Category Archives: Meta-Learning

Meta-Learning, 2001

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2001

Everyone has the capacity to learn but most people can do a much better job of it. Learning is a skill one can improve. Learning how to learn is a key to its mastery.

Learning is the primary determinant of personal and professional success in our ever-changing knowledge age. People and organizations that strive to succeed had better get good at it. Our goal is to help them.

Meta-Learning

Clark Quinn mentioned The Meta-Learning Lab during #lrnchat today and it brought back a rush of memories. 14 years ago, Clark and I, along with Claudia Welss and Claudia L’Amoreaux, founded the Meta-Learning Lab.  We were ahead of our time.

Our foundation beliefs were that…

  • Everyone has the capacity to learn but most people can do a much better job of it. Learning is a skill one can improve. Learning how to learn is a key to its mastery.
  • Learning is the primary determinant of personal and professional success in our ever-changing knowledge age. People and organizations that strive to succeed had better get good at it. Our goal is to help them.
  •  

    These foundations help me understand what’s going on to this day:

    “The best learning happens in real life with real problems and real people and not in classrooms.” Charles Handy

    “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”H.G. Wells

    “The world we have made as a result of the level of the thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level (of consciousness) at which we have created them. . .We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive.”Albert Einstein

    “Never underestimate the power of a small but committed group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

    “We learn by conversing with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us.”Laurie Thomas & Sheila Harrie-Augstein

    “It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”Poincaré

    My metaphor for Meta-Learning was “going up to the balcony” to observe what was taking place below. (I’d just returned from a trip to Guatemala where I looked down from the colonial style plaza at the teeming crowd below and realized I was watching a tableau of learning in action.)

    What I witnessed remains an essential part of my thinking about how learning takes place.

    balcon
    From the Meta-Learning Lab site: Learning is so integral to human nature that it’s often overlooked. We have to rise above the day-to-day to recognize its presence.
    balcon2

    Walk with me up the stairs to the balcony.

    Rise above everyday rules, conventions, and sacred cows. Let’s find a vantage point that enables us to see what’s really going on.

    Look at the people in the plaza below. We see elaborate social exchanges where roles and status and self-image come into play. Some learning is planned; other learning just happens. Some learners are active, others merely receptive. Some are gaining information, others pick up new skills, and yet others are developing something deeper, beliefs. Teachers learn. Learners teach.

    The activity on the plaza stimulates some but distracts others. Some are adept at learning, others not. From a distance, we see patterns. We are looking at meta-learning.


    It’s humbling to realize that I am still on the same quest 14 years later. The Aha! Project is built on the same principles, the touchstones Clark, the two Claudias, and I came up with at my house in Berkeley at the turn of the century.

Falling behind

fastenough

72% of eighteen Fortune 100 CLOs told me their people are not growing fast enough to keep up with the needs of the business. 

Granted, it’s impossible to predict the future needs of the business in this volatile world, it’s still troubling that most big-company CLOs don’t feel what they’re doing is adequate to prepare the workforce for the future. That’s the job, right?

If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do something else. Internet Time Alliance advises CLOs to shift learning out of the classroom and into the workplace, embrace pull learning, get managers on board, focus on business performance, and support continuous learning. It’s more than informal or social learning. I call the package Enterprise Learning.

Faced with the enormity of shifting the organization’s culture to pull, social, sharing, open, beta, fault-tolerant, collaborative, and reflective, many CLOs are dabbling with change rather than taking it on whole hog.

This reminds me of two stories.

Intel’s Craig Barrett said “We’re racing along the highway at 150 MPH and we know there’s a brick wall up ahead but we don’t know where.”

Napoleon told his generals to plant trees bordering each major road out of France to provide shade for marching troops. “But Emperor, it will take decades for the trees to grow to maturity.” Napoleon’s reply: “Better start today.”

