L13- Learning How to Learn

From two earlier blog posts (F9- Economics of Unconscious Learning and Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”) we noted two things:

  1. Most (about 70%-95%) of our individual knowledge now we did not learn from formal schooling. We learned more from work and from life than from formal means.
  2. Our learning from work/life has been largely an unplanned, informal and unconscious process.

Isn’t that shocking?!

The UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century, headed by former two-time EU president Jacques Delors, concluded in 1996 that there are four critical types of learning for the 21st century:

  • Learning how to learn, or learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to live together, or learning to relate
  • Learning to be

(see “Learning: the Treasure Within; Report of the UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century”)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our school systems are primarily aimed at “learning to do” or providing professional or technical knowledge. This D Series of blogs on Indigo Learning Practices is aimed at contributing skills towards the other three largely ignored but equally critical learning, particularly learning to live together — a foundational skill in building relationship capital.

To develop a new formal and systematic system for learning how to learn, we start by being conscious and keenly observant of our daily learning processes. Psychologists call this practice metacognition. MIT Prof. Donald Schon studied and described the personal knowledge processes of a “reflective practitioner”. Prof. Charles Tart of the University of California at Davis calls it “self observation” (interview by Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove in the book “Thinking Allowed: Conversations in the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery”).

At CCLFI, we call it internal attention or simply “listening within”.

Start sharpening your skills of listening within by practicing the following:

  • Study your attention habits. When you read newspapers, notice that you habitually zero in on certain sections and always ignore other sections. Is it time for you to free yourself from your unconscious attention habits and consciously plan and select your information sources?
  • When you encounter a “silly” or “stupid” idea, it is your unconscious mental models, assumptions and value systems that are labelling the idea as “silly” or “stupid” or whatever. Suspend your judgment; hold your horses. Use the moment as a mindful opportunity to discover your unconscious assumptions. Are they still valid? Or are they valid in this instance?
  • Have you tied yourself to a pet theory? A theory or framework is double-edged: it allows you to see things that otherwise you could hardly see, but it also channels your seeing and thinking in particular and predictable ways. Theories and frameworks come and go. Is it time to let go of a “pet”?
  • Notice what things, events, words, experiences, people or any trigger make you uncomfortable, uneasy or drain you of energy. Very often these things happen repeatedly but you never noticed, until it surfaces as disproportionate anger, headache or sickness (because these drains lower your body’s resistance to germs and viruses). Listen to your body. Practice observing what and how these things drain you. Study how you can avoid these energy drains. An energy drain may stem from an internal resistance on your part against something; if you find a way to inwardly accept that something then the energy drain can fade away.
  • Be aware of your learning preferences and your thinking and learning style. Take a free online MBTI test or online learning style inventory and be more aware of the best ways that YOU learn.
  • Install a feedback habit within you. After finishing a task exceptionally well, ask yourself “how did I do that?” and “what made me do that task so well?” or “what do I do to repeat the success?” Practice the same feedback habit after making a mistake. Write down your learning and other insights in a journal that you can re-read later.
  • When you are driving in heavy traffic and you notice that you are tense, watch the tension within you. Many times the tension will die off simply by watching it. Don’t say “I am tense” because that statement makes you identify yourself with the tension. Objectify the tension by saying to yourself “I see tension in me”. Of course, continue to pay attention to your driving! Practice this skill minutes before you attend a meeting that you expect will be tense. Start by noticing and watching that expectation within you. That expectation is inside your head; what will happen in reality could well be something else!

In the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Bill George and his associates wrote about learning how to be an inspiring and empowering leader. They asked 75 members of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business what is the most important capability that leaders must develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness!

If you have your own personal practice in sharpening how you learn from daily work and daily life, please share it by clicking the Comment link below.

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