clients, and create training programs & brand strategies that are more effective in less time,” said Reindl. “It has been a game-changer for our organization, and we look forward to how it will help us grow.”

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, demand for cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and complex information processing is growing. The report estimates that by 2030, demand for higher cognitive skills will increase by 19 percent, while demand for physical and manual skills will decline by 14 percent.

“Forward-thinking organizations need to create environments that embrace and unlock the potential of the whole employee.” said Linda Jingfang Cai, Global Head of Learning and Talent Development, LinkedIn in LinkedIn Learning’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report.

Brain-centric Design’s Certification training is designed to equip individuals with the necessary tools to excel in a constantly changing job market. The program provides a comprehensive approach to enhancing cognitive abilities, including critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and effective communication.

Ozioma Egwuonwu Named Brain-centric Instructional Designer by Carr Knowledge & ICNTL

Ozioma Egwuonwu, Chief Strategic Transformation Officer, BurnBright International, recently received the Certified Brain-centric Instructional Designer (BcID) from Carr Knowledge & The Institute for Connecting Neuroscience with Teaching & Learning.

Ozioma Egwuonwu, BcD’s newest Brain-centric Instructional Designer (BcID)

The BcID® certification promotes the learning sciences in cognitive neuroscience competency standards through a uniform global program. Credential individuals must successfully complete a 13-week mentorship with Brain-centric Design (BcD) founders, Rich Carr and Kieran O’Mahony, PhD, in addition to 28 deep understanding vertical BcD sessions delivered online. A complete cognitive presentation utilizing the BcD framework must be developed, presented, and accepted for inclusion in the Neuroscience of Learning Academy for global distribution.

For more information about the BcID certification, visit

Carr Knowledge specializes in showing individuals & organizations how to innovate thinking for retention, depth, & understanding of any concept, presentation, or delivery of new information and is the developer of Brain-centric Design. Carr Knowledge and its allied BcIDs advance the Cognitive Culture to hypergrowth industry across all segments through advocacy, research, education, and the promotion of high cognitive standards of neuroscientific, psychologically safe, and professional practices.

The Most High-Value Work Is Cognitive

Sustainable unmatched performance gains are yours when there is cognition; the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

When what you present is seen as valuable to them, they listen.

You must apply creativity, critical thinking, and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. If you don’t, you’re done. The problem is, you’ve never been taught to think!

Suddenly, quicker than you can scream, “What’s all this cognitive talk…” you’ve been replaced with a bot, a robot, downsized, or replaced by somebody who knows how to think.

Think about it, wouldn’t you love to say that your last ________________
Chose as many that fit your need:
     Management Meeting
     Sales Presentation
     Child Lecture
had every single person in attendance – inhouse and online – engaged, collaborating, and thinking about that piece of knowledge you were presenting, and how it elevated their place in the world?

It’s not what you’re saying; it’s how you’re saying it.

In other words, you are presenting your information with a goal in mind. When that presentation transforms from the model you currently use (Present, then ask Questions or Test)

to a cognitive model (Facilitating uncovery delighting every brain with multiple mental abilities, including learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision making, and attention)

it’s easier to see why 21st-century learning skills, those that are cognitive, are in high demand.

Get cognitive.

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.

Time To Unlearn & Relearn Learning

Our innate capacity to learn, to think, to create, and adapt endowed us with the evolutionary advantages necessary to become one of the most successful organisms on the planet.

In spite of mankind’s amazing potential, it is an ironic truism of modernity that our US educational system is losing massive numbers of young learners each year to boredom, stress, and disengagement, (1, 2) the same learners who can memorize 10,000 Pokémon characters and devote countless hours to leveling up on a Skinnerian game like Angry Birds(3), act up, act out, and drop out in increasing and frightening numbers. According to Sir Ken Robinson modern American Education has fallen prey to the terrible twin pillars of a collapsing 19th Century dinosaur which we know as the Industrial Revolution:

(i) Stuck in an outmoded economic theory, and

(ii) Post-colonial cultural quagmire. A mere 100 years ago, E. P. Cubberley, dean of education at Stanford (back in the day), was instrumental in drawing up the blueprint for American public education, with this infamous pronouncement

“Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.”(4)

Thus was birthed, the factory conveyor-belt system that purports to make education efficient and cheap, but which, in reality, has failed our young people from the very outset. (5) We know that labeling and stratifying children are a disservice to both the individual and the educational system.(6) The latest research in neuroscience and learning sciences attest to mistakes of a system that has defined our stagnant educational achievement scores since the 1950s.(7) Emergent research in neurobiology(8) and epigenetics(9) further define the incredible errors of a system that continues to fail our children by not taking into account the individual’s autonomic nervous system reactivity to social context or polygenic score that dictates an individuals propensity to learn or not. In other words, we have been straddled to our detriment with an outmoded system for more than a century—and it shows.

All children have unlimited potential. To label is to limit. Every label is a step away from limitless possibilities. Data from the online Kahn Academy confirms this. All children can earn an A. Some do it immediately, some take a little time, and others take a little more time. But we do not punish them based on the snapshot of a particular day.

The problems associated with an outmoded behaviorist teaching system is ubiquitous. Teachers, Facilitators, Salespeople, Parents, & Trainers, struggle with their work every day. And its not just in the classroom. If you’re a Trainer you fight this process every time you engage a new hire, every time you learn a skill yourself, and every time you teach your child something new. You’re not alone—everyone uses this traditional method to some degree, subconsciously and with intentionality.

