Saturday, 10 December 2011

TEDCEMBER: 3 Ways The Brain Creates Meaning

Today I watched Tom Wujec talking about how our brains turn information into meaning. I wish he'd spoken for longer, as the subject has more direct relevance to building successful products than any of the TED talks I've watched so far. The reason? It gave me the why. Why we should have walls dedicated to our product roadmap. Why we shouldn't limit ourselves to story cards but include photos, drawings, diagrams, maps and faces. Especially faces.

Why are faces so important? Well it turns out that our brain has approximately 30 areas that process visual information in parallel to form a multi-dimensional mental model. Tom's talk touches three of these. The Ventral Stream - our "what" detector (the part of our brain that puts a name to shapes). The Dorsal Stream, which locates objects in a physically embodied space and the Limbic System which causes emotional reactions. It's the part of your brain that causes you to go "aww" when you see a puppy.

The more dimensions we use when we describe a product, the richer our mental model will be, the quicker and more accurately we'll understand it, the more engaged we'll be while exploring it, the more ideas we'll generate and ultimately the more creative and imaginative the product will be. Faces are important, because like puppies they trigger emotional responses. So product walls should have imagery of people expressing delight, love and even loss, snowboarding in Canada or drinking cocktails in Barbados. A far cry from the the dull, perfectly aligned, text only 6x4 white index cards we see in most SCRUM backlogs.

The good news is there are a further 23 of Tom's videos here. I guess I know what I'm doing in January.

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