I’m having an unusual experience this week. The chance to spend two days with a small group of experts sharing ideas, learning new things and reflecting on the things i already know (or thought i knew).
It’s rare in the pace of life today to have the time to do this, but it’s been invigorating, creative and challenging, often at the same time. My own session was around ‘social media in learning’, but ranged quite widely into wider questions of learning methodology and pure e-learning. The other sessions so far have been highly varied, from using ‘complexity science’ in leadership development to ‘consulting at the edges of possibility’, both of which contained a mixture of ideas that i recognised by different names, combined with ideas that i struggled to follow.
Which is as learning should be: a mix of the familiar alongside the challenging. Learning is a process of taking these new ideas and aligning them alongside the things we already ‘know’, reconciling how the new fits in with the old and making adjustments accordingly. The critical thing is that you need to expose yourself to new ideas to start the process rolling.
The word ‘craft’ has been used a lot, an analogy that i like, because it implies two things: that you can work to become competent, but that you could continue to develop your craft, to build upon your basic competence, for the rest of your life, and that’s a notion that that i like very much indeed.
One of the trends that i’ve seen in my own development is the process of seeing parallel ideas come up in multiple fields, to see something that you know from one area mirrored in another. To start drawing these ideas together, to work out where the threads lie, is intellectually stimulating, as well as being frequently frustrating as i hit the edges of my understanding.
There is something strangely wonderful but tragic about the idea that you understand briefly, but which you rapidly lose hold of as you start to examine it more closely. I guess learning is partly about filling in those gaps that cause your understanding to collapse.
It’s also great when you find new ideas, new concepts, that you can start to rehearse into your own vocabulary, ideas that need to be played with to build your own full understanding.
It’s very liberating, i’d recommend the chance to spend two days doing nothing and achieving so much to anyone.