The feats of World Memory Champions – those who can memorise thousands of binary digits in 30 minutes, or the order of 16 packs of playing cards, or even the numbers in hours may beyond the reach of the majority of us ‘normal’ beings. However employing some of the techniques they use as well as exploiting some of our brains hardwired abilities can help people learn new information quickly and painlessly.

Today I’m sharing with you some techniques I have used over the past 25 years to help learners remember and recall. All of the techniques are based on the following principles and ‘rules’.

Rule 1 – our brains are hard wired to keep us safe, avoid pressure, humiliation, and create a fun and easy atmosphere for learning.

Rule 2 – We are hard wired to create social networks so encourage learning in groups. Get them to recall with another person then share that recall with another pair. The total amount remembered increases with the number of people until “Total Recall”.

Rule 3 – We are hardwired to seek connections so design in activities and questions that allow people to connect new ideas to existing ideas and paradigms. Have people reflect on new ideas, ask them to compare them with existing situations, experiences or policies.

Rule 4 – We are hardwired to seek creative solutions so allow people to find new and different ways of packaging or sharing insights. I’ve had songs, poems, dramatic skits, drawings, and from groups as far away as Trinidad and Islamabad.

Rule 5 – Our brains constantly create ‘future memories’, that is they are constantly predicting what might happen next in order for us to plan our day and our route to work e.g. “If there’s a back up on the bridge, I’ll go to the bank before work, if it’s clear I’ll go at lunch time.” Allow people opportunities to imagine what implementing this new procedure or process would be like. To imagine or even demonstrate using a new conversation technique or a new risk analysis model.

Some research has shown that self testing is more effective for learning than drawing or mind maps. Self testing for those of us teach or train for a living supports the old adage, “If you can teach it you know it.”

Oxford and Princeton neuroscientist Greg Detre helped update his techniques with the latest understanding of memory.

Basic principle that guide Memrise

Elaborative learning – where you try to give extra meaning to a fact to get it ot stick. Particularly effective if they invlolve humour. The more absurd the more memorable.

Self testing is more effective for learning that drawing or mind maps. If you can teach it you know it. Prepare yourself to teach the material.

Friendly competition also improves memory and recall.