Brain Rules—Required Reading in the Information Age

In many respects, the “information age” is anything but. An overwhelming supply of data, powered by advances in technology that ignore the needs and abilities of humans, can do more harm than good. Because of what we’re learning through brain research, which has made great strides in the last decade, we now have an opportunity to do much better. Perhaps no one does a better job of explaining in broadly accessible terms what we now know about the human brain and how it works than developmental molecular biologist John Medina. What’s special about Medina’s work is that he isn’t just delivering the facts; he’s applying them in practical ways to improve our lives.

In Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, Medina takes us on a fascinating journey through the brain, expressing what research has revealed in the form of simple rules that we can follow to live smarter and better, and help others do the same. In the book’s introduction, Medina writes:

Most of us have no idea how our brain works.

This has strange consequences. We try to talk on our cell phones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. Our schools are designed so that most real learning has to occur at home. This would be funny if it weren’t so harmful. Blame it on the fact that brain scientists rarely have a conversation with teachers and business professionals, education majors and accountants, superintendents and CEOs. Unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you’re out of the loop.

This book is meant to get you into the loop.

Our classrooms, workplaces, and homes are in many ways designed to thwart brain health, effective learning, personal fulfillment, and overall progress as a species. In many ways, the information technologies that dominate our lives today have contributed to this sad state of affairs, not because of anything inherently wrong with technology, but because most of it was developed without understanding how our brains work. As such, reliance on technology can actually make us unhappy and dumb. This is true of most business intelligence (BI) technology, which is my professional domain. All business intelligence professionals, especially those who develop BI tools, should read this book. You’ll enjoy the process, learn how to live a happier, smarter, and more productive life, and develop an understanding of the brain that will help you more effectively support the goals of business intelligence.

Take care,

P.S. The website provides a great deal of information, including videos, which you can use to preview the book. Also, Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen, put together a wonderful slideshow that you can view to get the gist of the book, especially as it applies to presenters.

4 Comments on “Brain Rules—Required Reading in the Information Age”

By Chris. August 12th, 2009 at 11:14 am

This looks very cool, thanks Steve!

By Jon Peltier. August 12th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Brain Rules has been the best book I’ve read all year. It is well written with good examples about how evolutionary pressures gave rise to the intricate structure and operation of our brains. It has strong implications in how we take in information from our environment, how we communicate, and how we should present information for others to understand.

While on the (off) topic of brain physiology, another fascinating book I recently read is The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, which also covers human cognition, but also plasticity, the brain’s capacity to change itself, that is to learn or to overcome shortcomings.

By Jeff Weir. August 24th, 2009 at 6:01 am

I loved it, and agree it’s well written and well informed. Even more importantly, it’s funny.

By jerome cukier. August 26th, 2009 at 4:09 am

It’s a fantastic book. Whatever we build for people had better be compatible with our biology, else it’s designed to fail.
while on the subjects of books heartily endorsed by Garr Reynolds, I found “the back of the napkin” by Dan Roam quite inspiring as well. (