Andy Hunt’s Refactor Your Wetware at Philly Emerging Tech

Andy Hunt gave a keynote at the Philadelphia Emerging Tech Conference, around the title of his latest book, "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware".  The talk, and his book, are about our brains, and how we can make changes in the way that we use them.

He offered that some people have asked if the book is substantiated by science.  He warned that some of the book is backed up by science, and other parts by old wives tales, but warned that much of what was thought to be substantiated in science in the past has now been refuted and things that were thought to be old wives tales have been backed up by new studies!  One of the "facts" refuted is that we are born with all of the brain cells that we ever have. Ruin them and they're gone.  But now scientists know that new experiences are essential to the development of new cells, so he offers to get out and experience new things, and new ways of looking at problems. 

Andy talked about the right brain/left brain and how that's sort of fuzzy.  Instead, it seems more accurate to describe the brain as having a "dual core CPU", where one CPU is pretty good at analytical tasks, and the other is more like an asynchronous digital signal processor, with no real control over when ideas emerge.  And that there's a shared memory bus that can't really effectively be doing both tasks at the same time.  For this reason, he talked about how we can often become unblocked by getting up and going for a walk (freeing up the other part of the brain), or doing ANYTHING other than focusing on a very analytical task.

Other useful suggestions (there were many, and I'm going from sketchy notes):

  • Morning writing – try free journaling, writing 3 pages each morning, uncensored.  This will encourage the free flow of information, and is often used by both MBA's and in writers' workshops.
  • Labyrinth walking – I encountered my first labyrinth last spring on the beach in FL.  Check one out if you have the opportunity.
  • Keep track of good ideas.  Write them down (our memories suck).  If we reward our brain by writing them down, more ideas tend to flow. Keep a notebook handy and write down those ideas. 
  • If we continually ignore "good ideas", our brain seems to sort of give up on us, and the ideas stop coming.
  • Multi-tasking.  Stop it.  [Side note: if you haven't read "The Myth of Multitasking", do it]
  • Mind mapping. Andy said that he was all psyched about mind mapping and was talking to his kids about it and they told him that they did this in the second grade.
  • Meditation. Just try it.

Andy also talked about effective learning from books.  He summarized the Reading Summary Technique (SQ3R):

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recall
  • Review

Not so coincidentally, my daughter's kindergarten teacher sent home instructions about how to do this.

And, if you do nothing else, Andy offered one bit of advice toward a 20-30% productivity gain.  Get a second monitor. 

So, I just bought the eBook.  I'm sure that there are tidbits that I missed or have forgotten, and perhaps there are others that didn't make it into his talk.  Overall, this sounds like an enjoyable, interesting book to read.