Before becoming an amateur brain scientist, I never really understood the old dogs/new tricks saying. As kids, we taught new tricks very successfully to our old pooches. It turns out that they had good neuroplasticity because we never stopped teaching them. So, the saying should say: "You can't teach old dogs new tricks if you've not trained their brains since they were puppies." But, that wouldn't be very catchy.
I like to train my brain. This week, I've been mesmerised by a series of excellent podcasts produced by The Longevity Forum. Among the output (all of which is first rate) is an interview with my favourite non-undercover economist, Andy Haldane, and a super-strong show with Dr Tara Swart, hosted by Dafina Grapci-Penney.
Dr Swart is a qualified medical doctor who has effected a career change into neuroscience. Using her own career change as an example, Dr Swart talks about neuroplasticity and its benefits.
"Neuroplasticity works both ways", Dr Swart explains. "If you take on change and try new things, you help your brain grow and adapt to change".
The flip side is that, if you don't try new things, your brain doesn't grow and adapt at all. Why is this interesting?
As marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about behaviour. After all, our job is to influence it. But, to understand behaviour you need to understand the brain and neuroplasticity - or the opposite - is really interesting to us.
Our brains are programmed to resist change. We build neural pathways, biases and heuristics to simplify decision making and make operating the energy-hungry brain more efficient.
Thus, as a marketer, if you want to change behaviour, you're taking on a big task because you're asking your customers to use energy that they are programmed to save.
My take on Dr Swart's commentary is this.
You stand more chance changing behaviour in people that have high neuroplasticity than those that don't. So, when planning our next marketing campaign, maybe our first question needs to be "what level of neuroplasticity does our target market have?"
"The more you do different things, the easier it becomes. If you take on change and try new things, you're helping your brain to grow and adapt to change. You can induce neuroplasticity." Dr Tara Swart, Medical Doctor and Neuro Scientist