ATD Blog

Brain Fitness: The First Step to Becoming Agile

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The world is entering an era of disruptive change, which is causing increased complexity in the workplace. Rapidly evolving technologies coupled with data explosion and the generally heightened pace of change will cause disruption on every level of society and in every industry. As we all might know by now, one of the factors causing this disruption is artificial intelligence (AI), which is suggested to become direct competition with people, especially those who are doing routine and repetitive jobs. It will cause widespread change to business models and labor markets over the coming years. So the question is, How do we stay at the forefront of this change?

To stay competitive in today’s business world requires a fierce desire to learn, to improve, and to adapt. Organizations are only as agile as the people who work there, the people who make the company what it is. The term “agility” refers to “the power of moving quickly and easily’’ and ‘‘the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly.” Our agility to adapt, adjust, learn new information quickly, unlearn old behavior fast, and be flexible in moving across ideas in a way that allows us to maximize the potential learning value of a given experience will be crucial to our survival.

As organizations become more complex and dynamic, peoples’ ability to learn from experience becomes more important. This skill is referred to as learning agility, and the concept has attracted considerable attention from human resource professionals and consultants interested in selecting and developing employees’ ability to learn from experience.

Before people can become learning agile, they need to optimize the drivers that influence brain performance and ultimately overall “brain fitness.” These drivers include sleep, stress, diet, mindset, movement, cognitive skills, and physical environment. People also need to integrate all the neurophysiological attributes that impact their learning agility and ability. This competence is referred to as neuro-agility. Developing neuro-agility is a prerequisite for the brain to function at optimum level as one integrated whole brain system without any neurological hindrances.


The first step toward becoming more neuro-agile would be to improve our brain fitness. Brain fitness is about utilizing all brain regions simultaneously as one functional, three-dimensional unit. You are not born brain fit. It is something that you need to develop and maintain through regular physical exercises and mental stimulation. According to several sources, lack of brain fitness will result in alternating between hemispheres rather than processing information simultaneously, causing you to think, learn, and process information longer, slower, and harder. Optimizing your brain fitness will result in ease of learning, thinking faster and smarter, and processing information more effectively.

Your brain fitness skill set consists of a combination of physical cross-lateral exercises and mental activities that help produce neurotrophins and neurotransmitters, activate mental integrative states, and promote cerebrospinal fluid circulation on a daily basis.
Your brain has the potential to help you do whatever life requires of you. It has unlimited potential in terms of what you can learn, think, and create. Sometimes a person may not appear to function with unlimited potential, because there may be a lack in the efficiency of the drivers that optimize their performance. To optimize your brain performance and enable all hemispheres, lobes, and brain regions to function simultaneously as one whole-brain system, you need to provide it with the right physical and mental stimulation and create the right conditions to thrive. To get the most out of your whole brain, it is essential that you know how these drivers, especially brain fitness, influence your neurological design and learn appropriate skills to optimize them.
During the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition, the topic of brain fitness will be presented in the form of an Innogizer session called the New Brain Boogie (sessions M307 & W118), which will explain the complex concept of brain fitness in an understandable and enjoyable way. Join us on Monday, May 7, at 4:30 p.m. or Wednesday, May 9, at 8:15 a.m. to experience what brain fitness is all about.

About the Author

Christiaan Vermeulen is the business support and product development manager of Neuro-Link, an international consultancy specializing in the neuroscience of workplace learning. He is a neurophysiologist and scholar of the University of Pretoria. Christiaan is responsible for research and product development of the Neuro-Link specialist field, assessments, and learning solutions. Christiaan has published leading articles on the neuroscience of learning and presents on respected platforms like the University of Pretoria neuroscience conference. He also is an executive coach.

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