"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


On Saturday, after a gruelling four-hour morning session of 'pow-wow' at a couple's place in Seletar to explore a potential long-term project to equip primary school students with effective study skills to tackle the pivotal PSLE, Dilip & I visited the SIM HQ in Clementi to attend a lecture.

The lecture was part of the SIM Members' Day.

A bald-headed chubby guy, of South African origin, was scheduled to talk about 'Challenge Your Brain' at 2.30pm. His name was Nick French, Director & Principal of Image Advancements, a cross-cultural communications consultancy.

We were there just in time after a quick snack at the cafeteria.

At the onset, Nick asked the participants as to why were there that afternoon. One participant sitting right in front posed: "Surprise me!".

After that short preliminary, Nick introduced himself as chemical-salesman/commodity-trader turned consultant.

With the aid of Powerpoint slides, Nick started off with a focal point on "the interplay of crisis management, communication & connection, creativity".

He then ran through some brain facts: anatomy, four lobes, limbic system, amygdala.

His three illustrative examples of crisis response situations:

- one involving his safari trip in the wild with lions;

- another about Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger III & his expert manoeuvring of US Airways Flight #1549, after being hit by a flock of birds, disabling both engines, for an eventually miraculous crash-landing on the Hudson River early this year - all passengers suvived!; &

- last about Hillary Clinton, tackling a specific Q&A response as visiting US Secretary of State to the African region [in a brisk video clip], which exposed her abrasive side;

were interesting.

In a nut shell, when we are in a crisis situation, learn to think fast on our feet. Nick mentioned the apt term "metacognition" i.e. 'thinking about thinking".

As he continued to ramble - just like a lecturer in a classroom - about the brain: left-brain/right-brain (Roger Sperry), corpus callosum, levels of brain activity, iceberg metaphor, & other brain characteristics, boredom started to set in my mind, as I struggled to keep myself awake. I even tried to make my own rough notes in the handout, so as to keep my brain from "blanking out".

I noted that Dilip was feeling very restless in his seat.

I was very surprised to note that Nick wasn't aware that, especially in the afternoon, after lunch, a pure lecture format with no interactive exercises to get audience involvement, worked against our brains. Worst still, his voice was monotonous.

In the next part, he talked about the whole brain model of Ned Herrmann & Kobus Neethling, with a focus on thinking preferences.

Luckily, at least to break the monotony, he invited audience participation to figure out his preferred thinking style, with the use of a competition [we were asked to write our names on ice cream sticks, which were then to be slotted into four empty canisters, representing the four modes of logician (L1), organiser (L2), visionary (R1) & communicator (R2) respectively] in which selected winners were entitled to boxes of South African tea.

At the tail end of the talk, he finally managed to share some amusing anecdotes about couple's thinking preferences, with some references to Allan Pease's work.

By the way, Nick was L1, which probably explained the seemingly boring lecture.

Personally, I felt that he rambled too much on the brain stuff - which were already common knowledge in today's context - at the beginning stage.

Also, he should have injected fun exercises or humorous games to jazz up his presentation.

Our neural plasticity was not put to the test, since all of us were just sitting there listening. No doing!, except a minimal one at the tail end.

Nick should have realised that our brains require synaptic workouts to stay alert, let alone to learn & grow.

He should have known that a lecture format as he had followed did not foster novelty & challenge to our dendrites.

My end analysis: Athough I felt that the lecture was informative, I also felt that the title of the lecture, 'Challenge Your Brain', was a real misnomer. Nick's focus was essentially understanding your brain's thinking preferences.

Nonetheless, before leaving the lecture theatre, Dilip went to ask the guy at the front, who posed "Surprise Me!" at the beginning, whether he was surprised after the lecture. He shook his head.

No comments: