Dr. Chapman establishes the critical concept of Brain Power by first and foremost defying the common misconception that intelligence is inherent and cannot be changed over one’s lifespan. She explains that predetermined intelligence is an antiquated concept that does not apply to building a powerful brain. In actuality learning to use one’s brain advantageously, as a resource, will make one smarter. A phrase coined by Chapman, “brainomics” refers to the high returns gained from maximizing brain performance through strategic thinking. There is a detrimental cost associated with low brain performance and, with Chapman’s brain habits, any youth, adult, or elder can avoid this and have better mental productivity.
Throughout the book, Chapman provides thoughtful questions for the reader to assess his or her own brain power. Many of these questions relate to productivity, creativity, and innovation. For example, ‘What is distracting you from being more productive?’ Answering email, unfocused meetings or use of time, as well as constant interruptions are typical answers that deprive people of efficient use of brain power. Creativity and innovation related questions may include ‘Do you think of new ways to find solutions to problems?’. All of these questions target the brain’s executive functions of inhibiting distractions, task switching, manipulating information in working memory, and the flexibility of incorporating new data into previously learned concepts. By answering her prompts, the reader can address the core executive functions that need attention to yield the most “brainomic” reward.
Chapman classifies her nine brain habits into three comprehensible themes: strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation. Strategic attention addresses the issue of focusing on one topic at a time. In a world of multi-tasking pride, blocking distractions and irrelevant information has become challenging. Throughout the book, Chapman provides “Boost your brainpower” tips and one recommendation is attending to an important task for a minimum of fifteen minutes without interruptions. Improved brain power results from training your brain to ignore irrelevant information and focus on the task at hand. To help with strategic attention, Chapman also suggests utilizing 1) the Power of None – quieting your mind to reveal fresh solutions, 2) the Power of One – working on one, and only one, task at a time to build endurance and block distracters, and 3) the Power of Two – identifying the two most important tasks to dedicate a significant amount of time to.
These main tasks are the “elephants”, or the top priorities that will have the biggest long-term impact, or perhaps as in the elephant in the room that one may be avoiding. It is important to allocate the most productive time to these elephants, and not be side tracked with rabbits, or trivial tasks that simply want to want to be check off the list. Chapman suggests that the rabbits always have a way of finding their way back, but the elephants are what need true attention and maintenance.
Integrated reasoning refers to synthesizing information and applying it to new contexts. To be successful at work or in school, a person must absorb new information and transfer it various applicable situations. Chapman explains this ability can be trained and is your brain’s most fundamental asset to success. Some brain training techniques include setting original goals for self and/or workplace, synthesizing new information and summarizing the main ideas from wide-ranging sources, detecting new problems to create effective solutions, and reconsidering outdated principles that inhibit entrepreneurial design. She refers to these features as zooming in (learning the facts), zooming out (summarizing the main ideas), and zooming deep and wide (originate expansive, novel applications) Chapman notes the important distinction between integrated reasoning and disadvantageous routine patterns of thinking; generating unique ideas by incorporating new and old information is a key feature to increase Brain Power.
Innovation requires changing old ways of thinking, practicing imagination and experimentation. You can increase your brain’s power to create by seeking out new perspectives and changing parts of your routine to meet new people, ideas and ways of thinking. This includes not giving in to failure but revamping your outlook and undertaking a new challenge. In turn, creating pivotal changes and insightful ideas will become part of one’s approach to brainstorming and working. Chapman identifies the Brainpower of the Infinite (knowing endless possibilities exist), the Brainpower of the Paradox (learning from mistakes), and the Brainpower of the Unknown (probing and seeking new reasons) as the means to enhance your brain’s creative and innovative capabilities. These brain strategies can be transferred to diverse situations to increase overall brain power no matter the age. Chapman discusses in detail how different life stages have distinct strengths and limitations which can be targeted and manipulated to increase overall brain power.
Make Your Brain Smarter opens the door for enhanced brain function to reach the highest potential in an individual’s Brain Power.