Posts Tagged ‘malcolm gladwell’

Flexible Focus #59: The 8 Frames of Life: Learning

by William Reed on June 30, 2011

Learning is for Life

In the Mandala Chart, the 7th Frame of Life is Learning. The problem that has plagued both students and educators from the beginning of time is that learning is hard to come by. It doesn’t seem to stick very well. Perhaps this is because learning is often imposed on us more or less by force. The lucky ones discover that learning is not for school; learning is for life.

Learning by doing is the shortest route to retention. Once you learn to ride a bicycle, you will still be able to do it even ten years later without any practice. However, it is likely that you have forgotten most of what you learned for tests in school, often within hours of taking the test! The reason for the difference is contained in proverbial Chinese wisdom,

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell gives numerous examples of what he calls the 10,000-Hour Rule, for which he claims that the key to success in any field is largely a matter of extensive deliberate practice. It certainly makes sense in fields like music or the martial arts, but turns out to be true in just about anything we call talent. Even those gifted with a natural genius often turn out to have been at it in one form or another since they were small children.

Clearly though, it is not just a matter of clocking in 10,000 hours, or we would all be geniuses in our field after just 5 years of work experience. It isn’t about hard work, which is another word for hard won experience. It is the quality of experience and engagement that makes the magic happen.

You have already experienced mastery in speaking your mother tongue, for which 10,000 hours is the equivalent of deep engagement for 10 hours a day by the age of 3. Communication is central to most of our needs and wants, so we master it quickly to survive. And yet a lifetime is not enough to really master the art of communication.

The best way to increase your learning is to increase your engagement, and for this it is helpful to have a framework to understand the levels of engagement. As shown in the illustration, engagement occurs on the horizontal axis of depth, as well as on the vertical axis of involvement.

The deepest learning comes in performance as a player, where you fully physically engage. If you only engage mentally, that is as a spectator, you may enjoy and you may learn, but it will be passive and less likely to stick. Learning by doing starts by engaging the body in practice, and ultimately leads to mastery through performance.

The two axes meet with Art, which can also be understood as technique, or the knack of doing something well. This is the sweet spot in learning, where Mind and Body are joined.

Accelerated Learning

Much of what has been written about accelerated learning only brushes the surface of this process. While it is true that people retain more when they use imagery and visual thinking, this is only the beginning of engagement, and only one of the senses. Learning increases exponentially when you engage deeply, which is why it is easier to learn a foreign language if you live and work in a country where that language is spoken.

What if you do not have the luxury or option to engage in full immersion by moving to a foreign country? Can you still accelerate your learning of a foreign language through deeper engagement?

You could start by making a Wish List on what you want to do in speaking a foreign language. This will help you become very clear on why you want to speak that language, so that you can begin to think about how you will achieve it. If your wishes are vague, you are unlikely to take any action steps toward your goal, and the result is that you will learn little or nothing.

You don’t need to jump right into the deepest level of performance. Instead look for ways to increase your level of engagement in each of the quadrants, always mindful of what Art or technique can help you get more actively engaged.

You could start by enjoying the food and cultural events related to the language, and available where you live. If you can’t attend language classes, there are more options online and through Smart Phone Apps, than you could find excuses for not doing.

Deep learning occurs when you engage muscle memory, and the only way to do that is to practice. Of course, you will get better results if you engage in high quality practice, with good models and good coaching. The final hurdle is that the only way to get better at performance is by doing it. So practice as if you are performing, and perform as you practice.

You can also shorten your route to engagement by following one who has already mastered it at a high level. Learn from a master linguist such as Michel Thomas, whose client list is a gallery of celebrities, diplomats, and executives, all of who needed to perform at a high level. The Michel Thomas Method has been captured on CDs for many of the world’s languages, and it takes you right into the highest level of performance and engagement from the first hour, using no text book, no memorizing, no note taking. Just stimulating guided engagement with the language with the master himself.

If you search, you can find masters of their craft in almost any field imaginable. Use the Mandala Chart to organize your strategy, and you will fluent in that craft in no time, and more passionate about learning that you could have imagined.

Leader driven Harmony #6: Failure is required (Part I)

by Mack McKinney on January 7, 2011

Failure is Required!

If any of the following is true about you, you are in danger:

  • Your parents worried a lot about your self-image when you were growing up, so you got lots of encouragement
  • Your parents helped you with homework and projects so you could get a better grade or win the grand prize (and you often did!)
  • Everyone on your sports teams got a trophy for something (best helper, trying the hardest, etc.) so nobody would feel left out at awards banquets
  • Your parents set you up in your first business(es) and made all the tough decisions for you so you wouldn’t fail

These actions by loving, caring parents and coaches and teachers throughout the 80s and 90s have inadvertently helped create a generation of emotionally-dependent Generation-Y people (aka Gen-Yers or “Millennials”).  If you grew up during this time, you are likely affected.  But the condition can be corrected and no surgery is needed.  You just have to fail at a few things and you’ll be OK.  But you need to carefully choose the things at which you might fail (sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?).

In his outstanding book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell talks about his discovery that seasoned professionals (airline pilots, doctors, etc.) don’t really get good at their craft until they have accumulated roughly 10,000 hours doing it!  That is the equivalent of 5 years of five-day weeks, 8 hours each day.  And you can bet that, hidden in those hours are many successes and many failures.  Let’s look at just one profession, aircraft pilot, and talk about the training possibilities and we’ll look at two types of students:  those allowed to make mistakes and those prevented from making mistakes.  We’ll then compare the training they get with the way YOU have been treated by your teachers, coaches and parents and show you why that puts you in danger of being a failure in life!

