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Success in the Industrial Age was determined by efficiency . Success in the Information Age is determined by effectiveness . It is imperative that individuals and corporations be willing and able to apply multiple strategies when dealing with complex, ever-changing economies. Fortunately, the human brain is genetically equipped to meet the challenge. Unfortunately, most educational processes and training programs still utilize outdated models that fail to meet the requirements for transfer of new learning. The key to effective transference is mediation, a process that allows the learner to intentionally explore the underlying strategy upon which a lesson was built.

Based on neuro-cognitive research, Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training programs employ mediation techniques to uncover the learners' underlying assumptions (a.k.a. mental models) and then broaden their ability to perceive and respond effectively to diverse problems. Because DSM is unique in addressing the visual processing systems and how perception influences thought, it was the only training program NASA selected for a Critical Thinking Skills Project to enhance the mental agility of high-functioning employees.

In addition to the Professional Program modeled after the NASA study, DSM offers programs designed to meet the specific needs of Children , Adolescents , and Seniors . All programs enhance mental agility, concentration, communication, and memory and result in learners experiencing a greater self-confidence and readiness to meet new challenges.

Paradoxically, higher education tends to specialize and narrow perspectives. Consequently, many intelligent people have difficulty communicating their knowledge and effectively influencing “outsiders.” They fail to get the results they want because they don't recognize how others organize information or interpret agendas.

Technology has increased the speed and efficiency of communication throughout the world, but it can do nothing to improve the effectiveness of communication. That has to take place within the human brain. Because DSM addresses neuro-cognitive training from a unique bottom-up method, it has the means to help people of all ages and abilities become more effective at getting the results they want.


Effectiveness Versus Efficiency: Getting the results you want

People in the workforce today are struggling to:

•  Make decisions
•  Solve problems
•  Generate options

with educational tools that emphasized:

•  Rote memorization
•  Obeying orders
•  Following routines

For much of the 20th Century efficiency in the 3 Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) was the mark of an educated laborer. Schools were neither required nor designed to teach much else.

To be effective in the 21 st Century, knowledge workers must be able to find information and use it to create new knowledge. Literacy skills are assumed. Critical thinking skills are in demand.


Success in the 21st Century requires a workforce that is able to distinguish between when to do things right (efficiency) and when to do the right thing (effectiveness).

Mental Agility: One size never fits all

Some factors that affect success in a world economy include:

•  Mergers
•  Acquisitions
•  New products
•  New markets
•  New technologies
•  Ecological disasters (natural and man-made)
•  Civil unrest
•  Changing alliances
•  Depletion of resources


To survive and thrive in a global village requires the ability to devise and use multiple strategies effectively. This means:

•  Understanding the type of problem a selected strategy can successfully address
•  Identifying the resources a strategy requires
•  Determining the amount of time it will take to implement a strategy
•  Analyzing the consequences of implementing the strategy

To get beyond the limits formal education has set on most people requires an up-to-date understanding of how the human brain functions: its strengths and its weaknesses.


Brain Plasticity: The science behind re-inventing oneself

Brains naturally change in 2 ways:

•  By the genetically triggered overproduction of synapses (nerve connections between brain cells) and their selective loss

•  By the addition of new synapse formations as a result of attentive experience

It has long been known that during certain periods in early childhood the brain goes into overdrive, producing a vast array of nerve connects and opening windows of opportunity to learn language, motor skills, social awareness, etc.

It had long been assumed that early childhood was the only time when the brain was malleable enough to be significantly influenced by external stimuli (parents and teachers).

Since the 1980s non-invasive imaging technologies such as PET (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) have revealed that even adult brains are constantly changing in response to stimuli. Moreover, these brains can be significantly restructured under the right conditions.

The discovery of the on-going malleability (also called "plasticity") of the brain demands a re-examination of the theory of modern education and the concept of IQ (intelligence quotient). Throughout life learning in general and guided instruction in particular:

•  Change the brain's physical structure
•  Alter the mind's perceptual experiences
•  Influence the individual's behavior, expectations, and choices


Realizing that the human brain is a work-in-progress greatly affects:

•  How people assess their competencies
•  What risks they are willing to take
•  What opportunities they recognize
•  How they respond to setbacks

Transference: Why most training programs fail to produce desired results

Training programs tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories:

•  Standardized procedure
•  Lateral thinking


Standardized procedure training includes routine activities such as answering telephones, filling out forms, operating machinery, etc.

Lateral thinking programs involve solving puzzles, role-playing, and teamwork to unleash creative juices and innovation.

Neither process has proven particularly effective at enabling transference (the ability to take what has been learned in one context and apply it in a different context).

Research indicates that transference of new learning can be thwarted when:

•  People are asked to elaborate on a lesson with reference to the context in which it was presented (thereby securing it in their memories to a particular situation)
•  People's experiences, expectations, or beliefs lead to a misunderstanding of how the instructor intends the new information to be used
•  People are uncertain about how the new information is structured or do not understand the principles around which it is organized


Mediation: What has been learned from failure

The brain is restructured through attention. Without attention neither restructuring nor learning can occur. 


Mediation is the process by which someone who knows more directs the attention of someone who knows less to relevant information that is determined by a specific intention.

Mediation enables transference because it makes the learner consciously aware of:

•  The inherent structure of the problem
•  The intended goal
•  The relevant information



Understanding when, where, why, and how new learning can be applied creates usable knowledge that enables you to:

•  Recognize similarities in diverse situations
•  Assess the ways in which situations are similar and different
•  Formulate a plan of action in accordance with the assessment
•  Analyze the degree to which the actions succeed or fail
•  Gain insight into their own preferences and expectations

Bottom-up Learning: How Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training is different

Most instruction imparts established theories or routines as a means of leading someone from knowing less to knowing more. The learner never has an opportunity to explore the structure or examine the premise upon which the lesson was built.

Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) programs were not intended to impart pre-digested information but to enhance conscious recognition of various logical structures that have long been associated with intelligent behavior, specifically:

•  Conditional reasoning
•  Bi-conditional reasoning
•  Analytical perception
•  Classification

Utilizing visual puzzles that require bottom-up thinking to solve, DSM mediators guide learners through the backwaters of their own subconscious thought processes, allowing them to objectively think about how they think and habitually structure information.

Once people have learned to recognize their own organizational behaviors, they can more easily:

•  Verbalize their rationale for doing something in a particular way
•  Monitor their current level of understanding
•  Determine when additional information is required
•  Evaluate new information based on its consistency with what they already know and its relevance for achieving their intended goal
•  Create analogies that help them and other people advance their understanding of the situation

DSM training helps people develop Expert Minds.

A Peek behind the Curtain: How DSM works its magic

DSM puzzles utilize the same methods artists have employed for centuries to trick viewers into making assumptions about what they see and understand.

Through intentional intervention DSM mediators lead learners to an awareness of how their assumptions influence:

•  What they see
•  How they think
•  What they do

The puzzles are not merely optical illusions. To solve them the learner has to visualize the conditions that make some answers logical and others illogical. In this way the learner experiences both the depth and breadth of neuro-cognitive restructuring.

In addition multiple experiences requiring the same general strategy strengthen synapse formations and broaden the learner's perceptual behavior.

A wide variety of puzzles allow learners to explore new strategies for:

•  Organizing information
•  Generating options
•  Making decisions
•  Solving problems
•  Verifying solutions

Unlike most trainees who are conditioned to looking for correct formulas and single solutions, Retrain Your Business Brain develops Expert Minds that:

•  Seek to understand the goal
•  Organize the available information based on the goal
•  Structure the problem so that the goal can be achieved
•  Evaluate the solution's success at satisfying the goal
•  Strategize more effective ways of achieving similar goals

Throughout the process DSM mediators encourage learners to engage in an internal dialogue that transforms the lesson into a meaningful experience.


Hopping on the Bandwagon

Even smart people make dumb mistakes—and usually the smarter the person, the costlier the mistake. Recognizing this fact, NASA created a Critical Thinking Skills Project to enhance the mental agility of its high-functioning population.

DSM was the only training program selected by NASA to fulfill its goal. Although other programs give instruction in solving structured and semi-structured problems, only DSM provides opportunities to explore unstructured problems. That is, the kind of situations state-of-the-art organizations encounter that require:

•  Innovative thinking
•  Effective analysis
•  Precise definition
•  Clear understanding
•  Coordinated team effort to bring about the desired results.

DSM's Professional Program includes advanced mediation in:

•  Comparisons/Contrasts
•  Analogies
•  Analytical perception
•  Spatial orientation
•  Progressions
•  Functions
•  Categories
•  Relational thinking

DSM also has modified programs for a wide range of ages, intellects, and skill sets.



Why DSM, Why Now: What DSM can do for you

Limited perspectives limit options. As people become increasingly educated and specialized in what they do, their range of expertise tends to narrow. This limits their ability to understand and communicate to “outsiders.” It may also prevent them from detecting and taking advantage of opportunities.

Perspectives (ways of organizing information) are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves, but they can be effective or ineffective. Knowing how you habitually organize information and what you prefer to do will help you understand under what circumstances you will most likely get the results you want and where you'll have difficulties.

Preferred Activity

Logical Perspective

Quick to

Unlikely to

Likes to follow established rules and fill in gaps in existing structures

Conditional reasoning

Recognize change in status quo

Consider alternative actions

Likes to analyze problems and evaluate established rules and procedures

Bi-conditional reasoning

Recognize patterns and predict cause and effect

Consider alternative relationships

Likes to create new rules for old problems

Analytical perception

Recognize part/whole relationships

Anticipate effectiveness of action

Likes to take on new problems, deciding what to do and how to do it


Give meaning to experience

Anticipate result of action

Unlike other training programs, DSM doesn't stop at identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Through carefully structured puzzles, DSM mediators help you experience the entire range of perspectives, thereby clarifying familiar thought processes and enhancing unfamiliar processes.

Consequently, you'll not only be able to recognize and appreciate differing viewpoints, you'll also be able to communicate more effectively because you'll learn:

•  How other people habitually organize information
•  How they interpret the goal
•  What results they want

By understanding and applying multiple perspectives, you'll be able to:

•  Develop better solutions
•  Discover new resources
•  Recognize relevant data
•  Align critical interests

Paradoxically, mental agility creates a more stable environment in a complex world because it can foresee ramifications and contingencies and respond in a proactive and timely manner.

Conclusion: DSM can help you get the results you want

Automobile magnate Henry Ford said "If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own."

Ford made his fortune in part because he knew it was not enough to respect another person's perspective, you have to understand it well enough to compare it to your own. In a multi-cultural economy effective people are able to get the results they want because they can:

•  Assess differences in perspectives
•  Recognize common denominators
•  Bridge diverse goals
•  Develop achievable plans of action

Moreover, these skills are vital components in establishing:

•  Better communication
•  Stronger cooperation
•  More stable relationships

DSM mediators don't teach you what to do. They prepare you to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you in an ever-changing, complex world. As Charles Darwin explained the theory of evolution:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change



© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

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