Human Brain is a 7 Bit Processor

American Nurses Credentialling Center (ANCC) has innovation expert, Tom Kelley, as keynote at their annual conference (taking place now – I am attending and blogging live).

Tom says after he wrote his book, The 10 Faces of Innovation, he learned that 10 was too big a number. He says, when you write your book, don’t use 10 – it’s too many. Human brains can easily remember up to 7. He says, Stephen Covey got it right!

Tom says, Our brains our 7-bit processors. This is why we can remember phone numbers easily (without the area code).


2 Responses to “Human Brain is a 7 Bit Processor”

  1. Actually, the brain notices patterns and can only really remember well one thing at a time. See Brian McElree’s research Working memory and focal attention in 2001. We talk about this in our new book to be published in 2010 Brain Change Therapy: Clinical Interventions for Self-Transformation. Thanks. Love the other ideas.

  2. In the mid-90s I participated in a series of think tanks on applied storytelling. They were funded by Eastman Chemical Company, sponsored by the International Storytelling Center, and run by Rick Stone who was then running the StoryWork Institute. Participants included people from Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, Ernst & Young, Harvard University, the World Bank, and others.

    The folks from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education were leaders of a research group called Project Zero. Their mission is to “understand and enhance learning, thinking and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels (” David Perkins, a prolific author and co-director of Project Zero at the time, asked me how many bullet points can someone be expected to remember when they are in a difficult situation? Three, I thought. No, he said, it is one.

    That would seem to support what you say, Dr. Carol Kershaw, Given your background, can you tell me why it is that it appears to be easy for the brain to remember a 7-digit number? Or why you would dispute that? I don’t think Tom Kelley was being rigorous here – but, the spirit of the statement remains – any additional insight you want to provide would be welcome. Thanks for your comment.

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