How Coaching Creates the AHA! Moments

We really don’t “know” how the brain works.  We just have theories.  One of the newest theories explains the AHA! process very well.  To understand it, however, we need to go back a few years.

The brain theory we know the best goes back to Roger Sperry’s theory of a two-sided brain.  He won a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his idea that the right side brain is creative and intuitive while the left side brain is analytical and rational. We understand the theory and can visualize the distinction.  So if we want to get creative and brainstorm, we let lose the whole brain and think we are getting ideas to bounce around inside our skull.

The big year for a model change was 1998 and the theory of intelligent memory.  Eric Kandel won a Nobel Prize for his theory in which analysis and intuition work together.  The theory is about learning and recall in various combinations throughout the brain.

Barry Gordon explains the newer model for the nonscientists in his book, Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory that Makes You Smarter.  Basically, human memory is like an inventory system.  You take in thoughts, break them down, and put the components on the shelves.  When new experience arrive, your brain searches through the shelves to find how the new fits with the old.

  • When your mind matches things up, the result is a thought.
  • When your mind breaks things down and stores them, this is analysis.
  • As your brain searches and combines data with links, stories, images, and so on, this is intuition.

When different pieces come together, you get the famous AHA! moment. That’s why we can say things like, “I knew that” because we have these components that we have just put together into a new conclusion.

Coaching creates these AHA moments by asking the intuitive questions; by allowing the clients to pick and choose among all of the pieces on the memory shelves and combine them in ways to match new scenarios.  Cool, heh?

Like prior theories, this is a theory and it will probably be replaced someday.  Until then, you might want to buy Barry Gordon’s book and figure out how to help your clients find more of these unique growth points.