Manage your memory – the Nobel Laureates sharpest tool

by Cecilia Magnergård on October 11, 2013

During this week this years Nobel Laureates have been presented. The Nobel Prise is awarded annually to individuals and organisations that make outstanding contributions in their respective fields.


What has been most important for you successis the most common question Nobel Laureates has been asked over the years. Excluding family love and intelligent colleagues, a remarkably large number has answered their their ability to memorize and recollect; their ability to connect past research with new findings.

For example, even though they are not Nobel Laureates, it is not accidental nor a coincidence that the two great masters of modern architecture, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier had their photos taken in front of the Parthenon. They never copied it, but it was always alive in their memory.

We often write about innovation on this blog, and for innovation, the ability to be creative is a key. What is creativity if not the combination of good memory and the ability to make associations. After all, as Schumpeter said, innovation is creative destruction, where entrepreneurs combine existing elements in new ways. For the scientists who make new discoveries, their ability functions in a similar way.

This thought made me curious to understand more about our memory and how we can maximise the utility and efficiency of it. If used correctly, our memory capacity is extremely powerful. Some memory-techniques are more verified than others, however, independent of what memory-technique one decides to try; what pervades them is that they seem to be everyday practical skills that almost anyone can train. Consequently, here follows a few guidelines and tools that can be useful to train ones memory to remember better.

Associations with and in-between objects are essential in almost all memory-techniques. The associations do not have to be plausible at all, in fact the more original the better, it is only intended to capture attention.

Within the image-technique, the fundamental rule is to accustom the brain to translate all information into images that can then connect to each other in different ways. If one is about to learn all the Swedish kings in correct order; imaginary decide how they looked like and thereafter connect an event to visualize ahead with that person. Using this method, it is however important to use pleasant and positive images as our brain tends to block out unpleasant ones.


The loci-technique is based on making imaginary tours. This ought to be done at a place you know very well such as your home. Place, imaginary, what you need to memorise in various areas in your home. When to recall the specific memory one only need to do a mental tour to the various places where the memory initially was put. For example one can remember the grocery-shopping list in a mental walk from your bedroom to kitchen in your house. In order increase the odds of remembering through the loci-technique one may also link colours, feelings and smells to that specific place.

In order to adequately remember numbers and lists one can preferably use the Item-method. A common problem is that many find it difficult to create an inner-image of an abstract figure. Therefore, one can replace the numbers with something else in order to get a picture that one can use to create a spectacular association. For example, each digit is replaced by a word that rhymes with that specific number: 2-blue, 3-me etc. In this case, to remember an ordered list, one can associate an imaginative picture with something blue and the second word in the list. Thereafter, you create a picture with yourself and the third word in the list, etcetera.

To increase the memory capacity, in addition to these techniques, it is important to include humour. Peculiar or humorous things are easier to remember than normal or dull ones. It is moreover so that strange rhythms are very difficult to forget, and enlarging the dimensions of you memory makes it more vivid and thereby easier to remember.

Conclusively, with small tools one can improve the memory-capacity, something that is shown to have a significant effect on our lives, which in turn affects how we operate professionally as well as personally. It allows us to be more creative.

About Cecilia Magnergård :

Analyst with deep knowledge in Economic Strategy, Innovation Management and Business Developmed combined with a profound interest in complex problem solving and the global financial markets. She has an BSc in economics and a Master of Science with a major in Engineering and Management specialised in Economics of Innovation and Growth from the Royal Institute of Technology.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorian Glass Dorian Glass October 11, 2013 at 17:14

Very interesting article Cecilia … the kind of information that is not freely written about but which should be – it’s key to develop our “fuller self” to take advantage of new tooling, new ways of thinking, new challenges, etc.
Txs for this intelligent reminder!
Warm rgds,

Vesna Balta Vesna Balta October 11, 2013 at 18:36

It is so true about these techniques! The long-term memory issue is something to further to think of, it has to be to repeated in some period of time, it could be amplified with saying it out loud, or if one learned facts in “overdoing it” way. Also about these techniques, I use also, both audio and visual techniques. Thank you for this inspiring theme…

Anders Fogelstrom Anders Fogelström October 13, 2013 at 09:42

Excellent article.
Memory is often overlooked in an age where everyone believes knowledge is produced only by the easy access to Wikipedia and other easy to access on-line sources of information. The true creative thinking takes place when you use your memories of things you know, but have not been looking for right now, and combine it with what you are actually searching for at the instant. Good leaders have always had good memory. And the techniques you describe are as old as civilization and have a proven track record (as far as I remember). Of course a verbal culture – like the Greek, preserving complex eposes like Homer’s by mnemonic techniques with words, rhythms, repetitions and standard descriptions – can give a whole population sharp memories, now lost in a cult of the immediate.

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