Humans are driven by a cognitive bias called focalism – our tendency to rely on one trait or piece of information, while making decisions. Thus the adage ‘first impression is the last impression’. We subconsciously decide what we want to think or feel about people, brands, or movie trailers. But, there are always some interactions that have a lasting impact. Does that happen by chance? Not at all.

Being memorable is a carefully crafted experience. According to cognitive scientist Carmen Simon, “To be on people’s minds, you must become part of their reflexes, habits or goals they consider valuable.”  Whether it is Kofi Annan, J.K. Rowling or Sundar Pichai, they employ some purposeful practices to achieve this. Let’s explore them.

  1. An element of surprise is hugely beneficial. When something unexpected happens, our brain is snapped into focus, because its patterns are disrupted. This is largely to do with the hippocampus, which, on contact with a novel experience, releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter influencing motivation and memory.
    Thus, when Sir Ken Robinson said, “Good morning. It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving,” all TED conference participants were caught off-guard! The same principle is at play when someone walks into the office in sweatpants. You’ll remember that for long.
  1. Triggering emotions warrants activity from both the hippocampus and the amygdala regions of the brain. This in turn activates the visual cortex, which helps us associate imagery with the emotional stimuli, thus strengthening retention. One of the primary reasons why Donald Trump is popular, is because he evokes anger and fear through some of his commentary.
    When leaders employ storytelling, they invite people into their experience through emotions. Prof. Amardo Rodriquez, Stanford University, believes that stories help us connect with and realize our humanity. That was evident when Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave a commencement speech at UC Berkley. She bridged her personal journey through grief, with everyone’s experience of loss, successfully inspiring resilience in thousands of graduates.
  1. Sharing an opinion that goes against the norm can offer new perspectives. That’s exactly what SAP AG did when they hired individuals with mild Autism, to engage their superior creative/ analytical abilities. Dan Weedin, author of Unleashed Leadership, says, “Agreement is like white noise. Even if one agrees with the concept, they must find a different way of framing it.” Dan Pink did a stellar job of such reframing, when he offered the idea of ‘flipped motivation’.

We urge you to consider these practices when you go for a job interview, or when you introduce yourself to a new team. How about rewriting your elevator pitch or addressing a team event using these ideas? Tell us how it works!

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