It’s not your fault. You’re just using the tool we’re all familiar with. You were introduced to this method in grade school, drilled in it by high school, owned it through higher education. And by the time you entered the workforce, it had solidified into your psyche. And like everyone else, it’s likely the only approach to teaching you’ve ever known. So why would you think to use anything else?

John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, and author, succinctly writes to the frustration of the matter. He states, “If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.”(10)

The most widespread and traditional model of teaching/learning is rooted in an antiquated behaviorist ideology (one that fell out of favor with learning scientists and psychologists who described a cognitive revolution in the mid-1950s). Referred to often as operant conditioning, instrumental learning, stimulus-response, or classical conditioning it harkens back to Pavlov’s salivating dog, Thorndike’s hungry cat escaping a puzzle box, and Skinner’s pigeons that could ‘read’ or ‘drop’ bombs. Indeed, it appeared to work well for animals that were half-starved and willing to work for food (reward) and/or avoid electric shocks (punishment), but it doesn’t necessarily work so effectively for well-fed children or humans who are able to use their brains and think with their free will. Behaviorism operates in a system where rewards for good behavior are intended to reinforce and increase the good behavior, while punishment for bad behavior is designed to decrease said bad behavior. This carrot and stick method does not work for people since it is premised on extrinsic motivators—the very rewards and punishments designed to instigate intrinsic motivation.

We’ve found that it works great for dogs, cats, & pigeons—at least for hungry dogs, cats, & pigeons—but it doesn’t work for people…especially people who aren’t hungry.

Operant Conditioning flowchart

In preschool, depending on the teacher and the classroom environment, you were somewhat free to experiment as you learned. No one was grading you on your Lego house or your finger paintings. What’s more, you weren’t wondering whether your Lego houses were good or bad. Instead, you were simply delighted by the act of creating something out of nothing. You were more or less able to learn how to interact with other children and the world around you on your own terms, in your own way.

Once you entered kindergarten, however, things changed. You received your first grades, cleverly disguised as star stickers or smiley faces. At this young age, the education system already stratified you as a three-star, two-star, one-star, or no-star student. You could barely tie your shoes, yet you could already separate the “smart” kids from the “dumb” kids. In grade school, aptly named for the time in your life that arbitrary letters A – F dictated your self-worth, the plot thickened and your identity became absorbed by your academic score. At six years old, you could clearly see some of your classmates advancing more quickly than others.

As you moved through the grades, this structure became more and more apparent. By high school, some children and young adults received college credit, while others struggled in remedial classes. If you graduated from high school, you decided whether to continue your education or join the workforce. Your high school GPA greatly influenced that decision. Whatever route you chose, this system further stratified you.

If you went on to college, you continued as an A–F student, with your average letter grade determining whether you could advance to postgraduate education, and subsequently determining how much money you would make as an adult.

If you pursued employment, that A turned into a raise, a better office space, or prestige among your colleagues. That F often transposed into poor work reports or lateral/downward movements in the company.

What happened to the brain with limitless potential? Had it not been present in first grade and all the way up through university and then your career? Why did labeling & stratification prevent some people from achieving their true potential? Do you know people who fell by the wayside in this perverse academic and stratified journey? When it gets personal, we realize traction. When it is “my child” or “my sister or brother” who is struggling in a reward-punishment system, then we are willing to look deeper into the situation and suggest solutions that make sense from a neurobiological standpoint.

The neuroscience of learning wasn’t available a few years ago. It is now–a 100% proven pedagogic model. Innovative school districts are clamoring for professional development (PD) for Neural Education.(11) Innovative businesses are implementing Brain-centric Design with jaw-dropping results.(12) These neuroscience methods deliver information the way the brain accepts it, and how people love to learn.  

If ‘Innovative’ is defined as, introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking, and a better, scientifically-proven way to educate is available, now, shouldn’t we all move forward? Now? 

If you’re lucky, you can scrape by teaching with traditional models. If you’re unlucky, they zap your audience’s desire to learn.

It’s time to unlearn & relearn learning.


1. W. Haney, G. Madaus, L. Abrams, J. Miao, I. Gruia, “The education pipeline in the United States 1970-2000,” (The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy, Boston, 2004).

2. University of California, California high school dropouts cost state $46.4 billion annually. UC Santa Barbara. 2007 (

3. R. Stevens, T. Satwicz, L. McCarthy, in The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, K. Salen, Ed. (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008), pp. 41-66.

4. E. P. Cubberley, Public school administration: a statement of the fundamental principles underlying the organization and administration of public education. (Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1916).

5. N. Chomsky, Review of B. F. Skinner, Verbal Behavior. Language 35, 26-58 (1959).

6. C. Wendelken et al., Frontoparietal structural connectivity in childhood predicts development of functional connectivity and reasoning ability: A large-scale longitudinal investigation. Journal of Neuroscience 37, 8549-8558 (2017).

7. A. J. Coulson, New NAEP scores extend dismal trend in US Education productivity. CATO at Liberty, Cato Institute. 2013.

8. W. T. Boyce, The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, New York, 2018).

9. R. Plomin, Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are. (Random House, London, UK, 2018).

10. J. Medina, Brain Rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school. (Pear Press, San Francisco, 2008).

11. T. K. O’ Mahony et al., in Edulearn 17: Neuroscience foundations – 9th Annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. (Open Education Europe, Barcelona, Spain, 2017).

12. T. K. O’ Mahony, E. Thompson, R. Carr, in International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace. (Teachers College, Columbia University Teachers College, New York, 2019).