Learning is …

“Learning is not just acquiring new knowledge; it is everything that leads to a change in behavior.”

Roger D. Chevalier in an ISPI Skillcast originally broadcast May 19, 2010

I really like this statement …

Acquiring information is fine.  We assimilate new information and data about people, places, and processes on a regular basis.

Technology provides most of us with the ability to accumulate fairly easily and rapidly in both formal and informal learning environments.

Point One:  

Information without action is just a bunch of data cluttering up our Personal Learning Environments (PLE).

Information alone does not result in learning.

We can know many things about a subject.  I myself know many items of specific information about a number of subjects, none of which I am actually proficient in or even able to work at an entry level.

You have to know how to put the pieces together.

In my world, this means taking some knowledge about human behavior in general and psychological behavior in particular, throw in some learning theory,  add a dash about leadership development, and stir to create practical, research-based activities which result in learning about leading.

Point Two:  

Putting information together into functional collections is key.

I can create a focused and thoughtful learning experience for motivated people, execute with a bit of dash, and still not have learning occur.

“Training is fine, but here’s how we really do things in this department.”

“We don’t have access to that software.  Sounds great, but you have to use the old stuff.”

“Yes, it’s noisy in here, but we can’t move, so just try to ignore it and do your best.”

“Our bottom line is the only measurement we need to tell how effective you are.”

Point Three:  

Effective learning is not just about learning … it’s about management support, available tools, context, and the environment, among many other things.

Learning to take the broader view on learning in the Heartland ….


Try, Try, Try Again …

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison

Great-Quotes.com note:  Commonly attributed to Edison and certainly in-line with his tone and things he often spoke about.

First , Edison’s statement is one of great optimism

Many people view failure as … well, as failure.  Failure is a negative state, a loss, a set-back, a “fail” in the current culture.   

Our society tends to idolize winners and ignore or even castigate losers.  For proof, see most advertising. 

Optimism, especially in the face of failure, might be seen as either a total disregard for reality or a sign of inner strength.  It can be either, depending on the person.

Second, Edison is a phenomenal failure

Based on Malcolm Gladwell‘s idea in Outliers that we need to do something for 10, 000 hours to become a “phenom” or expert at it, Edison is apparently a phenom on failing:)

Just because you do something a whole bunch does not always make you what you do.

You are more than what you do.  You are more than what others see.  Only you knows the completeness of you.

Third, the value of failing is only as high as what you do with your failure.

Edison used what he learned from all those failures to continue to learn and to seek new ways that worked better than before.  

Maybe Edward Deming got his concepts from examples like Edison, who appears to personify continuous improvement.

Bottom Line:

As leaders, managers, or just someone trying to make a difference, we should develop the ability to persist.  Take the mistakes and the setback as learning experiences, and not personal disasters.

If you can create a culture where failure is not just tolerated, but viewed as a learning strategy, you will do well.

Learning tons of stuff from all the failures I’ve had in the Heartland ….


About Raising People Up …

“The child is father of the man.”

William Wordsworth in My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (1802)

I know what this one is saying to me.  When you are a parent and experience the change that comes with that role for most of us, you start to understand a lot of things.

Nothing quite feels like that shock of awareness when you realize that you are now responsible for another human being’s welfare.

A child is an incredible gift, but a huge burden.

You begin to perceive things differently, relate to people in new ways, and make decisions based on different criteria.  Life as you know it changes.

Works the same when you first become a manager or assume a leadership position … if you take your responsibilities seriously.

Leading others is also an incredible gift and a huge burden.

Wordsworth was talking about the symbiotic and real relationships between parents and children which bring about change in the parents.   We can also consider the value of his words as we think about how we change with the responsibility of leadership.

As new leaders, we think differently about how we should act.  

Just as a parent realizes that their personal behavior is no longer theirs alone to control, we adjust how we act to create an image which conveys the values we want to instill in others.

A leader does not have the same flexibility in their actions as do others.   We are held to a higher standard.   We don’t get to throw a tantrum, even when our child or our employee is doing just that.

As new leaders, we consider our own thoughts in new lights.  

Our considerations are influenced in new ways by information that has not always concerned us in the past.  As a parent changes their perceptions about what is and is not acceptable, we likewise review and revise to keep  congruence in our new environment.

