Success Gets into Your Head-and Changes It – Harvard Business Review

May 5, 2010
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Harvard Business Review-Brain-based Research on the impact of Success

This is an interesting article with evidence that should fundamentally affect the way we teach.

Research by MIT neuroscientists shows that our brain actually rewires in response to success.  Now that may not seem groundbreaking, but the corresponding finding might surprise you.  The brain does nothing in response to failure.

In other words, if you perform a task and are successful at it, your brain physically changes.  And furthermore, those changes linger for several seconds, making a repeated success much more likely.

This article caught my eye because I have always subscribed to the business mantra that “we learn more from our failures than our successes.”  But that is not true of your brain.  It actually learns more from success than from failure.

The first person that made me question the validity of focusing on your mistakes was Dan Pink in his book Johnny Bunko.  It was Lesson Two: “Think strengths, not weaknesses”.  I think that many times I do the opposite.  I focus on my shortcomings.  And as an unfortunate result, I often encourage my students to focus on their own shortcomings.  “There’s no need to practice what you’re good at, practice on what you need to improve.”

As an example, I directed a drumline for eleven years.  I always created exercises, even shows, that would force my drummers to practice their weaknesses.

Now I still believe that you need to strengthen your weak spots, but why can’t you showcase your strengths too?

So if I combine the thinking from Dan Pink with the research from MIT I can begin to have a different approach.  I reflected on one of the younger clinicians that came to work with my line.  He was incredible, and a master of positive motivation.  He let them have success, and then used that as a platform to address their weaknesses.  The result?  My kids learned a ton and improved exponentially.

So now to apply this approach into my daily classroom.  I need to focus on what my kids do well.  Then I need to take that success and apply it to something that they are not adept at.  To think, every time they do something well their brain is rewiring!  It may sound a little obvious, but what I do every day can result in physical changes in the brains of my students.  Or not.  It’s up to me.

Success Gets into Your Head-and Changes It – Harvard Business Review.

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One Response to Success Gets into Your Head-and Changes It – Harvard Business Review

  1. Lesson Upgrades
    May 5, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Blog post: Success Gets into Your Head-and Changes It – Harvard Business Review http://bit.ly/a6wx1O #danielpink #general

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