Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Today our memory is on our iPad or smartphone. Today children at school are not taught to memorise things. Today we’ve forgotten about our memory (how ironic is that?) Yet memory today is still a vital thinking tool.

Joshua Foer is a journalist and writer (“Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything” is the book he wrote). He became interested in memory and especially the feats of memory some achieve in remembering hundreds of numbers in sequence or the cards in several packs of cards.

So he visited the USA Memory Championship where his interest deepened. So much so that in 2006, just out of interest, he trained for and entered the championship.…and he won it. Jonathan Foer became US Memory Champion almost by chance. How? In his book he explains how techniques invented 2,500 years ago still work today.

In around 500 BC the Greek lyric poet Simonides had a wonderful memory.  During the excavation of the rubble of one Scopas' dining hall that had collapsed in an earthquake, Simonides (who’d luckily left before the disaster) was asked to identify each guest killed. Although their bodies had been crushed beyond recognition he successfully finished the task by remembering who was who from their positions at the table before his departure. He used what became known as  the 'memory palace', a system for mnemonics widely used until the Renaissance …when things we needed to remember were printed so our memories weren’t called on with quite the previous urgency.

Imagine a lawyer who can’t cross reference relevant cases. Imagine a writer who couldn’t remember the references that enrich his assertions. You cannot busk when you have poor memory. And in business you occasionally need that memory-friend to remind you of a piece of evidence or of something that needs doing.
One of our biggest problems is that our mind attic is stacked full of rubbish that we don’t need. So, in specific areas we really want to focus on, we need to do a “Spring Clean”. Learn some stuff by heart, put some structure around a subject in which we have a keen interest and see what happens.

Look after this, one of our precious assets. Having a good memory makes us so much more efficient, impressive and productive.

How to solve problems and make brilliant decisions. (Business Thinking Skills that really work) published by Pearson is coming out on November 12th2014.

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