Rich Carr and Dr. Kieran O’Mahony from Brain-centric Design on ”The Surprising Neuroscience Behind Learning With Deep Understanding”


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"Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius." Michael J. Gelb

Watch this interview on YouTube here

On this episode you will learn:

✔︎ How did Rich Carr (radio and communications) go from working with Paul Allen (Microsoft Co-founder) to working with Dr. Kieran O'Mahony in the field of neuroscience?

✔︎ What's Missing with the Behaviorist Method (rewards/punishment) that's used in our schools and workplaces?

✔︎ What is the Brain-centric Design and how can it be used to accelerate results in ANY industry?

✔︎ What should we all know about our brains to demystify them?

✔︎ What should we all know about learning and the brain?

✔︎ What do YOU have in common with Jeff Bezos?

✔︎ How can YOU get involved with Dr. Kieran O'Mahony and Rich Carr with Brain-centric Design?

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, EPISODE #220! For returning guests, welcome back, and for those who are new here, I’m Andrea Samadi, author, and educator, with a passion for learning, understanding difficult concepts, and breaking them down so that we can all use and apply the most current research to improve our productivity and results in our schools, sports environments, and modern workplaces. My goal with this podcast to make the research applicable for all of us to use-whether we have a background in science, or not.

On today’s episode #220, we have Rich Carr and Dr. Kieran O’Mahony whose pedagogic model, Brain-centric Design[i], is enjoying rapid acceptance in schools and businesses with high praise from different sectors including Nike executives who say that upon implementing these ideas, “their learners (athletes) not only understood their positions better, but also reached their goals faster” (Brain-centric Design, Praise, Michele Jordan, Fortune 100 Learning Director) from the Department of Defense, noted that “this process invites us to lean in and become interactive with our learning, enabling us to grasp topics quickly and most importantly with vastly greater retention.” (Ken Robinson, Department of Defense) The feedback from those in the classroom who have begun implementing these ideas follow suit, saying “Brain-Centric Design took the guesswork out of the classroom and highlighted the scientific reasons behind the success” (Ellen Thompson, Fortune 100 Learning and Quality Specialist) who highlighted how great it felt to “identify the positive traits of cognitive flexibility, social—emotional engagement and adaptive expertise” that she already possessed.

Rich and Kieran’s model explains that while behaviorist pedagogy might sound like the best way for students to learn in the classroom, or for employees to be motivated in the workplace, that there’s a more effective way to learn with the brain in mind, and this is exactly why we cover the most current neuroscience research on this podcast.

Who knew that learning the most current research in neuroscience would be so important to the world? I certainly didn’t when launching this idea just under 3 years ago this month, but it’s clear with the number of downloads we receive all over the world (in 168 countries now) that this is an important and timely topic for us all to pay attention to. As we are now moving into Season 8 of the podcast, with a focus on Brain Health and Well-Being as it relates to learning, Richard Carr and Kieran O’Mahony’s Brain-centric Design fits right in as they focus on the training and certification of Communicators, Coaches, and Educators to form a deep understanding in the pedagogy of their program: Brain-centric Design: The Surprising Neuroscience Behind Learning with Deep Understanding[ii]. Because their framework is aligned with how the brain processes information, and how people’s brain loves to learn, (especially something new) its inherent design places any learning space in a psychologically safe framework. They will show us how great things can happen when your brain is free of the behaviorist constructs of rewards and punishment that we have all seen in our public schooling, and corporate workplaces.

Let’s meet Rich Carr, and Kieran O’Mahony of Brain-Centric Design, and take a close look at why the behaviorist model that many of us have been use it using because it works, is out-dated, as they show us there is a better way to learn in our schools and classrooms of the future.

Welcome Rich Carr and Kieran O’Mahony, thank you for reaching out to me and sharing your learning model with all of us today.

INTRO Q: Just a quick glance at all of the praise of your work in the beginning of your book, Brain-centric Design: The Surprising Neuroscience Behind Learning With Deep Understanding I couldn’t help but notice the one written by Alan Breeze, Washington State Prison, Inmate #797180 who said that “there must be a way for headheads like myself to learn that does not include years of solitary confinement” and that if he had found your method, that instead of a testimonial from inmate #797180, it could have been written by Master Chief Brazee, US Navy.

How did you both come to discover your method?

Q1: We can clearly see that our K-12 Educational System needs transformation and how far we are behind other countries like Finland and Japan (who tune into this podcast) and Ireland where Kieran mentioned his journey began, we are currently in the TOP 20 in this country.[iii] You mention that one reason is that our K12 system is built on the rewards/punishment system. Where did this Behavioralist Method[iv] go wrong? What are we missing when it comes to learning and deep understanding?[v]

1B: Why do some people seem to thrive in this system-or seem to be resilient enough to not be impacted by this system (dandelion vs orchid) and how is this data evident in the Nations Report Card? (NAEP).

1C: The example of in your video of the young girl who was given candy as a reward for completing her math sheet just broke my heart listening to it as I still see this happening with my youngest daughter. I don’t know why candy is given as a reward! Can you explain why rewards and punishment aren’t helpful in the learning space?

1D: How does this rewards/punishment system carry into the workplace to prevent employees from reaching their potential? Kieran’s answer blew me away here, as I came from the system of commission sales, where employees were rewarded with money if they could hit their sales goals, and punished if they missed them. We know that people in this space can be fired on a dime, which works against how our brain works. Can you explain why the rewards/punishment system limits us in the workplace?

Q2: In chapter 1.1 of your book, Learning is Connecting the Dots, you say, “to learn you need neurons” and “to teach you need to know how neurons work.” Isn’t it mind-boggling that no one asks us right through our educational system, anything about our brain and how it relates to learning? I know that this is changing as more schools are learning how the brain relates to learning (the science of reading) etc, but where do you think we are now and what else needs to happen before learning and brain are more widely accepted in our schools and workplaces? I’ve got to say that I loved Kieran’s answer where he talked about learning about telomeres and mitochondria (that are both important structures in the cell that help us especially as we are growing older) but what he was learning was written by neuroscientists in complex terms. How are you translating these concepts into useful concepts and making them useful in the public domain for teachers, parents and even students to use in their lives?

Q3: What should we all know about our brain to demystify it? PART 1 of the book.

Q4: What should we all know about learning and the brain? PART 2 of the book?

Q5: Why is challenge so important with learning and what does Rich’s daughter and Jeff Bezos have in common? PART 4 of the book. Kieran’s take on this made me think back to the many influencers in my life who I’ll always be grateful for but ultimately it was my brain that made I used in every decision-making process.

Q6: How can BcD be applied in different industries? (Schools/Sports/Workplaces)?

Q7: Why is BcD Revolutionary and something we should all pay attention to?

Q8: Is there anything important that I have missed?

For people to learn more about you, what’s the best way? What is the call to action at the end? Contact you?

Thank you very much for sharing BcD with us. You have created a system that is revolutionary, and has the ability to impact change in our schools and workplaces.




[ii] Brain-centric Design: The Surprising Neuroscience Behind Learning with Deep Understanding by Rich Carr and Dr. Kieran O’Mahony

[iii] Ireland Apple How-To Charts

[iv] Brain-centric Design Chapter 3.2 Behaviorism is Outdated May 20, 2020

[v] This is the one critical piece we are missing when it comes to learning and deep understanding. By Robyn Shulman Sept. 15, 2019

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