My Love Affair With the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond

Last week I was flying from Calgary to Toronto to deliver a talk on NeuroCommunication - it's a four-hour flight that can feel long if you don't have a good book or something interesting to watch. 

However, the time flew by as I spent most of the flight engrossed in this fascinating documentary on the life of Dr. Marian Diamond. A must-see if you're interested in the science of the human brain!


NeuroCommunication

Three years ago, I discovered a fascinating relationship between the way our brains process information and how we speak, write and listen. Since then our Presenting with Influence, Writing with Influence and Connecting Through Listening workshops have helped thousands of business professionals like you to increase their performance in all aspects of communication.

In our talks and workshops we show how neurological preferences drive communication behaviour - and that each of us has unique communication biases that we can easily recognize and learn to overcome. I’ve always thought that this innovative approach merits its own term and last month I had a flash of inspiration and came up with a new word: NeuroCommunication

I believe that it captures perfectly the exciting work that we do - I hope that it resonates with you as well!


Elon Musk on acronyms

Elon Musk

"Excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication and keeping communication good as we grow is incredibly important. Individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people are making these up, over time the result will be a huge glossary that we have to issue to new employees. No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don't want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees."

"The key test for an acronym is to ask whether it helps or hurts communication."

 

Selected text from a May 2010 email to SpaceX employees 


Valerie's success story

I wanted to touch base and say that I use your Writing with Influence skills EVERY day and it’s made a HUGE impact within my division and on my work.

I do monthly reporting that gets sent to our VP. Each Manager submits their contribution to me and I read it, ask questions and they revise it for clarity. Because of my feedback and determination to drive a great report, our VP is now able to bring that report to the Executive Leadership team as well. I am so proud of it and proud of myself for making a huge difference.
 
I’m able to write difficult emails much more easily as well - thank you!


Simon Sinek on Millennials...and communication

Many of you will have watched Simon Sinek's 2009 TED Talk "How great leaders inspire action". Sinek has become popular once again for a new video where he discusses the challenges that many Millennials face in the workplace.

In a clip from a longer interview he outlines how four factors have impacted Millennials satisfaction in the workplace: parenting, technology, impatience and environment.

He then suggests that companies are responsible for creating learning environments where employees can develop the confidence and social skills they need to be successful.

 

In a second video posted yesterday, Sinek expands upon these ideas and addresses the need to help leaders and professionals of all generations to communicate effectively.

 
One of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to build other leaders - it’s to take care of people. This has nothing to do with Millennials. This has to do with good leadership.

I find that the best companies have robust and remarkable leadership programs...teaching things like human skills, like listening, communication or conflict resolution.

That’s what the best companies do.
— Simon Sinek
 

Karl Ove Knausgård on writing

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While flying back from New York City I finished reading the first part of Knausgård's remarkable six-volume autobiography. I was struck by the simplicity, directness and authenticity of the writing and I realized that it's these same traits that characterize influential writing in business.

To get there, we have to strip away the traditional forms and the unnecessary embellishments and formality that we've been taught to add to our writing.

In Knausgård's words: 

Writing is more about destroying than creating.
— Karl Ove Knausgård - "My Struggle" - Book 1

Douglas Coupland on public speaking

 
 
I peeked through the door, saw a healthy-sized crowd and had one of those rare epiphanies: Well, Doug, those people out there just assume you’re going to do a good job, so just do a good job. It was that simple, but it is all I - or anyone else - need to know about public speaking, and it has been saving my bacon for twenty-five years. People generally want everyone to do well on a stage - they really do.
— Douglas Coupland, "Bit Rot"

Cathy's success story

Hi Gregor,

I took your Writing with Influence workshop this summer and have been meaning to send you feedback since. The structure you gave, plus the permission to just be me and write how I’d talked helped more than you can imagine.

I’ve always been pretty confident at communicating; getting across urgency, appreciation and sharing of knowledge. But I’ve NEVER had the reaction I had to emails before I took your course.

Use online tools to ensure that introverts can share their ideas

I'm a huge proponent of interactive presentations and I encourage presenters and meeting leaders to include as many people as possible in discussions. However, to ensure that we are hearing all of the best ideas, we need to do more.  

Most meetings and group discussions are heavily biased towards extroverts - despite the fact that a third to half of the population are introverts. Introverts are often uncomfortable fighting to have their ideas heard in a public setting and can end up not contributing at all.

Live polling and feedback are excellent ways of soliciting the perspectives of all participants. In the pilot of my new Leading Effective Meetings workshop earlier this week I asked the group to complete the Quiet Revolution Introvert Test and then used live polling to display the results. We were all fascinated to discover that there weren't any extroverts in the session!

I use Poll Everywhere, a free online tool that works really well with PowerPoint on both PCs and Macs. The polls and questions can be inserted directly into your slides and customized to match the design of your presentation. Participants can submit anonymous responses using their phones or laptops and the results are displayed and updated in real-time.

In your next presentation or meeting, try using online polling, questions and feedback to ensure that all voices are heard, especially the quiet ones.


The correlation between good ideas and good communicators

I just re-watched Susan Cain's TED Talk on "The Power of Introverts" where she says:

There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.
— Susan Cain

She's absolutely right about that. However, although it's unfair and inaccurate we often judge the merit of an idea based on how well it's communicated.

Similarly, while there's no correlation between a person's intelligence and their ability to communicate, research has proven that we still make judgements on how smart someone is - based solely on how well they speak.

Many great ideas are never heard - especially in work environments that are often dominated by extroverts. Research suggests that a third to half of the population are introverted - if you would like to find out where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum you can take a 10-question test on Susan Cain's new site Quiet Revolution. I took the test and it turns out that I'm an "Ambivert" - meaning I have both introvert and extrovert characteristics. Which explains why I thoroughly enjoyed delivering a workshop today and am now very happy to be alone in my hotel room thinking and writing!

The neuroscience-based approach that we teach in our workshops is incredibly helpful to those with introvert tendencies. We have developed a structure that ensures that every member of your audience receives exactly the right information at exactly the right time. Which means that when using this approach there is zero correlation between your level of introversion or extroversion and your ability to influence your audience.