Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 83 - May 2012 - by Phil Chambers


TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,197. To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us.

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Welcome to the May 2012 issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

If you have been watching Britain’s Got Talent recently you can’t have escaped Zipparah Tafari singing “Have you ever been in that situation where you lost your keys and your mobile” - Well not if you learn memory techniques! This month we review a new book, “Memory Palace Definitive” by James Smith.

Also this month, as well as our regular quote, Mind Mapping tip and what I have been up to lately, we have an article on how to improve the appraisal process in business.


Mind Map Tip of the Month

Ensure that each main branch is a different colour. Sub-branches, however, should be the same colour as the branch that they connect to. This has a two-fold benefit. Firstly, it helps to ‘chunk’ or tie together each set of branches into a coherent unit. Secondly it allows you to highlight important points by using a different colour to the one predominating on that particular set of branches.


May's Quote of the Month


"I am definitely going to take a course on time management...
just as soon as I can work it into my schedule."

~ Louis E. Boone, American academic author

[Seriously, if you don't make time to 'Sharpen the Saw', as Stephen Covey puts it then you will never work more effecively.]

More quotes here



What's Phil Up To?


At the end of April I had a last-minute trip to Bangkok in Thailand to assist in the ThinkBuzan instructor training course. Four days after returning home, I was in Frankfurt, Germany running a Speed Reading pilot course for the European Central Bank. It has been a very busy few weeks!


How to use Mind Maps for Performance Reviews

If you are employed by a company, the chances are that you have to attend an annual or interim appraisal or conduct these for your staff. All too often these turn into a battle between the manager pointing out small areas where his/her subordinate has not lived up to expectations while the ‘appraisee’ tries to defend himself in the hope of a bonus or annual pay rise.

If you are in a large organisation you may have a more enlightened 360 degree appraisal process in which each individual is assessed based on feedback from peers and subordinates as well as their immediate manager. This makes the discussion less one-sided but it is often still a battle.

A far more productive approach is to remove pay negotiations from the process and to use Mind Maps to identify discrepancies between the employee’s view of their own performance and their manager’s perception. This open, honest, and, above all, positive framework for discussion leads to a tailored development plan and realignment of objectives for moving forward.

Even if you work for yourself, you can still use the same process to analyse your performance at the end of a project or after conducting a seminar or presentation. The use of a generative thinking tool such as a Mind Map encourages a more rounded picture, thus preventing you from dwelling on any negatives and gives rise to practical approaches for continual improvement.

Here is the process:

1) Start with the name of the individual in the centre (and an image such as a photo representing them).

2) Add three main branches labelled RED (for areas to improve), GREEN (for successes) and AMBER/YELLOW (for development needs – Sometimes but not exclusively related to the red items).

3) Add key points to each of the branches as ideas come to mind.

4) The individual being assessed and the manager both do a Mind Map prior to the appraisal meeting.

5) At the meeting they talk through and compare Mind Maps. Any discrepancies are discussed and development opportunities agreed.

As each party creates their Mind Map in isolation there is much less argument and fewer blocks to communication caused by intimidation or resistance to discuss poor performance.

See template below…

Appraisal Template


Book Review – “Memory Palace Definitive” by James Smith

Most books on memory are written by memory champions or top competitors, so it is unusual to read a book by a relatively unknown author. However, despite not being well known in the world of memory James Smith has an in-depth knowledge and has researched his book well.

I would not recommend this book as a first introduction to memory as it dives into the theory without any introduction and may leave novices struggling. However, if you are familiar with Dominic O’Brien’s techniques or the ‘Major System’ but are struggling to apply them then this book will help you.

James Smith has taken the Dominic System of converting numbers into letters and extended it to make it more like the Major System, giving a choice of letter codes. The number-letter codes are used as pegs to store information in a similar way to Tony Buzan’s SEM3 system. This is an interesting innovation that makes the book unique.

Another strength of the book is the extensive list of suggested images, giving many alternative word codes from 0 to 999. This is something rarely given by other books on the subject. It also has a good bibliography supporting further study and development in memory.

The book makes reference to how the systems can be used to memorise text with corresponding page numbers. This reminded me of the great pioneer of memory, Creighton Carvello who could quote any word on a given page of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. He said that despite memorising the whole book word for word he didn’t know what is was about. I think Smith’s approach may fall into the same trap, as it does not take into account meaning and interpretation. Raw memorisation is rarely enough for success in exams so I would urge a note of caution in using the techniques in this book in isolation.

On a more superficial level I would have liked an introduction and maybe a glossary of terminology to make it more accessible and widen its appeal. The typography of the book looks old-fashioned and I feel it would benefit from a clearer font, larger headings and better layout but these are only minor criticisms.

In summary, this is an innovative book that will help anyone with an understanding of mnemonics who wants to extend their systems to encompass larger volumes of data.

If you want to train your memory for competitions, remember Memory Ladder is the only memory training app endorsed by the World Memory Sports Council which replicates all 10 disciplines of the World Memory Championships. It is currently available for Android devices but we do have plans for an iphone version.

That’s it for this month. I’ll be back in touch with the next newsletter in June.

Best Wishes