When you learn to fly, your instructor’s technique is absolutely crucial in preparing you for the real world of safely flying an aircraft around the sky, navigating from place to place and talking to controllers and other pilots.  Most flight instructors, military and civilian, use a combination of teaching techniques, pushing students when their proficiency permits, allowing students to make small mistakes and learn from them, etc.  But unfortunately there are also two extreme teaching styles that we should avoid:

  1. The “Nanny Instructor” who intervenes constantly and prevents the student from making any mistakes
  2. The “Deep End Instructor” who teaches flying like some people teach swimming:  throw the student in the deep end of the pool and don’t intervene unless they are about to die.

We will leave the “Deep End Instructor” discussion for another day.  But a quick examination of the “Nanny Instructor” and a comparison to some parents and teachers and coaches, is interesting.  First, what do we see when students trained by Nanny Instructors finish their training?

  • They are not Prepared. Since they have not been allowed to make many mistakes and have a tiny mistake insidiously multiply into bigger mistakes, they are not prepared when that happens to them when flying alone.  So they are not prepared for many things that can go wrong in the air but more importantly they are not mentally prepared with the confidence they will need to think through the completely unexpected problems they will sometimes face.  If all mistakes are preceded by the instructor saying “now be careful – – – your airspeed is dropping” or “now the needle is moving so let’s start our turn to the runway” then the student will never hear the stall horn on approach (scaring the crap out of you as it warns of an impending, possibly deadly approach stall).  And the student will never have the scary experience of flying through the course to the runway and having to then figure out exactly where he is and then remember that he hasn’t started his descent on time and then overflying the runway and having to call the controller and embarrassingly ask for another approach.
  • They Panic: These students are more likely to panic when a series of problems hits them in rapid-fire succession because they have not been allowed to see those big problems develop in training because the instructor always intervened.  Unfortunately, panic can cause the brain to almost shut down, often leading to fatal mistakes (the aircraft crash of Robert Kennedy Jr. comes to mind).

In the next post we will show how YOU may be like my pilot friend John, who could have killed himself had it not been for the excellent training he had received.  We’ll also see if YOU are in danger because people have NOT let you fail sufficiently as you grew up and why you now may be perfectly set-up to fail big-time in your life. It is like an earthquake:  experts don’t worry about the geologic fault zones that rumble and shake frequently because those faults are releasing energy all the time.  Instead they worry about the quiet fault lines, where pent-up energy is increasing and could let go with catastrophic effect.   Are YOU that pending earthquake?  Are you being unknowingly set-up, by well-meaning family and friends, for a major failure?  And if you are, what can you do about it?  We’ll show you in the next post.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

One of the most sought after answers in our society is perhaps to the question “Where do leaders come from?” We depend greatly on them, but what do we do to ensure that the future has the people with the leadership capability that we will need.  If they are born, there is not much to do. If they can be developed, then we have a responsibility to systematize the process by which great leaders can be created.

Recent research in talent, in leadership, in accomplishment and human development is leaning further and further towards the development through experience path.  Malcolm Gladwell has made famous the concept of “10,000” hours in his book Outliers.  If you practice for 10,000 hours you will become world class.

If you practice for 10,000 hours…

…What should you practice?

This leads to the question: What is at the core of leadership?  What are the habits of successful leaders?  The Origin of Leaders is a journey through these traits and a reflection on how previously successful leaders have been able to develop these skills.

Welcome to the journey.  I look forward to your comments.

Imagination: the nucleus.

Sir Ken Robinson, the creativity expert you may know from TED, gives a great speech about what it is that has brought humanity from living in caves to living in skyscrapers, speaking on mobile phones, reading on kindles, traveling in jets and building rocket ships.

I watched the film “Inception” last week with my family.  What is the most enduring parasite?  “An idea”.

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses.  It is seeing something that is not yet here.  It is seeing a different future.  It is seeing a combination of existing products that has not yet been tried.

Why is imagination so important?

Imagination defines humanity

Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. It is not our genes that have us living in penthouses and connecting on facebook.  Our difference is The human cortex, the layer of brain that is most highly developed in humans, is very young in evolutionary terms – but crucial in every other respect.   The cortex is where we begin to live intentionally.  We don’t just respond to the world, but can begin to see a new world and thus plan and act accordingly.

The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?”  Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.  A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.  A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose. The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

Aristotle concludes the Ethics with a discussion of the highest form of happiness: a life of intellectual contemplation.   Reasoned imagination is the highest virtue.

The second reason is driven by the requirements of a leader. A leader must see a future that is not yet here.  The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others.

How can you develop your imagination? Here are some ways:

  • Spend time bored.  Read fiction.  Write a new ending to a classic book.  Make a hero into a villain, and a hero into a villain. Write yourself into the book.
  • Throw photos on the floor and then explain the connection between them
  • Watch TV in another language and explain to a friend what is happening
  • Visualize a horse with sheep’s coat and a dolphin’s head.  Imagine a rubber car.
  • List 10 small improvements you could make to the seat you are sitting on
  • Tell bedtime stories
  • Develop 2×2 matrix on an area of interest…  and develop scenarios for changing positions
  • Write a new ending for Seinfeld, CSI, M*A*S*H, Desperate Housewives, SITC…  or your favorite show
  • Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you have never had before
  • Go to a railroad station or airport and take the first train or plane to depart
  • Imagine a world without oil, cars, telephones, internet…  fill in the blank…

Develop the courage to share.  Leadership is emotional labor, when you are doing it right; it puts you on the edge.  In the words of Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen, you must “break the stigma of self-marketing”.  Learn the difference between the skeptics (good) and the cynics (get away from them).  Please share your results here.

The next post in this series looks at another vital component of leaders.  It is a characteristic that is required to achieve success.  No company has ever achieved market leadership when this characteristic has not been part of its CEO.

Stay tuned!