Continuous learning, throughout our careers, is a non-negotiable for any high-performing team.

Seeing my son whisk off into Grade 3 has made me think about education systems. It made me think about his education, yes, but more importantly for this audience, about our education as executives, leaders, and managers in organisations.

Here’s a shocking statistic: 96% of senior university administrators said higher education is in crisis.

Here’s a more shocking statistic: This research was done in 2013.

I’ll bet these stats haven’t improved in the past ten years.

At a parent evening last week, one of my son’s teachers mentioned that their challenge is: Teachers today have to prepare kids for jobs that don’t exist yet.

Or, as Clayton Christensen said:

“We invest and we subsidise students’ education in fields for which there are no jobs.”

That’s wild. It’s tough to be an educator, or to be educated, in this environment.

The challenge we need to solve is the education of the individuals who work in our organisations. Given the above scenario, continuous education throughout our careers is non-negotiable. Our world is changing too fast for us not to learn anything new.

How do we do it though? There are some challenges:

  • 85% of online courses that are started are never finished.
    • How do we do online education better?
  • 70% of the content we consume is forgotten within 24 hours.
    • How do we ensure learning is retained?

At the end of the day, if you want to learn something new, there’s a process to follow. Let’s walk through the process first, and then we’ll see how to elevate this process to learn and retain more.

Receive: We receive information all day long. It helps to think about modalities as we receive information – which senses are you using to receive information? As you use more senses, you engage with information more.

Interpret: We then interpret that information. Looking at screens all day long hasn’t done us any favours here because we get lazy to interpret. We disengage as we look at a screen. Receiving is passive; interpreting is active.

Apply: After interpretation, we must understand why this information matters to us. How do we apply this information practically in the environment we operate in? This is the idea behind deliberate practice, which you can read more about here.

Ingrain: Ingraining means you want to make it part of your DNA. You want to be able to recall the information when you need it – not just today or tomorrow, but next year as well.

How do we go from a passive consumer of information to active learning machines?

When you receive, create focus.

Delivering content in small packages increases retention by 20%. There’s an old military maxim that goes, “If you defend everything, you defend nothing”.

I find myself listening to intriguing 2-hour podcasts, and I want to retain everything. Surprise, I end up with nothing. So, I changed my view: Now, I choose one thing to remember and run through this process with that one thing.

When you interpret, create linkages.

“It’s the Uber for dry cleaning.” The reason why the “it’s the Uber for…” metaphor is used is because it links a new idea to an existing neural pathway in your brain – and neurons that fire together, wire together.

When you hear a new idea, link it to something you already know about. For example, when you learn that elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump, link it to your pre-existing knowledge that they don’t have kneecaps, increasing your chances of remembering this incredibly handy fact.

When you apply, create benefits.

Application in itself creates more neural links, which further enhances the chances of retention. But more than that, you experience the benefit of what you’ve just learnt.

There are loads of neurotransmitters involved in the learning process, but celebrating the benefits, especially in a social environment (i.e. in a team), increases the release of some of these neurotransmitters.

When you ingrain, create repetition.  

There is a well-researched curve of forgetfulness, which declines sharply and then flattens out. With repetition, you can curb the curve!

If you learn in micro-modules (step 1), it’s easy to create repetition through an email, a message, a group discussion, a printout, a practical exercise… Do it three or four times, and you increase your chances of retention by more than 100%.

If you want to explore a continuous learning journey with your team, get in touch. We run programs for teams who are keen to increase agility, speed and ownership in their team.

Happy learning.

If you have questions, we’re always keen for coffee.

Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!

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