Issue 22
Learning CAN be fun. Training SHOULD be fun. Training Games ARE fun!
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In this Newsletter...

Good Advice For Your Brain
A great article appears in this month's (March 2008) HR Magazine entitled "The Brain at Work" by Adrienne Fox. Here I've summarized some of the key points and added some of my own thoughts as well. What is striking about the information provided and specifically about how we learn, is the fact that many of these concepts now proven through neuroscience were ideas that have in the past been assumed to be true by doctors, psychologist and cognitive researchers.

For example, neuroscience tells us that the brain at age 71 can make as many new connections as it did at age 17. Most of us have about 100 billion neurons in our brain, but the real news, and key to learning, are the number of connections (synapses) that we develop. Alas, you CAN teach the old dog new tricks. However many of us simply choose to stop learning, resist challenging ourselves with new information, and because of this, actually lose mental capacity. Our brain exhibits a wonderful plasticity; a tremendous ability to grow, change and recreate itself. However we will often choose the road MOST traveled, the route we are familiar with and the one that offers little chance of surprise, novelty and new learning. It is somewhat of a dichotomy; we strive for the familiar because it is less threatening yet this natural inclination to find the safest path may be the most dangerous thing we can do. Learning is hard work. Most of us choose to stop learning around age 30 and our brain, as a result, can literally shrink! The brain's cortex is covered with bumps (gyri) and grooves (sulci). The aging process will naturally see each individual gyrus of the brain shrink, while the grooves in our brains become wider, and fill with fluid. The good news is that this process can be slowed to a crawl, but like every other part of our body it requires exercise. In the case of our brain this exercise must be both physical to keep the blood flowing and mental to keep the connections growing.

Learning is hard work and tiring. Research tells us that making just one decision reduces our glucose levels. Our blood sugar is diminished as we learn. This is why it is not advisable to talk and lecture folks for hours at a time. It is really a case of diminishing returns. We can't continually process new information for hours at a time. According to David Rock, Founder and CEO of Results Coaching Systems, "The brain shuts off after a certain amount of time." Twenty minutes is about the max, at which point some effort to more fully engage your audience becomes critical. Many teachers and trainers have long realized this fact, and design programs which incorporate frequent breaks, lots of review opportunities, and work to present information in the most engaging manner. Our 3 pound human brains which represent about 2 percent of our body weight actually consume about 1/5 of our body's energy. Learning is without a doubt, HARD WORK. It has always been said that students learn and test better after they have had a good night's rest. I, a 56 year old man, remember a college professor of mind touting the benefits of sleep prior to "the big exam". We crammed all night regardless. However neuroscience now has definitive proof that we process new learning as we sleep. According to Pierce Howard, Ph.D, Director of Research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Studies in Charlotte, N.C., "Without REM sleep, we lose what we learned the day preceding sleep." The thought is that learning is consolidated as we sleep. This is when our "working memory" is incorporated into our long term memory, which is learning we might be able to retain for the rest of our days. We've all had the experience of simply sleeping on a problem and somehow magically awaking with the answer. Apparently we organize and file learning as we sleep. According to Ed Boyden Ph.D, assistant professor in the MIT Dept. of Biological Engineering, "If you have learned a lot of information, and sleep on it, you can wake up with better insight into what you have learned. I would also contend that we sort out our previous days emotional concerns as well as we sleep. Imagine, and you thought a good night's sleep was, well, just a good night's sleep.

Finally a word about STRESS. According to the Howard "prolonged stress produces sustained levels of cortisol." As a result, the hippocampus, where memory is stored, shrinks, reducing the production of neurons, affecting memory, mood, and other mental functions. There is one case of an individual found wandering aimlessly about an army base. When stopped and questioned he indicated that he was 22 years of age, a single young recruit stationed on the base. This was actually true, only about 11 years prior. Somehow this individual had literally forgotten 11 years of his life. He was actually now a civilian, married with children, and 33 not 22 years of age. It was discovered that this person had developed a cyst on an area of his brain that connected the hippocampus to the rest of his brain. When the cyst was drained and treated his memory amazingly returned. The hippocampus is the area of the brain we believe first affected with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Naturally we want to do everything we can to avoid a shrinking hippocampus, and this means doing something about a lifestyle that is riddled with chronic stress. Ellen Weber Ph.D, Director of the MITA International Brain Based Center in Pittsford, N.Y. warns "Did you know that stress shrinks the brain mass and knocks off at least 10 years of your life, while also lowering your body's immunity." To offset stress Howard recommends "Get ten minutes a day of vigorous exercise to get oxygen to the brain."

