Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

While walking at a local park this afternoon with my dog, I enjoyed watching a father have a “race” with his young son.  The son was probably no more than five years old.  When I first saw them, the boy was about 20 yards ahead of his dad, running for all he was worth toward a soccer goal.  The dad closed in little by little, almost catching up with him at the goal line, but – not surprisingly – the boy barely beat his dad to the finish.

Of course, the dad gave the boy a huge head start and could have left the boy in his dust if he wanted, but it was far more enjoyable for both the boy and the dad for the boy to win.  At such a young age, the boy doesn’t yet understand that his dad is letting him win.  Some day, he will.

There are two very different ways to teach your children the lesson that “winning isn’t everything.”  One way is to beat the daylights out of them in every competition you ever have with them, forcing them to get a taste of losing and realizing that they’ll live anyway.  That’s a rather cold, heartless way to do things and I don’t recommend it.  All it probably accomplishes is discouragement in the child, making them feel like they aren’t good at anything.

A more admirable approach to teach the lesson is to set the example that winning isn’t everything by letting the child win.  As the child matures and grows in skills, the parent can turn up the competition level appropriately.  The child may not come away from those early wins with the lesson “winning isn’t everything” front of mind.  There is a good chance, however, that when the child grows up and has his own children, he will pass on the tradition and he will think back to those times when his parents let him win, realizing his parents were good models of the lesson.

It’s best to teach lessons in a positive, encouraging way whenever possible.

Leap year lesson #274 is Be careful how you teach “winning isn’t everything.”

For most of my adult life, I was in some learning-related role.  From being a minister of education at a church to teaching computer classes to serving as a learning consultant, that world is very familiar to me.  Now that I have been out of a professional learning role for the past three years, my perspective on learning has changed.

I will always be a lifelong learner.  I can’t imagine otherwise.  What I have become increasingly convinced of over the past three years, however, is that how learning happens in real life is very different than how many learning professionals think it happens.

It has been my experience that learning professionals – at least in corporate America – think formal classroom learning is critical for workers.  If you analyze the budgets of learning areas in businesses, I strongly suspect that you will see the majority devoted to salaries of people who are expected to spend their time preparing and delivering formal training, or for those who develop e-learning modules that are rarely more than glorified PowerPoint presentations that most learners dread paging through.

Ask the workers how they best learn and how they actually did learn most of what they needed to know to do their jobs, and I guarantee you the answer won’t be “in formal classroom training and e-learning modules.”  They will answer with things like asking their coworkers, learning on the job, working with a mentor, job shadowing someone, self-study, and Googling questions.  Workers have a need to learn at the point and time of need.  Formal, periodic, out-of-the-way and inconvenient solutions are not viable options.

It’s past time for business leaders to insist that their learning departments shift resources to supporting learning in the workflow of employees’ daily tasks.  Most learning happens informally.  Most learning happens socially.  Learning resources need to shift in favor of what helps workers when and where they need performance support.  Make it easier for workers to connect and learn anytime, anywhere (think social and mobile), and the business will benefit.

Learning efforts need to change to reflect the pattern learning follows, a pattern summarized in leap year lesson #273 – Do. Learn. Repeat.

I spoke at the VMworld 2012 conference twice this week, once on my own and again as part of a three-person panel discussion.  It was a great opportunity to share experiences regarding management of enterprise social networks with others interested in starting or growing such communities in their businesses.

For me, it was important to share not just those things we have done well at my company in this regard, but to share a couple of tough lessons learned from what we didn’t do well.  After all, if one of the goals of the sessions is to truly help others on their journey of establishing or growing such communities, it is important to be transparent and guide them in ways that help them avoid making the same mistakes we did.

I am always amazed and a bit saddened when such transparency is met with surprise.  I heard comments like “That’s really nice of you to share what you didn’t do well.  Not everyone is willing to do that.”  I guess I’m just honest enough to not think twice about doing so.  I wish more – especially in the corporate world – also felt the same.

How much more helpful would advice from a mentor, colleague or manager be if it included what not to do based on experience as well as what to do?  In matters of personal growth, wouldn’t children benefit from knowing their parents’ mistakes as well as their successes?  Wouldn’t public leadership in government and other organizations seem a little more human and easy to relate to if we knew the struggles and foibles of leaders and not just a filtered, whitewashed persona approved by press secretaries and public affairs professionals?

We can use a little more honesty, transparency and humanness in our communication with others.  Therefore, leap year lesson #238 is Help others learn from your mistakes.

When I began this year of blogging about daily lessons learned, I wrote that my daily framework centered around three words – ground, stretch and reflect.  After making sure each day is grounded in strengthening that which is at my core, and after stretching to do more than others expect of me throughout the day, I reflect on the experiences of the day and capture at least one lesson learned.  Through 232 lessons, that worked without fail.

And then there was yesterday.

During that time at the end of the day when I was thinking about the events of the day, I drew nothing but a giant blank as I tried to come up with some lesson learned.  I don’t know if I was just too tired or didn’t try hard enough or if something else was going on, but the fact is that I just didn’t come up with a lesson for the day.  At least I didn’t until I slept on it.

Is is possible that we really can go through a day full of work and repetitive activity and not learn anything worth writing down?  Yes, it is.  But why is that so, and is it a good thing that it can happen?  Those are tougher to answer.

Where I’ve landed after having a day to periodically ponder yesterday is that some days are so filled with routine repetition that there really is nothing new experienced worth capturing.  All the end-of-day reflection in the world draws a blank because we just didn’t see or perceive or do or feel anything out of the ordinary.  If all of my days were like that or even if that happened regularly, it would concern me.  But the fact that this is lesson #233 before it has happened tells me that it’s a rare occurrence, indeed, and I’m OK with that.

Today was different and worthy of another post for tomorrow.

For now, though, leap year lesson #233 resulting from yesterday’s unexceptional routine is that Some days don’t have learning moments.

When was the last time you read a book?  Some people always seem to have one or more in some stage of completion.  Some read hundreds of pages a day like my amazing cousin Debra.  Others go months or years without reading any book cover to cover.

The danger is greater now with the busyness of schedules and the proliferation of short communications – tweets, text messages, status updates, email, etc.  I confess that in my daily world I bounce between emails, social media sites, newsletters, instant messages and text messages, all in a seeming nonstop, random back and forth like a shiny silver ball between pinball bumpers.  Such behavior does not lend itself to the longer, slower, focused practice of taking one’s time through hundreds of pages of a book.

After staring for years at a large book on my “must read sometime” shelf, I finally made the decision Saturday to dive in and bite off a small section a day – only 25 pages.  At that pace, the 1,290 pages of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology will take me 50+ days to complete.  In only my fourth day of reading it, however, I am already regretting that such wealth has been sitting unopened on my shelf within reach for years without me having the good sense and discipline to take advantage of it.  When it is done, Gregg Allison’s 778-page Historical Theology awaits.

I realize that many of us live by our electronic devices, so go ahead and buy that Kindle or Nook or e-reader of your choice if that’s what gets you into reading.  For substantive things of this nature in my reading, I’ll stick with the hard copy.  My current electronic devices won’t be around years from now.  My hard copies will still be here just as the other 100+ year old books that line some of my shelves at home.  They become references and old friends that you know… well… like a book.

As one all too familiar with the temptation to hurry and rarely slow down, I suggest you take time out from that pace to ponder some subject you want to know more about, and then act out leap year lesson #216 – Read a book.