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Brain rules

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —September 30, 2008
Filed in Insight

I’m reading John Medina’s Brain Rules and thoroughly enjoying it. Here’s a snippet illustrating his humorous style while making an important point.

Any learning environment that deals with only the database instincts [our ability to memorise things] or only the improvisatory instincts [our ability to imagine things] ignores one half of our ability. It is doomed to fail. It makes me think of jazz guitarists: They’re not going to make it if they know a lot about music theory but don’t know how to jam in a live concert. Some schools and workplaces emphasize a stable, rote-learning database. They ignore the the improvisatory instincts drilled unto us for millions of years. Creativity suffers. Others emphasize usage of a database, without installing a fund of knowledge in the first place. They ignore our need to obtain deep understanding of a subject, which includes memorizing and storing a richly structured database. You get people who are great improvisers but don’t have depth of knowledge. You may know someone like this where you work. They may look like jazz musicians and have the appearance of jamming, but in the end they know nothing. They’re playing intellectual air guitar.

Apart from a great last sentence, this paragraph is a warning against the pendulum swinging between rote and improvisation. I suspect we are at the impro end at the moment and at risk of being guitar heros.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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