How to reverse engineer memory to create a lasting impression

Think back to all the times you spent weekends with your friends at university. Can you distinguish these weekends from each other, or do they all seem sort of similar - like it was all one long Saturday? The cool thing is that you can use these shortcomings of the brain to your advantage.

December 2, 2017

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In all likelihood, you’ll have a hard time separating memories from weekends at university to no fault of your own – you are simply a (memory) prisoner of your own brain. Well, that and the fact that alcohol was probably involved, but that’s a topic for another post. This one is about memory.

The cool thing is that you can use these shortcomings of the brain to your advantage.

Let me explain.

A couple of years ago I read the book “Moonwalking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer from 2011.

The book is a personal and true story about how Joshua, a journalist, is intrigued by the notion that it is possible to greatly enhance how much one can remember by crafting visual narratives that you connect to a memory or a chain of memories. He is further intrigued when he discovers there is a global community competing in remembering the longest of these memory chains. Not content with only observing this skill and community from afar, Joshua decides to join them and during the book, he himself gets to a level where he can stand shoulder to shoulder and brain to brain with the some of the top global memory contestants.

In short, these memory contestants use the fact that the brain is efficient in grouping similar memories as one to “save storage” and they, therefore, focus on creating distinct, and personal, images in a sequence as markers to richer memories – thus remembering more.

And you can use this same knowledge, and in reverse. Not only to remember more but also to make sure people remember you and your story/mission/start-up.

How to reverse engineer memory to create a lasting impression - professionally

When you are building a new company, and especially so if this new company is in a new industry, you will benefit greatly from standing out from the rest. At Unacast we have gone about this in two ways.

1. Your company must stand out from other companies. This sounds like a no-brainer (pun intended), but still too many companies fail in separating their narrative sufficiently from other narratives and therefore, per the logic described above, occupy the same memory location at the receiving brain-end as similar companies. And, if you are not the biggest of these companies, and as a new company you likely are not, you will, ironically, only strengthen the position of your competition by marketing yourself. So, make sure you create new memories at your designated receiver(s) by building unique narratives – that are ideally simple enough to be contained and communicated in a few visual images, as they are easier to recollect.

2. Your company must stand out from itself. Achieving to stand out from others is not enough. As time goes by, if your narrative is static, you will write over past memories at the receiving brain-end, again and again, and end up as a hybrid of all of them, with the end result appearing as a company standing still. Make sure you evolve your unique narrative by regularly adding new visual images to the story. This can be done on many levels, like product, culture, growth/scaling etc. It really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as the company you are today is not the same as you were yesterday. That said, try to stay consistent. People like that.

How to reverse engineer memory to create a lasting impression - personally

In the intro, I talked about all those weekend get-togethers from university. Well, the same is true for all social events. If they are too similar in form, they will years later not register as individual events.

I will not pretend to know how to best approach this in your social circles, but I have taken this insight to heart and shortly after reading “Moonwalking with Einstein” I started to arrange annual full-day competitions with my friends. Each year it grows in scope, and always with new events and new mechanics to test the brain and/or the body. We have had these competitions for three years now, and to keep making new memories the fourth is taking the competition into cyberspace with the codename “the digital athlete”, and the fifth is set to be held in NYC.

This way I hope to ensure that our experiences are not only distinct memories for the rest of my life, but also distinct memories for my friends.

Now, go and do the same. And hopefully, you’ll remember me as you create new memories for yourself, for your company, and for those around you.