How does neuro-science help us facilitate lasting change?

Story-Strategy Act 1 Episode 4: the magic weapon

We have established so far that, for any training/facilitation/learning process to succeed it needs two essential components: learning design and creative participation. We propose Story-Strategy as preferred method for the former and ImprovSense a for the latter.

One of the most compelling reasons for this is the synergy both methods share with the latest research in neuro-science that shows how the brain become more responsive to new ideas (i.e. learning under certain conditions. I would like to briefly share two models that will crop up again and again as I begin to unfold the details of how Story-Strategy and ImprovSense work.

The SCARF model

The first model is David Rock’s SCARF model. According to this model the brain is most receptive when it has a perception of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

Status:                  Do I have power and importance here?

Certainty:            Do I know what to expect? Can I predict what will happen next?

Autonomy:         Do I have choice and control over what happens?

Relatedness:     Do I belong in this group? Am I among friends?

Fairness:              Are the processes fair? Do we all have equal ownership and responsibility?

If a process can give the brain all of these conditions, it will be open and receptive to learn, adopting new ideas and behaviour.

The AGES model

The second model helps us understand what characteristics a process needs to have in the way it presents the material so that the now open brain absorbs and retains the new ideas and behaviours. The AGES model of Davachi, Kiefer, Rock & Rock proposes that processes that focus attention, Generate multiple connections, use Emotion and is Spaced over time, are the most successful.

Attention:           Successful learning requires a learner’s full attention to the topic. This happens when distractions are limited, and there is enough motivation for participants to concentrate on the material or task. How do we entice the brain to stay engaged?


Generation:       Memories are made up of webs of data from across the brain all linked together. The more associations connected to a memory, the easier it is to retrieve the memory later.  How do we optimize the build up of associations in order to maximize the likelihood for memory formation?

Emotion:             Emotion is one of the most important regulators of learning and memory formation because the brain connects positive or negative feelings to the learning content. How do we turn learning into an experience?

Spacing:               The distribution of learning over time leads to better learning, because as the retrieval of information becomes more difficult, long-term memory is accessed. How do we design interventions that make use of spacing effects and delayed testing?

With these models in mind, we are ready to launch into the detail of how Story-Strategy and ImprovSense work. Let us find out if we can answer all the questions posed in this article. If so, we must be in the possession of a pair of magical  weapons…