The Centre Brain – 5 Prompts to Persuasive Power by Steve Adams
reviewed by Steve Apted
This is an interesting little book.
Why did Nathan the prophet use a story to convict King David of adultery?
Why did Jotham use a story in his speech to the citizens of Shechem? (You are allowed to look that one up in Judges 9)
Why did Jesus use stories to get his message across?
Because stories disarm us, draw us in, get around our defences, sideslip our prejudices and help us to get a fresh perspective on things. The stories that the Bible uses are timeless. Whilst the context of the story may be time bound the message and the essence are eternal and speak to the condition and state of men and women in every age, circumstance and situation.
In The Centre Brian Steve Adams looks at the way that different parts of our brain react to different types of message – and the power of stories in particular. In one sense the message of Steve’s book isn’t new. Way back in 1964 the Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase ‘The medium is the message‘, meaning that the chosen medium of delivery embeds itself within the message it is employed to convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. McLuhan described the ‘content’ of a medium as the juicy piece of meat carried by a burglar to distract the watch dog of the mind. Whilst the catchy phrase was picked up by the popular media of the time McLuhan was in actual fact a philosopher and the context of the phrase was embedded in some pretty deep philosophical thought which we definitely won’t be going into here!
In The Centre Brain Steve Adams has knowingly or unknowingly picked up on this concept and re packaged it into a popularised form for a new digitally savvy generation. Adams describes the workings of what he calls the centre brain and the outer brain. The centre brain he likens to a motor bike rider controlling the brakes, the gears and the steering, i.e. the rational, conscious, reactive part of the brain. The outer brain he compares to the pillion rider navigating the motor bike. It reaches conclusions and communicates them to the front rider (centre brain). The basic premise of the book is that ‘lf today you’re trying to persuade someone of something this picture can help: you‘re the rear rider on the other person’s tandem. He or she is steering, and clear advice or instruction will not prompt the person to steer as you want. Your voice will only stand out when you use the right prompts’. Steve’s argument is that stories are the medium for bringing about change and influencing decision making in a way that facts, figures and rational logic do not always achieve.
Steve goes on to outline a methodology usable by anyone to develop strategies for influencing groups and individuals to move from position A to position B. Steve calls his methodology the ‘Firebrand System’. To burn brightly a fire needs three things:
- A spark
The spark is the idea. The centre brain already has the kindling it just needs the right spark.
Fuel. The centre brain needs substance to absorb and bite into in order to generate action.
Oxygen is emotional connection. The centre brain depends on an emotional connection. It must connect with what’s around it.
Steve Adams is a Christian and has worked with a number of Christian organisations. He does make references to Jesus but I would not describe this as a typical Christian book per se. It is basically a light weight marketing text aimed at a popular non-academic readership. It would be of help to both professional and volunteer leaders who are seeking to bring about change in their churches, ministries or places of work and are perhaps experiencing resistance or opposition. It will bring new insights into influencing skills, and different perspectives and approaches to change and getting groups to move to ‘yes!’
Steve Apted has a background in Supply Chain, Procurement and Operations management having worked for 30 years in various management roles at three publicly listed companies. He has also worked in a number of Christian publishing and retail organisations including STL and IVP Books UK as interim General Manager. His latest role is in a newly created Strategic Procurement team for the UK and Eire territory of the Salvation Army based in Central London.