The idea of improving how our mind works dates back at least as far as the first philosophers and prophets of Greece, the Near East, India and China. Even before that, there were epic poems composed without writing and recited from memory, such as Homer's Iliad, which possibly dates from over 3,000 years ago, or the Sanskrit Mahabharata, which is about ten times the length of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey combined. Many cultures have an oral tradition reliant on memory - the Irish one, for instance, lasted well into the 20th Century and the Turkish one is still going.
Today, there are popular books from people like Edward de Bono and Tony Buzan that will tell you how to improve your thinking skills and your memory. Yet how many people actually use these books to improve their thinking, their memory, their reading speed, the rate at which they assimilate the world around them? Very few.
Children are almost totally excluded (despite the fact that they are the ones who could probably benefit from it the most). Thinking is, apparently, an adult-only pastime.
Improving these skills probably matters more now than it ever has in the history of humanity. With the web, we have access to vast amounts of information of all kinds. We need to confront new challenges in our everyday lives and exploit the fresh opportunities that new technology presents to us.
Being able to read faster, assimilate information better, criticise what we are told more deeply and be more creative in our responses would be advantageous for everybody. So why don't we do it?
More to the point, why don't we teach our children to do this? They are the people whose lives will be most affected.
These cognitive disciplines (memory, observation, reading effectively, thinking) are not part of the standard curriculum. We study many things, but, paradoxically, not how to learn efficiently. As it takes practice, but is not compulsory, learning these skills is considered but side-lined and people get on with the stuff they have to do instead. Because they are not linked with the standard curriculum, their importance to learning that curriculum is often not appreciated, especially by the learner themselves.
Rather than being core to what we are learning, they are often marketed differently by their evangelists. They are touted as career-enhancing skills to a professional adult audience distributed through expensive courses that are either teacher-led or online.
In practice, many peoples' main access to this knowledge is through self-help books. This is a particularly poor vehicle for our children, who are the people who need it most.
"We need diversity of thought in the world to face new challenges."
Put on the television, open a newspaper, browse the internet. Whichever your medium of choice, you'll be bombarded with pieces about today's educational system - usually what's wrong with it! It seems that exams come in a plethora of acronyms: SATs, GCSEs, NVQs. Nobody can agree on the best system, the best methods, or the best way to test, which puts enormous pressures on our youngsters.
At Got-A-Head®?, we remain convinced, however, that if children are taught to learn more efficiently (by thinking more clearly or more creatively, by observing and memorising proficiently and reading effectively) then they will be able to cope better with whatever the school system throws at them. They will maximise their learning, which can't help but benefit their eventual performance in exams, not to mention the rest of their lives.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Our systems mesh harmoniously with much of the current research. Growth Mindset, for instance, now so popular in schools, where pupils are encouraged to learn from their mistakes instead of walking away from them. Our techniques such as QWERTY® encourages regular use of evaluation and review, feeding back to their own learning to make tasks more efficient/effective in future. It also stresses the importance of looking at things differently. Instead of saying "I can't do this yet'', we get them to think "I can't do it this way - how else could I do it?" We give them the toolkit to enable them to do that.
The nature of the technique also has the learner using skills higher up Bloom's Taxonomy rather than just regurgitating answers. But, of course, if regurgitating answers is what you're after, then our Memory techniques will come in pretty useful, too!
Our techniques should help them outside of school, too, as they become better at observing what is happening in the world around them and thinking about what it means.
The skills they learn with Got-A-Head®? will help to improve their daily life and make for happier families.
Already, AI is big news. In the near future, the repetitive jobs will all be done by AI, the most expensive first (as that is where the value is). "Watch out dermatologists and lawyers!" warns Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity AI in a TED lecture on AI.
What AI cannot do is be creative or think outside the box. It will require people to direct these AIs to think in various ways and force them to think outside the box their original designers put them in. This means that we will need to think more, remember more and understand context more. We will all need more thinking skills.
Modern advances have enabled us to do so much more than we could before, but there is often a price to pay. For instance, our reliance on cars is making people fatter and more unfit; we have to make a conscious effort to exercise.
We believe that letting AIs do the thinking for us will have a similar impact on our brains. In the future, there could be more Alzheimer's not less. It's vital that we use our brains as much as possible, that we think and remember as much as we can to keep our brains fit and healthy. Having these skills highly-tuned early will be crucial to good cognitive health.