Learning How to Learn: What Business Leaders Need to Know
It makes sense for us to be taught how to learn before we are taught any specific subject matter. But rarely, if ever, does that happen.
The world is changing at a rapidly accelerating pace. What you learn today can quickly become outdated. HOW to learn, though, is a skill that lasts a lifetime. When you think about it—it makes sense for us to be taught how to learn before we are taught any specific subject matter. But rarely, if ever, does that happen.
Just why is it so important? Your grandfathers may well have had one job their entire lives. Your parents probably had two or three jobs. Today’s school-leavers face the prospect of three or four career changes during the course of their lifetime. Careers—not jobs. And some of those careers may not even exist right now.
That’s how much the digital age is revolutionizing our world.
And consider this: At one end of the business spectrum one-third of Fortune 500 companies vanish every 15 years. At the opposite end nine out of 10 start-ups fail within three years. A failure to learn, a failure to adapt, is probably a major contributing factor.
No matter how well educated you are in a traditional sense; you have to be prepared to continue learning if you want to be part of a business that thrives, not dies. You can’t enter the workforce believing that because you’ve obtained a master’s degree you are set for life. What you learned at college or university might not be all that relevant just a few years down the road.
But if you learn how to learn you’ll find that acquiring new knowledge and new abilities will be so much easier. Learning really should be a lifelong adventure. And learning how to learn needs to take priority over what we learn—especially when you can’t predict with any certainty what skills will be needed and what we have learned can become so quickly outdated.
Too many schools today have still not stepped into the 21st century. Teachers still lecture. Students still listen and dutifully take notes. But many of us don’t absorb information that way. What this means is that you have to find the way to learn that suits you best.
Some of us are visual learners. We learn through seeing. We like to see pictures or diagrams. We like demonstrations or watching videos.
Some of us are auditory. We learn through hearing. We like to listen to audiotapes, lectures, debates, discussions, verbal instructions.
Some of us are kinesthetic. We learn through physical activities and through direct involvement. We like to be “hands-on,” moving, touching, experiencing.
All of us, to some degree, utilize all three types—but most people display a preference for one over the other two.
What does this all mean? Identify your learning preference and make use of it. Convert your source of information to your preferred way of acquiring information and you’ll find that learning becomes easier, and fun.
I like a six step process that I came across and the acronym M-A-S-T-E-R as a way to master any topic. In brief:
M. Motivating your Mind. You need to be motivated to learn. Frankly, if you don’t have the right attitude—if you don’t want to learn—you won’t be able to learn.
A. Acquiring the information. As discussed above, you need to acquire and absorb the information in the way that best fits your sensory learning preferences.
S. Searching out the meaning. All too often we memorize facts so they can be regurgitated to pass a test. You must make sure you truly understand the subject matter.
T. Triggering the memory. There are numerous memory strategies that can be applied (and numerous full-length books on the subject) to help you “lock it down.” Learning the meaning of the acronym MASTER is one of them!
E. Exhibiting what you know. Find a study buddy to whom you present the information. It’s a great way of testing yourself and proving to yourself that you have permanently acquired the knowledge.
R. Reflecting on how you’ve learned. Reflect on the learning experience. Not what you learned, but how you learned it. Then you’ll evolve an approach that’s perfect for you.
If you follow these steps you take charge. You become a self-managed learner. Most people use only a fraction of their brain’s capacity because they have not been taught how to use what they already have.
Traditional school didn’t necessarily do it for me. Only, because I was restless and hungry for the real world. I made a life-impacting decision to be able to drop out at the age of 16 to pursue my business dream of starting my first start-up. In my case, I learned all about business by doing it, and by of course making a ton of mistakes. I am not fan of sharing my story this way because I don’t want to influence people by saying the academic path is wrong. It just depends on how you – and on the way you absorb information.
But that’s what learning is all about. As Charles Darwin says it best, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
--Gurbaksh Chahal is CEO of RadiumOne, an enterprise advertising platform based in San Francisco.
Don't underestimate the power of play when it comes to problem-solving.
- As we get older, the work we consistently do builds "rivers of thinking." These give us a rich knowledge of a certain kind of area.
- The problem with this, however, is that as those patterns get deeper, we get locked into them. When this happens it becomes a challenge to think differently — to break from the past and generate new ideas.
- How do we get out of this rut? One way is to bring play and game mechanics into workshops. When we approach problem-solving from a perspective of fun, we lose our fear of failure, allowing us to think boldly and overcome built patterns.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
The surprising results come from a new GLAAD survey.
- The survey found that 18- to 34-year-old non-LGBTQ Americans reported feeling less comfortable around LGBTQ people in a variety of hypothetical situations.
- The attitudes of older non-LGBTQ Americans have remained basically constant over the past few years.
- Overall, about 80 percent of Americans support equal rights for LGBTQ people.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.