It's a No Brainer: ASTD 2014 Is the Place for Brain-Friendly Learning

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seventeen years ago, I attended the ASTD International Conference & Exposition for the first time, and it rocked my world! Although nearly 20 years have passed since then, I can still feel the exhilaration that I had when I walked into the convention center. I remember vividly the awe I experienced that week at the variety and depth of sessions available, the genuine collegiality of other attendees, and the proximity and intimacy that was possible with many gurus in the field. There were other “awes” as well, and I hope you will experience these for yourself.

This year, as I look through the conference website and make travel arrangements, I feel a new sort of excitement and am eager to participate in the May event in ways I haven’t before. This year, I am an attendee, a published ASTD Press author, an ASTD guest blogger, and a conference presenter. Besides taking in as many sessions, keynotes, and EXPO conversations as I possibly can, I will be involved in:


As a person who has always needed to understand why things work the way they do and whether or not my work has the desired impact, I have been interested in brain science for decades. Beginning my professional life in public education, I was immersed in brain-based learning theory and used these concepts on a daily basis in my classroom. But upon transitioning into the field of training and development, I didn’t see the same theory being translated or applied in corporate classrooms. Of course there was solid theory underlying good training design and delivery, but I didn’t see the specific application of brain science to employee learning and change. As my career progressed and I grew my expertise in organization development, I began to see the drastic difference between companies that did recognize the importance of the overt and subtle messages that are sent to employees by systems, processes, and management practices—and the companies that did not.
As a research nut, I found a handful of powerful “big ideas” from brain science that can have an enormous positive impact on individual and organizational performance and was driven to translate these for professionals in our field—and for general managers to use as well. This is what you will hear about in my Community Theater session on Monday, May 5 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., and what you can read more about in my new book, available on-site at the ASTD Bookstore. The book includes an inside peek at a few “best places to work” and identifies what it is about these organizations that works and in what ways their practices are already brain-friendly. The last section also shares recommendations for assessing one’s current work experience, work group, or whole organization and for making improvements to brain-friendliness.

If this topic intrigues you, be sure to check out the Science of Learning track as you browse the education programs. You can build your conference schedule online at any time, and of course, if you haven’t yet registered for ASTD 2014, you can do so now.

I hope you’ll allow space and time in your conference experience for impromptu connections; this is the magic that can only happen in a conference setting. I love meeting new professionals in this field and hope we can connect in Washington, D.C. If you’d like to connect prior to May, you can find me at:

  • Twitter: @Erika_Garms
  • LinkedIn: Erika (Tierney) Garms, PhD –and- Garms Group, Inc.Google+: Erika Garms

Join more than 9,000 of your learning colleagues from around the globe in Washington, D.C., May 4-7, 2014, to share best practices and insights at the ASTD 2014 International Conference & EXPO.

About the Author
Erika Garms works with leaders who need their teams to work, manage, and innovate smarter. As CEO of WorkingSmarts (, she uses her gift for translating powerful scientific theory to everyday workplace practice. Erika has played a number of consulting and leadership roles in her 26-year career, including serving as an internal consultant, an organization development unit manager, and an organization development/change/executive management consultant with two large, global management consulting firms. She also helped to establish start-up HR and IT consultancies. Erika has worked for and with public sector and private sector organizations across many industries – from food to finance, education to energy. She earned a BA and an MA from the University of Colorado, a PhD from the University of Minnesota, and completed a post-graduate program with distinction from the NeuroLeadership Institute/Sussex University.  Garms is the author of, “The Brain-Friendly Workplace: Five Big Ideas from Neuroscience That Address Organizational Challenges” (ATD Press, 2014) and is a regular speaker at conferences, company meetings, and management retreats across the U.S. and abroad.
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