Do you remember the famous Coca-Cola advert with the song lyrics, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a coke and keep them company?” It actually first aired before I was born but it is still regarded as an iconic piece of advertising. Well, in the same sentiment I’d like to teach the world to think in perfect harmony. That’s how to think – not what to think.
Tony Buzan said his life’s mission was “Global Mental Literacy”. Tragically, Tony didn’t live to see this fully come to fruition but we continue towards the same goal in his honour.
What does Global Mental Literacy really mean?
Let’s break it down and consider each word in turn.
- Global meaning everyone on the planet.
- Mental meaning relating to the mind and brain.
- Literacy has two definitions in the dictionary:
- The ability to read and write
- Competence or knowledge in a specified area: Computer literacy
Tony was using literacy in the second sense. Just as computer literacy enables you to understand and use technology effectively and competently – mental literacy lets you understand how the brain works and thus use yours more effectively. It is the instruction manual that was missed out when you were delivered as a new-born baby!
How is mental literacy achieved?
Tony’s core idea was Mind Mapping. This relates to mental literacy because it is a method of visual thinking which works in harmony with the essence of how the brain operates. Our primary representation of the world is by the use of pictures. Words are just subroutines which make communicating the images your head easier. If everyone learned to Mind Map clear thinking and creativity would be ubiquitous and everyone would be smart.
What’s this got to do with memory?
Just as a Mind Map starts in the middle of the page and grows in all directions as ideas are developed, so speed reading and memory grow out of Mind Mapping. Memory techniques are all based on imagination (i.e. images in your head) Association (i.e. links and connections) and the location (i.e. position in space). These exact three principles underpin Mind Maps – The use of images, linking and spatial awareness. Thinking and creativity is just the opposite side of the same coin as memory.
What about reading then?
Reading is not simply recognising words. It is the result of a complex eye-brain interaction. The definition of mental literacy still applies. By improving the way we use our brains and studying how we use our eyes when reading, it is possible to dramatically improve speed, comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge. This is especially true when coupled with Mind Maps and Memory techniques. The three elements act in synergy (another key brain principle) meaning the interactions build on each other leading to a whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Being the Best You Can Be.
Tony talked about becoming a “Magician Of The Mind” – Advocating study of the Great Brains from history who act as beacons to the future and are excellent role models for anyone wishing to develop their personality, mental and physical skills. He wrote, “The Great Brains throughout history demonstrated particular characteristics that enabled them to achieve extraordinary success in their chosen field. One of the main functions of the Brain Club will be to encourage the study, practice and emulation of these principles in order to make it easier for members to follow in the footsteps of the greats.” I think as Tony’s friends, we would all agree that when we remember Tony, just over a year since his untimely death, we include him in the pantheon of Great Brains he sought everyone to model their lives on.