Our thoughts become more future-oriented and, if we are really serious about our nurturing, long-term thinking sets in.  We defer gratification in the short run in return for gain in the long term.  We think in terms of possibilities and consequences.

As new leaders, our emotions are affected by the new responsibilities that we bear.  

We can no longer afford self-indulgent or non-mature moments, since eyes are on us at every turn.  We must engage in a mature and thoughtful way, getting past any regret over freedoms lost, and embracing our new reality.

We still feel what we authentically feel, but our values and beliefs change and mature.  This in turn affects our emotional state.   We start to understand the power of giving, whether that giving is love, support, or learning.

We are changed by those we raise and develop.

Raising a child and developing an employee are two of the more useful things you can do with your time on the planet.  Both require tremendous investments of time and money, along with significant effort and energy on your part.  Both offer rewards that will put a song in your heart and a smile on your lips.

… If you make the serious commitment.

Thinking about the weight of responsibility in the Heartland …..


We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know … Do We?

“The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address ( 1865)

Well, I can’t disagree with this one …

How often have you been mystified by the working of the world?

Shoot, for that matter, how often have you been flabbergasted by the happenings in your workplace?

By the way, the title of today’s post is NOT a printing error.  It refers to a sometimes misunderstood part of problem analysis and decision-making.      Here’s a Johari window compliments of BusinessBalls.com which conveys the idea neatly,along with my application to learning:

johari window model diagram

Open/Free Area:

We know some things ~ I can create a series of chords on the guitar.  Others can hear me play those few chords I know (I kill on 3-4 chord rock classics:).

As leaders, what do we know we know?  

How do we know we really know what we think we know?

Hidden Area:  

We know we do not know some things ~ I know the chord Amin7aug exists, but darned if I know how to play it.  Others are all too aware of my inability to play this chord correctly.

As leaders, what do we NOT know that we should?  

How will we learn what we need to know?

Blind Area:  

Since this area involves things others know about me, but are not visible to me, I am not sure about a good example.  Maybe I’m better at playing the guitar than I think … or maybe I’m much worse:)  This is why appropriate feedback is so useful to us as leaders and managers.

As leaders , how will we find out what we do not know that others know about us?  

How ready are we to hear someone else’s perception of us?

Unknown Area:  

We do not know what we do not know.  Awkwardly said, but correct … when we are not aware of something’s existence, we do not consider it in any way.  I know nothing about any advanced techniques of guitar playing and am at a point where I do not choose to seek them out.

As leaders, how will we find what we are not even now aware of?  

What will give us access to previously unknown information?

Pondering some questions about what I know I know I don’t know I don’t know in the Heartland … I think?


Little Learning Machines …

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; But direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you can be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” 


Hmmm … several thoughts occur to me …

1)  This applies just as well to adults as to children.  Our knowledge bases and options change often during each person’s lifetime.

Since my early days studying pedagogy and andragogy, I have noticed somewhat artificial distinctions between the learning of children and the learning of adults.

Plato gets a pass here, but we have to continually remind ourselves that solid learning theory and practice is probably not real different for little ones and big ones.

Of course, the subject and specific techniques employed may change a tad;)

2)  This implies a carrot on a stick approach is more effective than whacking them with a stick.  

Here are some thoughts regarding the usefulness of criticism and praise with adults … and the discussion is not what you would think based on the titles:)

Proof That Criticism Does Work post by Manage Better Now, which actually argues against the point of the title by referring to the article below

Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective Than Praise? by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback which discusses regression to the mean and other things that most of us do not want to think about.

3)  Are we then to allow the learner to decide what they learn?

Plato’s position seems to be that natural curiosity will allow the person to better identify learning needs than someone else can do for them.

A little revolutionary for those who work with mandated and technical skills training.  Can someone who does not know decide what they should know?

If Plato and we focus on the true adult learner, who comes with strong motivation and a wide range of life experience, this holds water.   If we are dealing with beginning learners or those without a background in the subject, not so much.

Whatever you decide with regard to the above, hopefully we can all agree on the joy of seeing little ones learning:)

As the old Greek continues to give us much to consider in the Heartland …