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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

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Book review: Make Your Brain Work by Amy Brann


As a certified HBDI Practitioner, fan of brain-friendly (accelerated) learning & mother of a nine year old who was born with part of his brain missing, I was very curious to read Amy Brann’s book called Make Your Brain Work.

The book promises much – an opportunity to apply the latest developments in neuroscience to improving your working life. The premise being that instead of just giving general advice, if we know what is going on in our brain, we can better control it and therefore success will follow.

I eagerly opened up the book to see what I could learn.

Amy Brann’s book starts with an impressive array of endorsements, but I will be honest that the introduction worried me. It was starting to sound like most other self-help books – promising the busy professional a fast track to success - and that was not what I was hoping for with this book.

A look at the back unsettled me further, the list of upto date references was surprisingly short and some of the index entries perplexing; I was not expecting to see entries for the likes of Jamie Oliver & Richard Branson (5 times)!

But determined to keep an open mind I embarked on chapter 1.

The book itself covers a huge & diverse range of subjects to help you improve your effectiveness. To help you navigate around it, it is divided into three different sections on You, Your Colleagues & Clients and Your Company. You can either read it from cover to cover, or dip in & out of the sections.

Throughout the book, readers are also signposted to certain key learning techniques used – including stories to build understanding, the results of key experiments and top MYBW (Make your brain work) tips.

Amy also uses four characters to bring the book alive – Stuart the neuroscience coach and his coachees Kate, Jessie and Ben. Their personal stories are used to create an easy way for the reader to understand the science that the book covers.

But is it useful?

Well it was definitely a slow start; the advice on offer seemed to be the kind of insight that is standard fare on most time management training courses. By page 50, I confess I was frustrated, it’s such a magical topic and at this stage in the book it felt a real opportunity was being missed.

But I had committed to read the book for the review & so I ploughed on.

Am I glad I did? Well yes I am.

Why? Well because as well as being written in a friendly & engaging style, as the book progressed, the information was more & more interesting. As the level of interest grew so did the insightfulness & usefulness of the MYBW tips. There were some genuinely interesting ideas to try out.

That’s not to say this is rocket science, there is a huge amount of common sense in what Amy is suggesting. The advantage is that she gives us a biological reason for making the suggestions she makes. For that reason alone it will help many readers alter their behaviour to become more effective.

If I had one suggestion to make it relates to the use of the technical terms. My background meant I was already familiar with much of the brain’s structure, but for a reader new to much of the content, a glossary of terms & a map of the brain would help enormously. This is particularly important for the more obscure references such as ‘dynamic bystability’ (sic) – a phrase so underused that even Google couldn’t tell me what it means.

Favourite quote from the book:

“Questions are powerful; use them generously”

Most repeated phrase:

“Cells that fire together, wire together”

Who is it useful for?

People seeking to become more effective & don’t just want to be told the ‘what’ about changes to make, but also the ‘why?’

So if you want to improve your performance in areas such as stress, work life balance, learning new skills, breaking bad habits, achieving goals, motivating others, improving your memory & having great meetings and you prefer an approach that seems more rooted in logic, this will be worth a read

Score out of 10

On balance, an interesting take on the standard self help book so 7/10

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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