Get your brain in gear by reading some gobbledygook

June 3, 2015

Everyone knows that it’s useful to have a stretch before starting exercise. But very few people think about doing it with their minds. The brain is thought by scientists to be like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

And that’s why I’d suggest trying a little exercise before important meetings (actually before any meeting, but little steps first).

Read something unusual before you enter a meeting and start presenting your ideas, or trying to convince people of your viewpoint. Try On the Ning, Nang, Nong by Spike Milligan (for example).

On The Ning Nang Nong

On the Ning Nang Nong

Where the Cows go Bong!

and the monkeys all say BOO!

There’s a Nong Nang Ning 

Where the trees go Ping!

And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.

On the Nong Ning Nang 

All the mice go Clang 

And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!

So its Ning Nang Nong

Cows go Bong!

Nong Nang Ning

Trees go ping

Nong Ning Nang

The mice go Clang

What a noisy place to belong

is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

A lovely piece of illustration by Mr Milligan

A lovely piece of illustration by Mr Milligan

It makes your brain actually think before you say the words. Normally your brain looks at the shapes of the words you read, and their context compared to other words, and ‘guesses’ what the words say. If you read something that’s not ‘ordinary’ it forces your brain out of its comfort zone and makes you think.

There’s some amazing research that Cambridge University did that proves your brain reads shapes. So it doesn’t matter what order the letters of words are in, you can still read them. (This is also the reason that block capitals are harder to read than upper and lower case letters – see road signs for proof – no capitals there and they have to communicate really quickly.) Read the copy in the image below. It has all the letters (except the first and last ones) jumbled up. And you can still read it easily. The brain is an amazing thing.

Cambridge University research - your brain is amazing

Cambridge University research – your brain is amazing

So, to make sure your brain is thinking and not just ‘filling in the blanks’ it makes sense to read something that isn’t easily scanned.

And being in a position to think is the perfect place to have your brain for a meeting. I know some people will be thinking “I’m far too busy to do silly things like read Spike Milligan”. Fair enough.

However, I’d counter with “How important is the meeting you’re going to if your brain working well isn’t a prerequisite?”

Try reading something that your brain can’t scan easily. Chaucer, John Cooper-Clarke or Irvine Welsh. They all offer your brain a bit of a challenge. You can try anything that jolts you from the usual comfort zone in which we tend to live.

Just make sure you don’t pick up any language tips from Mr Welsh – not unless you’re on really friendly terms with your audience.

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