Mike Unruh, Manager
Stephen Kircher, CEO
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Meg O’Leary, Dir Marketing

MemoryPower Blog

The power of applied memory

It’s true that many people have dreadful memories, and I’m talking long before retirement age.

Unfortunately, when you’re in business poor powers of recall can have an indirect impact on profitability. It could be simply not recalling a client’s name or a personal detail at the right time; not remembering essential sales scripts, objection-handling responses, or strategies that influence decisions and close sales.  … read more

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Scott Bornstein, founder and president of California-based Bornstein Knowledge Management Systems, knows the impact of knowledge and performance gaps in a business more than anyone. The guest speaker at a recent workshop organised by The Executive Connection (TEC), an international support group for business leaders, Bornstein is world-renowned for his memory training systems which are ‘geared to assist with sales, performance and profits’.

I catch up with Bornstein at a North Shore café. Turns out he was born to be a memory training expert. “My father started a company in 1952 in order to define these [memory power] practices so anybody can benefit, and the systems are built around some very simple understandings.

“There are three types of memory,” Bornstein explains. “Innate memory, which is wired into us; logical memory, which can be sharpened through awareness; and trained memory – which is where we can help.”

Names and faces, numbers, presentations, passwords – the daily accumulation of information is difficult enough to deal with, but when you add-in the state of change that business is constantly undergoing and the need to drive strategy, vision, and the values that your firm represents – that’s when learning keywords comes into play to help you remember important business data or information, he says.

Bornstein works on both the personal (basic skills) and professional development aspects of memory training. There are certain things business people are concerned with when it comes to memory he says.

“Remembering the critical tasks and the everyday tasks that need to be done – if they can do that well they can avoid the often catastrophic consequences of memory failure,” he says. “For example, in a chain of relationships it could be not following up with a client or an employee. So the deal doesn’t get closed or the customer doesn’t get serviced.”

Bornstein explains the three ‘taps’ of memory systems. There’s the location methodology, where you use visual anchors to attach and trigger memory. There’s linking up stories – “storytelling has become a very big part of business, particularly when it comes to marketing”. The third tap is letters – linking letters to information.

Of course, the challenge is how you reinforce information for long-term recall, and this is an area where most people struggle, says Bornstein, relying too much on technology such as smartphones and laptops to do the reminding for us. “Because we don’t reinforce information, biologically we’re not wiring our neuronal networks and synapses (a structure that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell) in our brain, so we experience more gaps and lapses in recall.” He refers to this as the ‘Google effect’. He also points out how reliant we have become on email to act as memory triggers.

“The speed at which we operate today has changed the whole business landscape,” he says. “On a scientific basis, these neurons are ‘wired to fire’. But the wiring is now being interrupted – the firing that’s going on is the constant interruptions in our lives, and because of those interruptions the wiring craves further interruption.

“So most people suffer from ‘focus interruptus’,” he says. “We now interrupt ourselves without realising it, so the wiring doesn’t have a chance to settle and it you’re not applying any kind of practice or skill – which is what I train people to do – then we ‘surrender’ to having a bad memory sooner.”

Bornstein demonstrates to me how he teaches people to learn numbers, and highlights the importance of reinforcement within the first ten days. “To reinforce that neuron wiring, they say seven times in ten days is the rule.”

The Six MITs

Another takeaway rule from Bornstein’s workshops to help with productivity is the Six MITs (Most Important Things). This is where you write down in order of priority the six most important tasks you want to accomplish the next day. You focus on each of those tasks until it is accomplished, and any leftovers become the priority for the following day’s list.

This one simple strategy can make a world of difference to individuals and businesses, he says.

At the end of the day all marketing is memory training, adds Bornstein. “You’re training people to remember our message, to remember our practice, to watch us in action and see that we’re true to our word.

“Getting employees to adopt this practice, to train them to build teams around celebrating what your company does, through example, is paramount.”

Bornstein often asks CEOs for the top five words that describe their business and give them a reason to come to work every day – five words that define their core values and behaviours. It’s important that these words are kept top of mind by everyone within the organisation, otherwise company performance will lag in unexpected ways, he says. “And every touchpoint is an opportunity for you to build your brand.”

To help define those words, Bornstein gives his workshop attendees a 6-Step MemoryPower Work-Up. “It’s a sort of working document that helps people chronicle the stories that define what their company does.”

Everybody has a phenomenal memory, says Bornstein. “But what they lack is good organisational skills and the way to retrieve vital information.” It’s also about having the right attitude he says. For example, when it comes to remembering names and faces there are steps that forge the process of recall.

“It starts with a good attitude – ‘it’s easy and I like it’, that’s what people say to me all the time about my training, says Bornstein. “Because often it’s the negative self-talk that talks you out of accomplishing anything.”

Associating images with a person’s name is a powerful way of sharpening ones memory. He calls it a ‘visual vocabulary’. As an example, with his own surname Bornstein, think of a baby and a beer glass (stein) – a ‘baby Einstein’ perhaps. He knows of one executive in Texas who took just 30 days to learn 600 names using this methodology.

All boiled down, the main purpose of Bornstein’s training is to address the question: ‘Why choose your company?’ Understand that you need to sharpen and differentiate your message to other companies, and remember it, he says, so you can progress a relationship from being complete strangers to ultimately becoming strategic allies.

Anything’s possible, it seems, when you harness the power of memory.