Human Resources and Small Business & Startups

Learning studio brings neuroscience to business

November 22, 2013
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Learning studio brings neuroscience to business
The Thought Design Learning Studio offers state-of-the-art training rooms and a cooking studio for team building. Photo by 834 Design & Marketing

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Businesses can learn a lot from neuroscience, according to Denise VanEck, owner of the newly opened Thought Design Learning Studio in Rockford.

VanEck opened what she calls a fitness center for the mind in May after several years of studying the latest neuroscience research findings on adult learning and completing a certification from the NeuroLeadership Institute.

“We were really interested in creating a place where learning was designed more in line with the way our brains actually work and people actually learn, and we can actually create content that would help businesses and people in ways that were more relevant,” she said.

VanEck said a healthy brain is necessary for everything from performance and focus to creativity and innovation.

“All the stuff that businesses are interested in,” she said.

At the Thought Design Learning Studio all of the spaces are designed in accordance with research on optimal learning environments, and the classes have been created based on the intersection of neuroscience and learning.

“We have a room we call the lab, and it’s a state-of-the-art training room … (with) walls you can write on. We have a 60-inch flat-screen (monitor) that can mirror devices and be used for presentations. All the furniture moves. We also have a 1,200-square-foot culinary studio.”

She said popular course topics include stress management, collaborative thinking and design thinking. The studio also offers yoga classes and cooking-centered classes in the culinary studio. In addition to day-to-day staff, VanEck contracts with instructors and chefs for several of the classes.

This month VanEck is introducing a new program, Mind Your Business, a series of classes focused on five core areas businesses need most from their employees: execution, emotional intelligence, innovation, people skills and communication.

“Right now we have seven courses designed for each category,” she said. “So under innovation we have seven topics, under people we have seven topics, and those will rotate. As we have businesses request things, we will add more.

“What we tried to do is figure out what are the topics that are the most relevant right now that any business can benefit from their employees developing, regardless of whether they are a dentist’s office or an auto-parts store.”

The classes can be purchased individually or in packages.

VanEck said classes also can be facilitated onsite at any company with enough employees participating, or a company can facilitate its own development program at the Thought Design Learning Studio.

She said she is glad to work with companies in designing a specific class to meet its employees’ needs.

“As an example, we had a group that had 125 employees, and they had been dealing with a lot of change in the culture and the employees were not handling it really well,” she said. “They were struggling. So we designed a half-day out, and the theme was ‘change.’

“We did about an hour in the lab of really fun exercises where we taught them some strategies for managing their own responses to change. We had a short time in our movement studio, where we did some mindfulness practices, and then we brought them all together in the culinary studio and they spent the next two and a half hours in there. While they were cooking, we did things like ring the bell and say, ‘Alright, everybody switch tables.’ That was their time to practice what we taught them.”

She said the employees enjoyed the experience and, in the end, created a gourmet lunch to share.

VanEck works with companies such as Amway and Steelcase, but she said she really created the studio to reach out to small and medium-size companies that don’t have the budgets to create training and development programs for employees or send them to workshops and conferences around the country.

“Learning and thinking is important for every single business, and the health of every employee matters,” she said. “What we wanted to do was create something where everybody could have access to it in a really affordable, easy way.

“More and more what the research is showing is that successful companies are not the ones that are producing the best widgets. They are the ones that are out-thinking, out-creating and out-learning their competition.”

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