Applying insights from neuroscience can do more than fine-tune your meetings — it can transform them. F
or his 2009 book, Your Brain at Work, business consultant David Rock inter- viewed 30 leading neuroscientists
and drew on research from more than 300 academic papers based on brain and psycho- logical studies, and then applied insights from neuroscience and psychology to the business world.
As co-founder of the NeuroLeadership
ees value — limits the number of sessions to just four a day and breaks all the rules about breaks. That’s because research has shown that the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that makes decisions and solves prob- lems, is easily overwhelmed. (For more from Rock about how he uses brain science to help attendees get the most out of his conference, see this month’s cover story, “Who Speaks to the Speakers?” on p. 40.)
From the book: The mental stage is smaller than you might expect. It’s more like a stage in a child’s bedroom than the one at Carn- egie Hall. It can hold only a handful of actors at a time. Put too many on, and others get bumped off. With so little space available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and make mistakes. So just how much space do you have up
there? This question has perplexed scientists for some time. You’ve probably never heard of George A. Miller, but you may have heard of the outcome of a study he did in 1956. Miller found that the maximum number of items a person can hold in mind at once is seven. The trouble with Miller’s research being so well known is that it is wrong, or at least often misinterpreted.
Summit — an annual conference that links leadership development with neuroscience and psychology — Rock also applies those scientific insights to the business of meetings. The following excerpts from Your Brain At
Work explain the science behind the unortho- dox structure of the Summit, which — unlike many conferences that pile on conference sessions and topics in an effort to give attend-
A wide survey of new research in 2001 by Nelson Cowan, at the University of Missouri– Columbia, found that the number of items you can hold in mind is likely not seven. It’s more like four, and even then this depends on the complexity of the four items. Four numbers, no problem. Four long words, and it starts to get harder. Four sentences, unless the sentences are familiar — a memorized prayer
“A study by Brian McElree at New York University found that the number of chunks of information you can remember accurately with no memory degradation is, remarkably, only one.”