One of most well written and intriguing books I’ve read in a long time is Brain Rules by John Medina. I just happened to pick it up a little book store while exploring one of our little coastal towns in the Pacific Northwest and was pleased to see that the author is affiliated with Seattle Pacific University–my alma mater and also where I taught for a year.I’m very pleased to see it is now on the New York Times bestseller list.
The reason this book applies to crisis managers is because of the many insights into how our brains work. The applications are too many to list here but a few highlights that stuck with me.
1) Responders need exercise and rest. May sound obvious but when you look at the steep decline in rational thinking and productivity when people get stretched beyond their endurance you will make certain your crisis plans include plenty of qualified backup staff.
2) Messaging. When people are under a lot of stress (such as fearful in a hurricane, tornado or pandemic) they process information differently. Dr. Vincent Covello has been preaching this for a long time and has come up with some simple and powerful messaging formulas that should be applied by all crisis and emergency communicators. Medina provides the scientific rationale for Dr. Covello’s practices.
3) Vision trumps all. When you read (or watch the videos online that illustrate the rules) this you will wonder why we are (and I am right now) so hooked on communicating by putting these funny visual symbols on paper or on your computer screen. We all need to think more how we can communicate our key messages through video and images. Video particularly when you read about how the brain deals with motion vs images.
4) Gender. I got to admit, the author was pretty fearful about going into this realm, and I think took political correctness a bit too far. But the example he provided of what happens when you don’t gave him room for some of the waffling. Point is, men and women’s brains are very different. Maybe women’s are quite superior as seems to be suggested here, but they are different. I don’t think the clear differences are adequately reflected in much of what and how we try to communicate.
I hope you pick up a copy of this or at least visit the website. His site and his writing approach themselves provide great models as you seem him very clearly implementing the lessons he has learned from his years of research.
By the way, since paid blogging is getting to be such an issue, no, I have not been contacted by the author or publisher. I certainly would tell you if I was.