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TRAINING: 2009 Annual ASTD Conference: Our Story

Last Friday, Michael, Matt and I participated in the Hudson Mohawk 14th annual ASTD conference. While I gave a presentation on the cost benefit of in-house training teams, the guys manned our vendor booth. The morning keynote speaker, Mike Mears (Leadership Consultant, author and speaker), shared some interesting information about the brain and its relationship with change. We are all familiar with the pre-frontal neo-cortex — or logical center of the brain — that registers that a change is occurring. Mears mentioned, however, that the basel ganglia area of the brain is what he called the “brain administrator” which decides whether the change is good or bad, based on how similar the change is to something the “administrator” already knows. The basel ganglia is hard-wired to do things in a certain way, and it’s very difficult to get the brain to change these established patterns. For example, the basel ganglia controls our motor skills and speech patterns. This hard-wiring sometimes results in an instant reaction — often times negative — to changes that go against our grain.

However, when we have an “ah-ha” moment, it breaks the rules established by the brain administrator. The “ah-ha” actually creates an explosion of energy in the brain where lots of neurons instantly become re-wired, helping us to overcome our resistance to the change.

I’ve been having these ah-ha moments relative to all the new social networking i-commerce options (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) I’ve been learning. While my personality likes new and innovative ideas, I’m also likely to read the manual and bring new ideas in one at a time.

So I had one of these “ah-ha” moments when I came back from giving my presentation and Matt sat me down and instantly arranged for Michael and me to do a YouTube video clip of our experience. The whole thing took about 45 seconds to record and a couple of minutes to upload. Then, there we were on YouTube, talking about the conference (check it out! Everything happened so fast it by-passed my basel ganglia “administrator” and I could feel the rush of endorphins being released from trying something so new — and seemingly dangerous. Sometimes the best way to be introduced to change is to find yourself in the middle of it. It’s the difference between staring at a serving of lima beans as a kid, dreading the thought of eating any and projecting how awful they will taste, or just starting to eat them without thought and in a heartbeat the plate is empty. 

That got me to thinking of other areas where we might want to figure out how to by-pass our basel ganglia — with an ah-ha moment. What about deciding to learn a new tool on Excel or Word, or how to imbed video into PowerPoint, or build a go-cart, or play a musical instrument. Every time we do that, we prepare the basel ganglia for a future with lots of change in it.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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