How Do You Create Your Learning Opportunities?

I love to learn. When I learn, I reflect on what I know and refine how I can use my knowledge to change something.

I love to learn about how people work—and don’t work together. I love to learn how to make things easier for people at work. I love to learn about all aspects of my business: the consulting side and the writing/publishing side.

Well, I prefer to choose what and when to learn. Intentional learning helps me decide what to do and what to change.

(I also learn unintentionally—which means I pay attention after some event occurred. I might not realize I’m going to learn something. I have paid tuition. I might as well learn from the event.)

Here are some of the ways I learn with intention:

  • From books, alone. I pay attention and make notes about what I read.
  • With people, at someone else’s workshop or conference. I pay attention to how other people frame and explain the problems and possible solutions.
  • With my clients, by paying attention to what they say and don’t say, to what they do and don’t measure, and more.

All of these options mean I have to pay attention, to reflect on what I “know.” With that reflection, I can refine what/how to learn.

The reflection/refine loop works helps me create my learning opportunities.

Here are some ways I use my reflections to choose what to pay attention to:

  1. Anything I’m having trouble with at this time. (I notice something new, now.)
  2. If I realize I’ve had trouble with this concept or problem for a while. (I’ve noticed something for a while.)
  3. Something new I don’t quite understand or a concept I can’t explain to other people. The problem is I don’t understand it, so I can’t decide whether to use or not use this concept.

Here’s an example. I use the Cynefin framework a lot in my work to help explain to other people why they can’t use off-the-shelf solutions to their problems. Sometimes, I succeeded in my explanations. Sometimes, I didn’t.

Last week, I read Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal where he explains the difference between complicated and complex. Complicated ideas/things/problems have lots of moving parts. However, the parts have deterministic relationships to each other. You can predict how they will work together.

Complex ideas/things/problems may have lots of parts. However, those parts have lots of interactions. Those interactions are not predictable because the interactions are non-linear. Any effort that requires more than, say, four or five people, tends to be complex.

This is why long-term planning is an oxymoron—we can’t predict how other people will act or react. We need adaptability and resilience to create our own plans that work for the short term and allow for easy replanning.

When I learn with intention, I often use this approach:

  • Gain a transforming idea
  • Reflect on that idea┬áby writing, speaking, teaching.
  • Check that reflection with other people so I know I’ve actually learned it.

If I can use or teach the idea, I probably learned it.

That’s the question this week: How do you create your learning opportunities?

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