Learning is hard work. You know that. It appears the advice we're getting in this regard is advice many of us had heard before. For our brain and body we need to ensure we keep both well-exercised, receiving sufficient sleep, and design living environments for ourselves which avoid chronic stress. The difference perhaps is that we now more clearly understand why this advice was and remains such good advice.

Famous Quotes
Brendan Francis - "A man is already halfway in love with a woman who listens to him."

David Augsburger - "An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart."

Jean Rostand - "A man is not old as long as he is seeking something."

William Lyon Phelps - "The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts, and we grow happier as we grow older."

Products From TGI
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The Art of Active Listening
Listening is an art and one that most of us, including myself, do not possess. We have a problem with our brain. No really, it is a brain problem. You see our brains are truly skilled prognosticators. We are constantly predicting the future. For example, even before I finishing writing this, you've guessed the very word I was about to place at the end of this ________________. See you're even predicting what I said before I say it! But this all makes sense. The primary motivator for all of us born into the world is our instinct to survive. We strive to keep "the self" healthy. And what better way to survive but to know what is about to occur. Unfortunately, no one can really know the future, so we need to be able to predict it; and our brains, in this regard are the best in the business. We predict when an oncoming, speeding vehicle poses a danger and we get ready to move. We lock the door lock when we come into a perceptively dangerous neighborhood. We are constantly preparing for our next move, and when in conversation, this means what we will say next. So actually listening to someone is kind of going against the grain. "Hey, you're saying so many words, I can hardly hear myself think!"

But in our world it is certainly important to listen. When we listen we learn. Making a good decision requires that we gather all the information. When we try to sell anything, listening is critical because, as any good salesman will tell you, the key to good selling is knowing how to ask questions and then listening to your buyer's response. They will tell you what you need to know in order to sell your widget, your idea or yourself. Good team work is all about learning to listen, to share ideas and exploit all the resources of the team in order to problem solve. Managers need to know how to listen in order to encourage employees to share their ideas, suggestions and concerns. Good managers are approachable, which means there is always an opportunity to talk with them, and when you talk, they actually listen. And finally, when we learn to listen and refrain from prejudging the speaker, our personal relationships improve. Knowing how to listen is important.

So what can we do to be better listeners? Well one of the first things we can do is act like we're interested in what's being said. Our expectations will often determine outcomes. If we expect that there is nothing here we can learn, guess what? So go into the class or the conversation with the expectation that you're going to take away something of value. Then help the speaker by visibly showing your interest. Put aside your image of yourself as the great orator, and prepare to give up the floor. Lean forward, make eye contact, and occasionally nod your understanding of what's being said. Helping the speaker will help not only give the speaker more confidence, but will help you to gain value from what's being said. Show empathy for your speaker. They say that public speaking is more fearful to many people than death itself, so give the speaker a break especially if they're dying. Avoid looking the other way, staring out the window or hearing other conversations as you speak with someone. Have you ever been listening to another conversation while supposedly engaged in a conversation with someone else? Then to truly show contempt, jump into that other conversation, and leave your original speaker simply mortified. Give supportive verbal feedback as well. Ask a question, or while in conversation injecting the words, "I see", or "that's interesting".

Finally, and the most difficult for us to do, stay focused on what is being said. In order for us to do this, we must actually go against our very nature of constructing what we are going to say. Again mentally prepare yourself to listen. Put other distractions of the day aside and approach your class or conversation as an opportunity to learn something new. Well to finish, I will leave you with this quote by Brenda Ueland - "Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created." And thanks for listening.

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Empowerment PowerPoint Content
Gender Differences PowerPoint Content
Goal Setting PowerPoint Content
Interviewing PowerPoint Content
Leadership PowerPoint Content
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Motivation PowerPoint Content
Negotiation PowerPoint Content
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Diversity Simulation Game Testers Needed!
TGI has just developed a new Diversity simulation game and we would like to ask your help in testing this game. The game has been developed in MS PowerPoint, and players (as a team - usually 3 6 players) accumulate scores on Knowledge, Communications and Awareness on the topic of Diversity. Players participate as a team answering diversity questions, playing diversity games, doing diversity exercises, role playing and participating in team discussions. The game can be played for 1, 2, 4 or 6 hours.

If you're interested, we would ask that you trial the program with a group from your organization and give us detailed feedback. We've created an extensive evaluation form, and would ask that you thoughtfully complete the evaluation after having your group go through the program. (Please, we are looking for valuable insight, and must stress our need for DETAILED and ROBUST feedback versus general commentary (No smiley sheets).

In compensation we will send you the game itself, which will retail for $99.00, once it has been updated to include your suggested thoughts and changes. Contact [email protected] for additional information.

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