Fast Learning, Slow Application

In a world where everything you've ever wanted to know is at your fingertips learning has never been easier, faster and cheaper. The question then is, what do I learn? what if I learn the wrong thing or too many things? What if what I want to learn does not align with my job or career? We tend to get stuck in our heads when learning as an adult. We've lost the curiosity, the admission of not knowing and the patience of accepting new concepts slowly. Frankly the world wont allow it. We're in a highly competitive, drum-beating corporate wilderness, where the 'ideas' are the machines for change, and yes, everyone has them. So how do you stay competitive? how do you stay relevant? and more importantly how will you get noticed for being the leader, innovator and deliverer?

Okay, maybe its not all that bad. But its worth keeping the pace, as new technology is almost always superseded within a year to 18 months, you need to keep sharp. The biggest problem I see day to day in projects is not that people arent learning new things. Its that they're application or adaption to new concepts, tools, methods is slow.

When you have the kids getting ready for school, commute, work deadlines, meetings, presentations and study. How do you take the time to measure your progress and adaption to a new learning or piece of knowledge? if you're learning a language do you learn faster or slower by applying it in everyday life? naturally overuse is key and repetition makes for perfection (to a degree). We will never be as fast we like in learning and growing our knowledge bank and in fact I see this in two ways.

Memory Function

In programming retrieving and recalling information is just as important. Just like us forgetting something like an anniversary or birthday could spell disaster for our social life. So what does it mean for our career and job prospects. Learning means the ability to retain new information and comprehend its application. Learned means there is a level of conscious or unconscious competence when performing the task or function. See, its all well to absorb information, but if you cannot retrieve it, then you are no good to anyone. Its like cramming for an exam, it may make you feel better but more than not has little to no value added impact to the result of your exam. The mind needs ways to learn and retain new information. As we get older our attention is not what it used to be, so we need to stimulate the mind to retain the information in new ways like mnemonics.

Applying Knowledge

If you know you know, then why don't you show you know. Something that sticks with me is not what I say but how I say it. Not what I do but how I do it. No, I'm not speaking gibberish. I'm talking about the awareness. The act of knowing you are applying something knew and noticing your own performance. Accessing information is great, but knowing theory and applying it are two separate functions, if you remember or ever seen a driver on their learners, you will know that I am right. If you need a license to drive a car, surely you need a level of competency before you deliver a project (just saying). So then the first line of responsibility to know you know how, is with you. its with your conscious understanding of what the outcome should be and how close you are to performing that outcome.

If I am a baseball pitcher, I know my performance and training are easily measurable. First before I start throwing I must understand the theory, the technique and the outcome. Secondly I must then apply this theory physically using my body, the wind, my senses and practice. With each new pitch I adjust my form and thus aim for some level of competence. There's still some people who believe you need 10,000 hours to become a master. But this is simply not true. If you give yourself clear daily goals or chunk down the activity, knowledge or practice into bite sized and focus parts, you can achieve many things including a new language.

For projects the gift is in knowledge. For example it may be to do with presenting, reading reports or holding effective meetings. First acquire the knowledge. Thankfully the internet has many options for this. Then write your plan of attack. Finally, reduce it down to daily tasks and keep yourself aware of your response, actions and options to improve. Finally the more focus and awareness (attention) you deliver, the faster and closer your knowledge to application bridge becomes.

Enjoy the process and measure your results. Calibrate and continue. Most importantly never give up. You never know how close you are to brilliance.

Thanks for reading,


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