An AGES-old learning technique to help you learn something new

An AGES-old learning technique to help you learn something new

As you might imagine I am often talking with my team and with clients about ways to design learning programs so they maximise results.

This week's discussions led me to discover a new framework which made perfect sense to me and which I am confident will help you as you go about building your own skills too.

The framework is developed by renowned neuroscientist, David Rock and is called AGES.

Here is how it works:

Attention: This one is I think obvious in the general sense, but for precise neurological reasons that I had not thought much about before.

When learning something new, we must not multi task, but rather pay attention to it. This way our hippocampus, the centre of our brain in charge of learning, knows what to focus on and we are more likely to retain what we learn.

Generation: We must take an active approach to our learning. By taking notes, doodling, asking questions and generally interacting with the material in front of us, we are creating a ‘web of memories' which radically increases the chance that our brains will remember what we were trying to learn.

I saw a stunning example of this during the week where an eight year old completed Barbara Oakley's Coursera Course that I have also completed, called Learning How To Learn.

It's excellent and this young fellow captures a couple of critical ideas rather well. Click here to watch his short video.

Emotion: If we enjoy what we are learning, or experience a strong emotional response (perhaps find something funny or even strongly disagreeable) we are more likely to remember it. The emotional response seems to alert the hippocampus that the idea is important and should be retained.

Spaced: We need to learn ideas in small pieces over time if we are to retain them. We have all completed thoroughly enjoyable whole-day workshops only to leave the ideas in the room along with the mint wrappers.

David Rock's research indicates that just like cramming at university, trying to learn everything at once is an ineffective way to get results.

Our experience with both Clarity First and our corporate programs supports this 100 percent. The results we started getting when we moved away from whole-day workshops were amazing.

I thought the Neurolinguistic Institute's article on the topic was rather good, so encourage you to read it and click through to some of the supporting research.

Have a great week,
Davina

PS – I am holding a free ‘Help and Learn' session on 25 August 2020. Click here to learn more.

This Tip was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas for more than 20 years.

She began this work when a Communication specialist at McKinsey & Company and has since helped experts of all kinds strengthen their communication skills. 

Why do most training programs fail?

Why do most training programs fail?

Learning new skills is an often pleasurable part of working.

Attending training courses is interesting, low in pressure, often fun and also quite social. Courses provide opportunities to network with others within our own companies or potentially others with similar interests outside our own company.

Unfortunately, precious little usually changes when we return to our desks after a day, or even a week away at a training program.

In fact, research conducted by training guru Robert Brinkerhoff demonstrates that if 90% of your company's efforts are in the delivery of training, 70% of the people will try new skills and fail.

However, if 50% of the effort is in the delivery, and 50% in the follow-up activities, then 85% will sustain the new behaviours.

This is why we developed the Clarity First Program as a month-by-month experience for experienced professionals wanting to turn their communication into a real asset.

We offer instruction and support over a time frame that niches with the participants availability and needs.

Here are a few things that we have seen work lately:

Help us understand the real problem that you need to solve

When working with a professional services firm recently, I was asked to help a small group improve the quality of the thinking in their client reports.

It quickly became apparent that the team was struggling with applying our clarity principles because they were using precedent documents rather than working from scratch.

Unless we either revamped the precedents or found an economic way for the team to work from scratch each time, the quality of their reports was not going to improve.

During Clarity First we make a point of using our live sessions to build relevant stories together, so participants can see our structured approach in action while also solving real, tangible issues.

Surprisingly often too, these cross discipline groups come up with breakthrough ideas for each other both in terms of the content of their messaging and the working approaches they can use in their own work.

Check in regularly to make sure the program delivers real impact  

This might include an email series offering participants regular challenges that can be discussed in working sessions, sharing success stories from other similar clients, or incorporating mini online learning modules to remind participants of core skills and concepts.

This feeds into the way we have designed Clarity First for individuals and also for corporate groups.

Rather than designing and delivering a ‘training event' we work with participants along their learning journey, for as long as that is helpful for them.

Change the way you think about your skill-building

Focus on regular, small opportunities to learn rather than participating in a ‘once and done' experience.

This way you can learn some ideas, put them into practice and benefit step by step along the way. 

The alternative that I have seen far too often is watching people have a great day at a workshop only to return to their desks to a tsunami of emails and other demands which quickly wipe the learning from their minds.

 

 

Keywords: leadership, leadership communication, learning and development

How to take the drudgery out of building a new skill

How to take the drudgery out of building a new skill

It is no secret that dopamine hits are seductive.

They trigger a very real and frankly delicious biological response that make us want more.

This is why Facebook introduced ‘likes’. This is why gamification of social media is a major focus of all platforms.

This is why success feels really really good.

Until recently, however, I had no idea how much this everyday hormone impacted my day to day work.

Why do I enjoy grasping new concepts? Why do I love finding new and different ways to help others grow as communicators? Why practising a new skill feel so boring?

It turns out that harnessing dopamine is hugely powerful in helping us persist so we go beyond knowing about something to doing that thing well.

Experience tells me I am not alone in this, so I wanted to share some simple and practical ideas that will help you master skills that matter to you.

Here are two suggestions to help you go from knowing to doing:

  1. Learn to ‘rig’ your own dopamine hits
  2. Magnify the ‘hits’ by setting milestone rewards

Learn to ‘rig’ your own dopamine hits

I have recently been refreshing my understanding of how people learn by completing an online course called Learning How To Learn by Dr Barbara Oakley and Dr Terrence Sejnowski of McMaster University & University of California San Diego.

One of the things that has stood out to me is the impact of our biochemistry on our willingness to go beyond just knowing about something to achieving mastery. Within that context, dopamine is the standout hormone for us to understand and harness. As recently as 1957 Swedish pharmacologist Dr Arvid Carlsson showed that dopamine controls our motivations.

Dopamine is triggered in many circumstances. It is triggered by ‘aha’ moments when an idea resonates with us and when a new idea ‘clicks’ together in our minds.

More importantly, it is triggered when we receive a reward or perceive that we will receive one in the future.

The excellent news about dopamine is that we can ‘rig it’ by setting ourselves future rewards.

All of a sudden, the seemingly simple idea of setting goals and breaking them into chunks not only helps us intellectually, it feels better.

Ticking off each chunk triggers a dopamine surge that we can influence with simple behavioural steps.

This is one of the reasons why we ask people to reflect on the way they are using ideas from the Clarity First Program and the successes they have achieved along the way.

We want to help rig those dopamine hits for you as you learn to communicate complex ideas clearly.

 

Magnify the ‘hits’ by setting milestone rewards

Until recently, I had never been big on rewarding myself for hitting milestones or achieving goals, believing that the achievement was enough in itself.

However, last year I took on a challenge to set some goals and on the advice of a coach chose a reward for a scary target.

If I hit a certain target, I would buy myself a special new handbag. (No, ladies: it wasn’t a Birkin. Not THAT special!)

In setting my goal and my reward, I very much enjoyed the process of choosing the one I would buy.

The interesting thing for me was that when I hit the target (and then shot past it by about 25%), I was tempted to not follow through with the reward.

I had enjoyed choosing the handbag and had achieved my goal: wasn’t that enough? Did I really need to spend part of that hard earned on a trivial gift for myself?

Well, yes. My coach was clear that I must follow through, so I did. And am I glad.

Every time I use it, I remember my success and am reminded of the importance of rewarding myself when I do succeed, which I have discovered is far less trivial than I had realised.

Now each time I use it I trigger a tiny dopamine hit as I remember the goal I reached.

So, a question for you: what goals do you want to set for yourself?

In the Clarity First Program we encourage people to celebrate their successes. I particularly loved hearing recently when one of our participants had been promoted to a new and challenging position in part because of his ability to communicate clearly.

 

Davina Stanley is Managing Director of Clarity Thought Partners, and founder of The Clarity First Program. She and her business partner Gerard Castles collaborated to write the The So What Strategy which offers a simple strategy for communicating clearly as well as the seven most commonly used storyline patterns in business.

The Feynman technique for learning

The Feynman technique for learning

How simple is this?

Richard Feynman was one of last century's great thinkers. I stumbled across two things of his that I thought might interest you.

Both things have to do with mastering skills and communicating, so you can imagine why they caught my interest. Here is a preview of each:

On learning something new, he says there are just four simple steps to take, which involves describing even the most complex things so that an eight year old could understand them. No jargon. No fluff. Just clear, simple terms no matter how complex the idea.

As someone who has been helping others learn for more than 30 years now – and who began teaching four year olds – you can imagine why this piece took my fancy. Click here to read more.

On types of knowledge, he says there are two: ‘Planck' knowledge and ‘chauffer' knowledge. These are essentially the difference between knowing something and knowing about something. This piece begins with a terrific story about a chauffer and a professor.

It's a quick read. Click here to do so. It's worth it.

To learn why I am so fascinated by learning sign up for my free Clarity First Base Program where I talk about ways to use ideas such as these when building communication skills.

Keywords: learning and development, richard feynman

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Do you scribble on books?

Do you scribble on books?

 

Do you scribble on books? 

When I went to school this was considered to be very bad form but as an adult I find it essential. 

Taking notes in the margins of books I want to learn from: underlining key phrases, turning over corners and generally making a mess of a book is a sign that I am loving it. 

I have even learned that there is a term for this kind of scribbling: ‘marginalia'

I have also learned that this kind of messy and manual note taking is essential for learning new things in all places, not just from books.

Research I read this week suggested that learning and mastering new concepts by taking long-form notes is a far superior way to learn. 

I thought you might be interested to know why.

The very fact that we cannot (usually) transcribe by hand what someone says to us in a lecture or a video means that we have to process the ideas between when they enter our ears and exit on our pen.

We have to sort, prioritise and synthesise the information while getting it down which has a statistically significant impact on our deep grasp of the concepts being introduced.

We end up writing down far fewer words than if we were typing but having far greater impact on our learning.

And if we want to absolutely master these concepts, we should convert the marginalia into a summary of notes in a journal. The act of summarising and re-recording will help us engage more deeply with the content, react and potentially create valuable new ideas for us.

Another piece of research even goes a step further to suggest that when reading books that teach us concepts (not just facts) we should read paper copies, not electronic.

So, there you have it. Going old-school matters when learning something new.

And if you come to one of my workshops, don't be surprised if I ask you to close your laptop 😉

 

 

Keywords: leadership communication, leadership skills, learning and development

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Do facts change minds?

Do facts change minds?

Changing other peoples' minds is central to having influence in business, however in his new book Atomic Habits James Clear offers some new insight into this vexing challenge.

He starts by referring to two notable minds which point in the same direction:

J.K. Galbraith once wrote, “Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.”

So true.

Leo Tolstoy who was even bolder: “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” I hunch women behave similarly!

So, if that is also true, how do we get any kind of progress in business?

We must frequently persuade people to change how they think about things and, even harder, get them to change their behaviour.

Here are six suggestions from James's new book to help in that regard:

Understand why we hold our tongues when we know something is not true. He claims we don't always believe things because they are correct, but rather because they make us look good to people we care about it. This speaks to the power of the reward we all get from belonging to a tribe.

Focus on friendship first, and facts second. Given this tribal nature, he suggests that people will hold onto false beliefs long and hard if that means they can sustain their membership of a group that matters to them. So, finding a way to engage people in a new idea, a new process or a new behaviour is best achieved when you have already built a relationship and when you can frame it in such a way that adds to rather than contradicts the beliefs of the community that people belong to.

Find areas of agreement and build on those. If someone you know, like and trust believes a radical idea you are more likely to give it merit. After all, if you like them already, there is a greater chance of liking their ideas. So, use this to your advantage. Find your . friends who also have strong relationships with the people who disagree with you, and engage them in your ideas first.

Where disagreement is likely, find a way to introduce the ideas without confrontation. Interestingly, James suggests providing people with something to read – he suggests a book, but in a business context a report or paper might do – rather than going first for a conversation. This provides people with an opportunity to absorb and reflect on the ideas in private so they can incorporate the information into their own view before having a potentially courageous conversation from scratch. In sum, warm them up gently.

Avoid giving people opportunities to complain about things they don't like. This gives them an opportunity to talk about – and reinforce – their dislike for an idea, giving it more airtime than it deserves. James calls this Clear's Law of Recurrence: the more often something gets mentioned (even in a negative way) the more it is embedded into the psyche of the speaker and the listener. After all, how much air time does Donald Trump get? Instead, spend your time championing good ideas so they get the airtime they deserve and the others fade away from lack of oxygen.

Be kind first and right later. Here he quotes the brilliant Japanese writer Haruki Murakami who once wrote, “Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.” Enough said.

Click here to read the full article. And, no, I don't get anything from James Clear for blogging about his article. I just like what he says and thought you might too.

Keywords: design your strategy, leadership communication, learning and development

 

Please note, this post contains Amazon affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. This helps me cover the costs of delivering my free content to you.

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Why do most training programs fail?

Why do most training programs fail?

Learning new skills is an often pleasurable part of working.

Attending training courses is interesting, low in pressure, often fun and also quite social. Courses provide opportunities to network with others within our own companies or potentially others with similar interests outside our own company.

Unfortunately, precious little usually changes when we return to our desks after a day, or even a week away at a training program.

In fact, research conducted by training guru Robert Brinkerhoff demonstrates that if 90% of your company's efforts are in the delivery of training, 70% of the people will try new skills and fail.

However, if 50% of the effort is in the delivery, and 50% in the follow-up activities, then 85% will sustain the new behaviours.

This is why we developed the Clarity First Program as a month-by-month experience for experienced professionals wanting to turn their communication into a real asset.

We offer instruction and support over a time frame that niches with the participants availability and needs.

Here are a few things that we have seen work lately:

Help us understand the real problem that you need to solve

When working with a professional services firm recently, I was asked to help a small group improve the quality of the thinking in their client reports.

It quickly became apparent that the team was struggling with applying our clarity principles because they were using precedent documents rather than working from scratch.

Unless we either revamped the precedents or found an economic way for the team to work from scratch each time, the quality of their reports was not going to improve.

During Clarity First we make a point of using our live sessions to build relevant stories together, so participants can see our structured approach in action while also solving real, tangible issues.

Surprisingly often too, these cross discipline groups come up with breakthrough ideas for each other both in terms of the content of their messaging and the working approaches they can use in their own work.

Check in regularly to make sure the program delivers real impact  

This might include an email series offering participants regular challenges that can be discussed in working sessions, sharing success stories from other similar clients, or incorporating mini online learning modules to remind participants of core skills and concepts.

This feeds into the way we have designed Clarity First for individuals and also for corporate groups.

Rather than designing and delivering a ‘training event' we work with participants along their learning journey, for as long as that is helpful for them.

Change the way you think about your skill-building

Focus on regular, small opportunities to learn rather than participating in a ‘once and done' experience.

This way you can learn some ideas, put them into practice and benefit step by step along the way. 

The alternative that I have seen far too often is watching people have a great day at a workshop only to return to their desks to a tsunami of emails and other demands which quickly wipe the learning from their minds.

 

 

Keywords: leadership, leadership communication, learning and development

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.