Wednesday, December 22, 2021



Ever since I read 'Moonwalking with Einstein', the subject of memory and retention has fascinated me. This book is about Joshua Foer's journey to becoming the US Memory Champion.

In 1920-40, scientists tested world-class chess players on their general cognitive abilities, such as memory. They found that although expert players were far better at chess than average players, they did not perform significantly better on any of the general tests. They found that expert chess players do have a so called "chess memory" enabling them to see the chessboard differently than less experienced players. Rather than perceiving the board as 32 pieces, they see a few relevant pieces of the board.

Likewise, all of us has something called as "work memory" that enables us to remember things at work but that memory may not translate to other areas of life.

In ancient times, there was a strong association of memory with intelligence. But apparently, the invention of printing press in 1400s made books and printed material more accessible and democratized reading. The same phenomenon expanded manifold with the advent of search engines in early 2000s. That makes one wonder- if all the information is so easily accessible and searchable, why should i care about memory ?

I feel that the timely recall of information is crucial in our growth as professionals. One may read tonnes of stuff but active recall of knowledge when the situation demands is paramount as well. Imagine being in a high stakes meeting and a fact misses you the moment it had to be stated for achieving maximum impact. Or the importance of remembering and recalling people's name can't be overstated (one of the foundational aspect of relationship building). Accumulated knowledge can only be compounded well if we work to build effective recall mechanisms.

So, how does one improve retention and recall ? I liked the ideas shared by Sahil Bloom in this twitter thread
He suggests a 5 step process involving the steps:

1. Inspired Consumption: When you feel genuinely pulled (and not forced) to consume an information.
2. Unstructured Note-Taking: You should have a note-taking system in front of you when consuming info.
3. Consolidation: Unstructured note-taking creates a bunch of dots, consolidation is where you start connecting them.
4. Analogize: Making clear comparisons and connections between new and existing information.
5. Idea Exercise: If you use the idea, it will stick and grow.

Have included the summary in my sketchnote.

Do you think improving the retention skills is important ? What conscious methods do you apply to improve memory/recall ?

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