Friday 16 April 2021

Your Brain at Work


A few weeks ago I blogged about David Rock's SCARF model. At that time, as I said, I hadn't read his book, Your Brain at Work, which introduces the model.  I am now reading it; and whilst I have not yet finished it, I can highly recommend it. In the first place, that's because my friend and colleague, Deiric McCann at Genos recommends it, and he is nobody's fool.  But also I have now read enough of it to vouch for it myself. It is well-researched, very readable, well-written and very practical.

The subtitle of the book gives some good clues about its scope: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long. And of course, the title gives another big clue.

What Rock has done, is pull together a coherent understanding of a broad range of research into the brain, and create a user's guide. 

He presents it as a series of fictional case studies: a day in the life of Emily and Paul, broken into short scenes that illustrate the problems they encounter in a fairly typical, stressy, day at work. After each scene, he reviews the relevant research and how it might apply to the situation that Paul or Emily has just messed up, and then offers an alternative scene, based on Paul or Emily applying the research intelligently to manage how they use their brain to inform their behaviour, interactions with others, and so forth.  Each chapter concludes with a summary of the key points (Surprises About the Brain) and some suggestions of Things to Try.

For example at the end of Chapter One, which is about Overload, the Surprises about the Brain are:

  • Conscious thinking involves deeply complex biological interactions in the brain among billions of neurons 
  • Every time the brain works on an idea consciously, it uses up measurable and limited resource 
  • Some mental processes take up a lot more energy than others 
  • The most important mental processes such as prioritising often take the most effort 
and Some Things to Try are:
  • Think of conscious thinking as a precious resource to conserve
  • Prioritise prioritising, as it's an energy-intensive activity
  • Save mental energy for prioritising by avoiding other high-energy-consuming conscious activities, such as dealing with emails
  • Schedule the most attention-rich tasks when you have a fresh and alert mind
  • Use the brain to interact with information, rather than store information, by creating visuals for complex ideas and by listing projects
  • Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking.
And so it goes on: pulling together, in simple, useable, understandable and accessible form a wealth of knowledge and practical applications. Much of this is not new if you have read around the subject; but some is. And having it all presented in such a well-explained and user-friendly way is very valuable. 

The book is divided into four Acts (each of several Scenes, or chapters) as follows: 

Act 1: Problems and Decisions
Act 2: Stay Cool Under Pressure
Act 3: Collaborate with others
Act 4: Facilitate Change

Whilst the Emily and Paul plot can feel a little contrived, it is nonetheless an engaging and most importantly clear and memorable way of illustrating the points that Rock is making.

All in all, this is an excellent and practical introduction to the key domains of Emotional Intelligence: self awareness, self management, awareness of others, and relationship management. 

It's probably helpful to add a link to the website, that has some excellent blog posts, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment