Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”. Redemption Song, Bob Marley,1979.

Linkedin’s most in-demand skills in 2018 were unheard of a few years ago.  In another few years, many of us are likely to be doing jobs that do not yet exist.  We must all keep learning and relearning to stay in the game in our constantly changing and technologically sophisticated world of work.

Sounds tough?

So what if we feel we aren’t very intelligent, that we won’t be able to cope with this lifelong learning thing?

Well take heart, and join the many across the globe who feel greatly encouraged and empowered by recent advances in neuroscience.

Sophisticated imaging technology has confirmed what many have long suspected: our brains are “plastic”, and with the right learning strategies, effort and practice, we can actually grow our intelligence.

Yes it’s true! It’s called neuroplasticity.

How does this work? Well the brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons. These have branches that connect with other cells in a complicated network. It is the communication between these cells that help us to think and solve problems. When we learn new things, these tiny connections actually multiply and grow stronger. The more we challenge our brains, the more these connections multiply and the more intelligent we become. What is difficult at first becomes easier with effort and practice – a bit like learning to drive a car or play a musical instrument.

The shame of it is that our British education system and wider culture have spent decades trying to convince us otherwise. They have encouraged us to believe that intelligence and other basic qualities are primarily genetic –  traits that are fixed at birth, and there isn’t that much we can do to change them.

Alfred Binet

Interestingly, Alfred Binet, the French psychologist who invented the first IQ test was completely against this “fixed mindset” way of thinking. He considered it “brutal pessimism”. He firmly believed that intelligence could grow, and used the IQ test to identify children who would benefit from extra practice and training in order to grow their intelligence.

Tragically, Binet’s IQ test was hijacked by fixed mindset driven individuals who used the test to label children as low performing as a matter of genetics – just a fact of life that could not be changed very much.

Even more tragically, many of us have absorbed these fixed mindset beliefs from our classrooms and the wider culture. So when learning gets difficult, we may be too quick to assume we don’t have what it takes, and give up.

We still live in a fixed mindset saturated culture and it is not easy to rid ourselves of these very limiting beliefs. But if we don’t, how are we to cope with the demands of our fast and constantly changing world of work?

We must make the most of the precious gift of neuroplasticity to become effective lifelong learners. The next article in the series Opportunity Knocks will share a few top tips on how to do just that.

Learn more about neuroplasticity here http://bit.ly/2p8Cu7r and about changing mindsets here http://bit.ly/2DpQjmo

Executive Director,
Future Think,
Penny Carballo-Smith