Our capacity to learn must outpace the speed of progress and innovation.#
As the world is moving fast and innovation is quickly changing the landscape of our communication patterns and of our perception of the world, we must learn at the speed of light so that we can deal with this change.
I had this insight –well, it’s fair to say: I learned it- from Mike Hohnen, which I met at the Art of Hosting in Århus. As an avid learner myself, I found it a quite intriguing and challenging idea.
Last year I set forth for myself some goals, framed in a nice vision and some strategic goals along the way, in a one-year plan. In order to accomplish the vision, one of the strategic goals was to increase by far the speed of my learning. Mostly I was referring to books, articles and online publications that I could read and remember as I had them on my fingertips. Now, even though overall I could see some progress, it has been below my expectations. I did read, but not as much as I wanted, and I remember only a few very outstanding articles and publications. Because of this, it has been natural for me go be thinking about how to learn faster. But there was something that overwhelmed me for I could see that I have been exposed to more information during last year (mostly for taking care of this little child @SustainBTH ) but at the same time having the sensation that I wasn’t equally learning new things at the same speed. Or, even trickier, accommodating that new knowledge into my pre-existing background and assumptions about reality.
I believe that there is some potential in exploring the difference in attention that is required for learning, while dealing with different kinds of media that require a different way of “reading”, or listening and memorizing. For my own use, I came up with this idea that I am already using in practice and will see how it works for me.
It’s the metaphor of a learning pyramid. (And you will excuse my handwriting, right?) My assumption is that I should be aware of the building blocks and master each of the blocks at a lower level before trying to master one at a upper level.
The red blocks are about listening, reading and memorizing that are focused ‘outside’ of us (outward-oriented). The black ones are about listening to the self (inward-oriented). I believe the ones focused on the self are fundamental since without this awareness we would simply be not equipped to give our full attention outside of us.
::Body:: A first basic block would be about connection to the body, and checking in with the pre-conditions that can make our brain alert enough to be open to learn.
::Connection to the self:: I call this second one hosting myself. It is quite common to say that in order to host conversations and listen to others one should listen to himself first. This speaks to me about the idea that in an era of attention deficit disorders the most sever hinder to listening is that we can’t pay our full attention and we are not even aware of our lack of attention. Nice article here.
::Listen others with attention:: Once we are present, we can open our senses and listen. Probably our capacity to understand each other and retain information in verbal communication is a quality we should master before other forms of listening, for it calls for our true attention and our capacity to empathize. A nice exercise I used to do after long conversations with a friend was this. After our conversation, I took my journal and started sketching what was his point of view during the chat. First things that came to my mind were my own opinions, not his. Surprise: it’s easier to remember your stance in a conversation than someone else’s. Definitely needs exercise. Wonderful talk by Daniel Goleman on our (in)capacity to listen.
::Read, memorize, map:: This is a very traditional kind of learning. One thing that might help me in the speed of this learning would be to make the mind maps of books, and get used to make summaries. An interesting technique I was using a while ago is called PQ4R (Preview Question Review Recite Reflect Review)
::Long articles on the web:: I would learn these in the same way as learn materials from books. My main difference is to watch out for the potential of distractions while reading online and at the same time use simple ways to archive, connect articles with each other, organize them in semantic categories (I am using bit.ly bundles and a software to organize my bookmarks now)
::Speeches, videos, podcasts:: Absolutely love them. Because in many of them I find inspiration and some little gems and quotes, I have a hard time in memorizing the overall structure of an informative speech (podcast or video). I wonder if it’s worth to use any techniques to try and retain not only the gems but also the structure of the overall flow and content.
::Twitter, Facebook, fast media:: Since you might know they are a waterfall of information, I try to use them in the most selective way. When reading, I am applying continuous filters to the information flow (lists on twitter, hiding some profiles on Facebook, sorting friends by area of interest, etc). I also set the expectations that on twitter I might find the equivalent on a daily newspaper, using my retweets and favorites as the only bookmarks. If something of great interest and worth storing comes up, I would use some categories to archive it such as bit.ly or bookmarks.
Another reason why this idea of the pyramid makes sense to me is that a very traditional education would teach you analytical skills in reading and memorizing texts, and stop there. And is not nearly enough. Maybe it’s true that solid skills in one block can help you a great deal in reading / learning with a critical eye the next.
I will use this concept of the learning pyramid to stretch myself into new learning adventures.