We have within us a hunger to learn. It’s rare that our curiosity can’t be piqued. This morning as i made breakfast there was an interview on the radio with a structural engineer who specialises in digging tunnels. He was describing how they had prevented Big Ben from tilting when they tunnelled under the Houses of Parliament, by injecting tiny amounts of concrete through a matrix of pipes in real time. Fascinating. Useless to me. But captivating nonetheless. A good story draws me in. Although i have no practical outlet for this information, i still love to learn.
People land on the blog for a whole load of reasons: some are regular followers who read it most days, some i work with, some i’ve met, many i don’t know at all and come through search engines. Looking back through the figures last night, i found the most common search term, apart from my name: ‘the more i learn the less i know’. It’s pleasing that people who are curious about learning end up on a blog where we like to learn.
‘The more i learn, the less i know’ is, for me, not a statement of despair, but rather an expression of wonder. The fact that we can never know everything about anything makes that we we do learn all the more precious. I have a friend who specialises in post colonial literature: he has a PhD in it, teaches on it, writes about it, indeed, all in all he must be as close to a world expert as you can get. I don’t know how many books must fall into that category, but however many it is, the discussion, the interpretation and reinterpretation, the contextualising and framing may go on forever. We can never know all that there is to know.
Yesterday i had an email, out of the blue, from Chuck. He’s a colleague in Canada, but not someone i’ve ever worked with. Indeed, if i’m honest, i’m not entirely sure we’ve ever met in person (sorry Chuck, i’m terrible remembering faces…), but we do cross paths in various social learning spaces. Chuck’s a senior instructional designer and we are united by a love of history, of books, of learning. His note was about a book i’d talked about on the blog a year or so ago, Roger Deakin’s Wildwood. It’s a beautiful book about trees: how they are nurtured, used and farmed, random thoughts expressed in glorious prose. Chuck had just finished it and was writing to tell me, sharing stories about a cabinet maker he had met, discussing the history of apprenticeships, bringing his own layer of thinking and interpretation to something that interested me.
The thing that i enjoyed most was the unexpected nature of the dialogue, the email out of the blue, the fact that we were able to share a narrative, to add to each others story, to challenge each others thinking. The more i learn, the less i know, but collaborating, we know more, we create new, larger, more meaningful stories. It’s not about learning everything that there is to learn, but rather about creating meaning in the things that we touch.
It’s funny that this week i have a meeting about how we can generate higher engagement in our own corporate Yammer community, whilst all the while Chuck is sending me an email and we are building a shared story. If you are united by a desire to learn, by generosity of spirit and a willingness to share your thoughts, the challenge isn’t about how to engage, it’s about how to manage the sheer wealth of rich thoughts that are shared.
Yesterday was an unusually engaged day for me: i had a wealth of people connecting through Twitter, one of the most active social learning channels. The more thoughts i share through the blog, the more people engage, the more we build our shared narrative.
This, for me, is the exciting part of social media: the way it brings us together around the world, the way it enables us to connect around our learning, to develop our stories, to realise how little we know, but to let us enjoy the richness of that which we have found out.