Is your memory going or are you just getting old?



Last week I was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I went to see a show based on one of my

Cast of Noggin the Nog complete with Ice Dragon and Ronf at the Edinburgh Fringe

Cast of Noggin the Nog complete with Ice Dragon and Ronf at the Edinburgh Fringe

favourite TV shows from my childhood,  Noggin the Nog.



I loved it. It was staged very cleverly by Third Party Productions and was great fun. And they stuck to the original story, I know because I remember it so well.



Yet at the end of that day, we were running through the other shows we’d seen so far over our dinner.  Tom Stade (stand up comedian, extremely funny), Worby and Farrell (piano duets, also very good), Hennessy and Friends (hilarious sketches), Much Ado About Nothing (Year Out Drama Company – superb and very funny with great music), Simon Callow (probably a bit over our heads) and one other. But we just couldn’t remember who or what it was.



Is your memory going or are you just getting old?


Guess what? Your memory problems might be because you are getting older, but not in a bad way.

Guess what? It might be because you are getting older, but not in a bad way.



You have probably been under the impression that your memory naturally declines with age.



Michael Ramscar, who leads a research team in Germany, has done research into this area. He says his research shows that the reason you find it hard to remember things when you are older is because there is just much more in your memory.



He’s looked at various learning models and simulated experiences that adults have with language when then have a lifetime of experience. This shows that all that experience slows you down; not your memory failing.




There’s more in there



He suggests that your memory is ‘fuller’.



Do you remember your new (empty) computer booting up in no time at all? And what about your older computer with a nearly full hard disc? As you have filled it with more and more data, it takes longer. He says it’s the same for your brain.



When he has tested people and corrected for these factors, he has found no difference in cognitive performance.



Not everyone agrees with this. But for those of us approaching “the new 40” (60) it is welcome news.



However others say that processing speed does slow down and have their own research showing the effect.



But they all seem to agree, you shouldn’t write off people just because of their age. The science says that there is no reason for people to have to retire because of their age. They say we should stop seeing old age as a burden and think of it as an asset. That’s certainly my plan.




A price worth paying


Any slowing of performance is the price you pay for having experience and knowledge (sometimes referred to as “wisdom”).




Keep that brain working


To keep your brain working, as you will know if you’ve been reading these blogs for much time at all, you need to get exercise above all other things. Aerobic exercise improves the blood supply to your brain; it encourages you to grow new arteries and capillaries. So you get more fuel into your brain.



But better than that, it helps to release neurotrophic factors, which help you to grow new brain cells.



So what you are you waiting for? Get those trainers on and get out there.



Oh yes, and we did remember the show we had forgotten. It was Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister with special guest star Rory Bremner discussing, with great humour, the question of Scottish Independence. How could we have forgotten that?


What difference does it make?


Do your people know the difference they make and how they contribute to your company goals and objectives?



Is it really necessary for people to know how their goals fit into the big picture? If so, why?



Recently I was talking to a client who has managed to get himself into the happy position of being in competition with his team. They keep trying to work out how they can beat their goals.



And they keep managing to do it. Which means that he is in more and more often the position where he can leave them to it. This is a key leadership skill: real delegation – delegating the top-level goals and objectives of the company.




The Blue Peter Effect


When I was young we had a program here in the UK called Blue Peter. It’s still going strong. Anyone of my age will remember with great fondness, John Noakes who served as a presenter for 12 years.



He was fearless, funny and loved by all.



One of the things Blue Peter did was to raise lots of money for good causes – if you were

The foil milk bottle tops we used to send to Blue Peter

The foil milk bottle tops we used to send to Blue Peter

around then you’ll remember the Guide Dogs for the Blind campaigns. Viewers were encouraged to send in things like milk bottle tops to be recycled to raise money. We sent them to Blue Peter in their millions.



And each week we would see the thermometer. It would indicate just how much had been raised so far and how much was left to go before the Guide Dog could be trained, the lifeboat could be bought or the schools could be built.




The motivating factor



Each week you would know just how much still needed to be raised and exactly what needed to be done.



I remember myself carefully saving every milk bottle top I could and sending them off. And I remember too, being really excited to hear how close to the target we were each week. Yes, I felt part of it.




Do your people know what they need to do?



Here’s a great quote from my dear friend Bryan Todd



“The motivated person believes he is having a measurable impact on the final outcome. The unmotivated person does not.”



When people know what they need to do in order for your company goals to be achieved, it makes things easy for them. When it’s not clear, it’s much harder for them to contribute.




What difference does it make?


Have you ever had that response when you’ve asked someone to do something? (If not in words, have you seen it in their eyes?)



If that’s the case, you really need to explain what difference it makes, because sometimes it’s really hard for people to make that link themselves. Here are a few real examples:



By keeping the stores really tidy and well organized it means that we can always find products quickly and send them to the customers on the day they placed the order.



By cleaning the office every day and making sure the flower arrangements are fresh and the plants healthy, you make sure that any new prospective clients who visit know that we are efficient and well organized so they are more likely to become clients.



When you resolve a problem with a customer’s order on the same day they contacted us about it, you show them that we give good service and help to retain them as a customer so that they will place more orders.



By letting the production department know that there was a delay in getting the new product information to them in good time, you enabled them to reschedule their manufacturing process. This meant they could have everything set up ready for when the information did arrive, so that we were still able to meet our deadline on the new launch.



By spotting this mistake you saved the company £3250. If these module had gone through the process it would have cost us this much to replace them and there would have been a four day delay on the delivery.




It’s obvious isn’t it?


The trouble is that because it’s so obvious to you, you may not have thought to explain it to others. Please do, it’s really worth it.

When you can’t decide what to do



Are you dithering over a decision? Sometimes it can be really hard to finally take the plunge.



Here are two interesting tools to help you that I heard about recently on one of my favorite radio programs: More or Less (on BBC Radio 4).



Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame is doing an experiment to see if this tool helps people in making decisions. He says that many of us are stuck in a rut and are too reluctant to try something new. This leads to bad decision-making.






Though many people try to be logical in making decisions, you make most of your decisions using your emotions. We know this because of research using people who have suffered brain damage making them unable to feel emotions.  They have great difficulty making decisions – even things like deciding what time a dentist appointment should be.




We don’t like change


Steven Levitt says not enough people quit or change. You tend to think that it would be easier carry on for now, with whatever it is you are doing, and postpone any change till tomorrow. It’s more comfortable that way.




Regrets, I’ve had a few


I’m sure you’ve heard people saying that they regret not making the most of opportunities they have had in the past.



So he suggests that ask yourself which outcome would leave you with the least regret. This is a very interesting slant on thinking about a decision and uses your emotions in an effective way.




The coin toss


Another great tool he recommends is the coin toss. This forces you to make your

Tossing a coin - an easy way to decide

Tossing a coin – an easy way to decide

decision. I’ve used it many times myself and with clients. It can be remarkably effective for really working out what you want.



On his site, he will actually do it for you. You put your question into a page on his website and he tosses a web-based coin. Then the site follows up later to see if you are pleased with your decision. Surprisingly, over 40,000 people have used this site to make their decisions so far.




Most people are pleased with this decision


It turns out that, though he hasn’t got enough evidence to analyze the benefits of making decisions in all scenarios yet there is one where he does have enough evidence. It’s from people trying to decide if they should go on a diet. Apparently most of the people who decided to go ahead with the diet as a result of the coin toss were pleased with their decision.




Here’s the site if you’d like to try it.