29th December 2023
Neon Elephant Award Announcement
Dr. Will Thalheimer, Consultant, Researcher, Speaker at Work-Learning Research, announces the winner of the 2023 Neon Elephant Award, given this year to Annie Murphy Paul for writing the book The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain—and for her lifetime of work bringing research wisdom to light through her books, journalism, writing, and speaking.
2023 Award Winner – Annie Murphy Paul
Annie Murphy Paul is an acclaimed science writer whose decades of tireless research-inspired writings have illuminated myriad influential concepts in human learning and cognition. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Scientific American, Slate, Time magazine, and The Best American Science Writing, among many other publications. She is the author of The Extended Mind, which the Wall Street Journal lauded as “fascinating, sure-footed and wide-ranging.” Annie Murphy Paul is also the author of Origins, reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and selected by that publication as a “Notable Book,” and The Cult of Personality Testing, hailed by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker as a “fascinating new book.” Currently, she is a fellow in New America’s Learning Sciences Exchange. She has also received the Spencer Education Reporting Fellowship and the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship. Paul has spoken to audiences around the world about learning and cognition; her TED Talk has been viewed by more than 2.9 million people.
Her most recent book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, is a luminous revelation and should be read by all learning and development professionals. I have read the book four times! Every time, I gain new ideas and conjure additional ways that we in L&D can make changes to improve the learning and performance of those we are charged to help—and improve our own work as well. She makes a very strong case that “thinking outside our brains” can bring significant improvements in our thinking and work performance.
There are a wealth of specifics in the book. Let me share just a few. She shows how Wall Street financial traders who are more adept at noticing their bodies’ signals make better decision about which stocks to buy and which to sell. The inference is that when decisions are wickedly complex—and our rationale minds fail to comprehend—many times our bodies can help us make better decisions. Gesturing helps us communicate and it helps us think more clearly ourselves. So much for presentation coaches who tell us to keep our hands at our sides! Larger computer screens help people perform better, partially by getting of the extraneous cognitive load of managing windows, but also because the larger screens let us use our hardwired human proficiency with location and place information. We can think better with other people, but we have to know how to do this to get maximum benefits. And so much more!
As I read Annie’s work I get a real sense that she is urging new futures into being. She discerns key ideas hidden in the research and brings them out into a world where they are not yet recognized. In her book, The Cult of Personality Testing, she critiqued the personality-testing industry and showed the damage that was being done in the worlds of education, business, government, and the judicial system. At the time of the original publication—in 2004—how many of us in L&D even thought to question the MBTI Myers-Briggs or DISC or any other of the ubiquitous and largely unproven personality tests we used in our training? I get the same sense reading The Extended Mind. Annie Murphy Paul is way ahead of us.
Notable contributions from Annie Murphy Paul:
- Book: The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain.
- Book: The Cult of Personality Testing: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves.
- Book: Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.
- Podcast Researcher, The Hidden Brain.
- Annie Paul Murphy’s Website.
In her decades of work, Annie Murphy Paul has educated us about things we really need to know—information that can be utilized in our work and in our lives. She is said to read psychology journal articles for fun, but let’s not be fooled. Reading science is hard. Collating piles and piles of research from disparate paradigms is even harder. What is truly exceptional is weaving together constructs into meaningful whole cloth and making it resonate with the public. Annie Murphy Paul has a unique gift, one that we in learning-and-development should accept with gratitude. It is an honor to recognize Annie as this year’s winner of the Neon Elephant Award.