How to get better at learning

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We see time as linear – life too as a result.

We spend time in school, perhaps university learning, and then we get into the real world and work.

Learning gets left behind.

The creation of knowledge keeps happening – by academics – but it filters out into the wider world only slowly.

David Kolb and Rob Fry developed the experiential learning model in the 1970s – a cycle that has become the foundation of many lifelong learning approaches.

The model has four elements:

  1. Concrete experience: We do or have an experience.
  2. Reflective observation: We reflect on the experience – how it went and what happened.
  3. Abstract conceptualisation: We learn from the experience
  4. Active experimentation: We plan, try and experiment with new approaches based on what we’ve learned.

Like many models, its simplicity hides a number of challenges.

For example, in our busy lives, once we have done something how often do we get the time to think and reflect on how things went?

Some organisations, especially consulting ones, do review projects and try to get out learning points that they can use to improve how they work.

All too often, this can turn into another process that needs to be finished quickly so we can get back to the important stuff, which is usually the next pressing project or emergency.

How often have we seen people who are too busy to work out a better or easier way to do something – so they do it the long way every time.

We all are going to have experiences – one after the other.

Few of us make the conscious effort to reflect, learn and then experiment with a new approach based on that learning.

Taking the time to do that, however, could dramatically improve how we learn.

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