Learning Something New
So, you learn something new every day do you? Well actually, I’m afraid you probably don’t. In fact, I doubt you have truly learnt anything for quite a while. You see, in order to properly learn something, a number of things have to happen.
Now, before we go into that, lets put some context around this and dispel what I think is actually a myth. Despite what the accepted definitions may say, in my humble opinion, knowing something you didn’t know before and being able to recall new information, does not, and I repeat, does not, mean you have learnt something. All that means is you know something you didn’t know before and you can recall it, that is all. Most people would argue this is in fact learning, but this is where I start to question it and I’ll tell you why.
I honestly don’t think that learning takes place just because there is a need to know something. For me, learning happens in order to solve a problem, to be able to do something different or to be better at something. That means that the something needs to be clearly understood, not just recalled. It also and most importantly needs to be actually applied and used, and consistently. And when that happens, the result is lasting change and real improvement, which is surely the point of learning something in the first place?
Let me give you a few examples. I ‘know’ how to play golf and I what I need to do to hit a golf ball, so one could argue that I have learnt how to play the game. But do I understand it? No. Do I apply that knowledge successfully and consistently? No. Am I any good at it? Unsurprisingly, no. A lot of people probably ‘know’ what to do to drive a car before they do because they have seen it so many times, but does it mean they can? No it doesn’t. Many leaders and managers will say they are great communicators and coaches and can rattle off the theory with ease, but do they actually do it and do it well? Sadly, no they don’t. And quite possibly worst of all, I come across people who say they ‘know’ how to ‘train’ and ‘coach’ people. But can they actually do it and do it well? Unfortunately for their learners, no they can’t. And the common denominators in all these examples? No real understanding and a lack of consistent use and application. In other words, just ‘knowing’ something and then using that knowledge to be able to actually do that something, and do it well, are very different things, and unless you can do both, for me, you haven’t really learnt anything.
Now, don’t get me wrong, knowledge and theory are a vital component of any journey of learning, but they are just one component. Reading a book, sitting through a presentation, attending a training course or watching a video on YouTube are all great, and don’t stop doing them, but don’t for a second think you have ticked the learning box by doing any of these in isolation. In order to fully and truly learn, one has to surely be able to not only know something, but also understand it and then adapt so that most crucially, one can actually use that knowledge and apply it, consistently, time and again. And when that happens, real improvement, lasting change and what I like to call, evolution, will take place. Then and only then can you say you have learnt something.