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Your Client’s Brain: ARIA—How to Quiet the Brain to Inspire Insight

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Below is the fourth of eight new articles by Olivia Mellan and Sherry Christie that continue the discussion on Your Client’s Brain that began with Investment Advisor’s February 2013 cover story—Double Think: Getting Past the Conflict in Your Clients’ Two Brainsand a feature article—Second Thoughts: Making Better Decisionsin the March 2013 issue of IA.

Clearer thinking is a wonderful facilitator of better, wiser decision-making. Now if we could only train our brains to generate insight!

David Rock, author of four books including the 2009 business bestseller “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long,” believes that’s possible. In fact, he has developed a technique to foster insight that uses our understanding of brain functions. He calls this model ARIA, short for Awareness, Reflection, Insight and Action. As he explains:     

In the Awareness state, you focus lightly on a problem or impasse, quieting the mind and simplifying the problem as much as possible (perhaps by describing it in as simple a sentence as you can find).

In the Reflection phase, you hold the impasse in mind, but reflect on your thinking processes rather than on the content of your thoughts. This helps you see your impasse from a high level, activating the right-hemisphere regions that are important for insight and allowing loose connections to form.

In the Insight stage, there is a burst of gamma-band brainwaves (a group of neurons firing in unison). People in deep meditation have a lot of gamma waves, which are the fastest brain waves.

In the Action phase, you can harness the energy released in the emergence of an insight.     

Rock has worked with business leaders who practiced these steps together and arrived at a useful insight in five minutes. He noted that the ARIA model can be used by individuals or groups to solve all kinds of problems, from word games to challenges in the workplace. “Mostly it’s about allowing deeper signals to be heard,” he said. “Our brains love an insight.”


We invite you to visit the Your Client’s Brain landing page on AdvisorOne for additional archived and ongoing coverage of this important topic.


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