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Be a humanist

An intimate group of Fortune 50 CLOs invited me to talk with them about how to make the most of informal learning. Jane, Charles, Clark, Harold and I chatted at length. We came up with twenty-four suggestions which I’ll soon walk the CLOs through.

One piece of advice stood out for me as the crux of it all.

bumanist

That’s my personal view. I haven’t asked my The Internet Time Alliance buddies.

The Tale of Two Cultures

clo_articleThis column appears in the current issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

In 1959, British scientist/novelist C.P. Snow wrote an essay describing the “two cultures,  whose thesis was that ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society’ was split into two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Snow contended that scientists did not understand the humanities and humanists did not understand science. As the world grew more complex, the two groups grew further apart.” (Wikipedia)

Half a century later, the world grows more complex everyday and the two cultures have grow further apart. It’s worth a revisit because the growing divide will shake the training industry to its roots. I am going to use the concept to describe two different sorts of knowledge and the different way we learn them. #1 is intuitive knowledge and #2 is logical knowledge. They are different as night and day.

Intuitive knowledge 

Intuitive knowledge is what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as System 1. It’s the province of the emotional brain. Intuitive knowledge works with patterns; it knows no words. In other words, it is tacit. Since the emotional brain is much older and works faster than the logical brain, intuitive knowledge is the first to come to mind; the rational brain uses logic to weigh whether or not an intuitive response is valid or must be tempered. Intuitive knowledge is also known as muscle memory.

Intuitive knowledge is complex and hence unpredictable, inductive, volatile, and emergent. It’s the realm of imagination. It deals with people’s interpretations. It lives in the minds of the people who pull it together.

Examples of intuitive knowledge: how to dance and to sell. Training departments can’t do much with the increasingly important Intuitive skills. Intuitive things are learned by doing: experientially. People “get” the skills of dealing with complexity: critical thinking, prioritizing, working with people, design thinking, and so forth — by doing them.

“I do things I do not know how to do in order to learn how to do them.” Picasso

Experience can be supplemented with stories (someone else’s experience), simulations (fake experience), trial and error (the school of hard knocks), and mimicry (copied experience).

Rational knowledge

Rational knowledge is the opposite of Intuitive knowledge. It’s the province of the rational brain. It works with logic. It is explicit and can be explained with words.

Rational knowledge is straightforward (or complicated, which is several simples mushed together.) It’s Newtonian clockwork, an equal and opposite reaction for every action. It is formulaic, yes or no, and reductionist. It deals with facts. It’s true no matter who is looking. Training departments help people learn the Rational. Workshops, programmed instruction, and Kahn Academy can teach Rational Knowledge. Example of rational knowledge: programming PERL, the states and their capitals, multiplication.

The Explicit and the Tacit

As the world becomes more complex, people need to rely more on the interpretive power of Intuitive knowledge. So what does this have to do with a CLO? (The editor here gets on my case if I don’t relate topics to the needs of chief learning officers.) Well, here’s the punch line: people learn Rational knowledge and absorb Intuitive knowledge by different means.

The basic difference is that you get to know Rational Knowledge. Intuitive Knowledge, on the other hand, transforms your identity. For example, I can know a lot about plumbing but until I have Intuitive Knowledge, I can’t call myself a plumber. It’s learning to know vs. learning to be.

While different parts of the brain deal with Intuitive and Rational knowledge, these are not the old (and discredited) left/right brain theories. This is more about the conscious and subconscious minds.

Dave Snowden, a oracular figure in interpreting complexity for business ends, says the greatest danger is confusing a complex situation for a merely complicated one.

If you are concerned only with helping people learn rational knowledge, you’re abandoning a vital facet of learning. Facts are impotent until coupled with feelings. Feelings without facts are mute. A successful learning organization is bi-cultural; it melds the intuitive with the rational

Bi-culturalism melds two originally distinct cultures into a holistic co-existence.

Ask yourself: is your learning  bi-cultural?

Unlearning

Half a dozen years of journals and notebooks are migrating from my shelves to recycling. I need the space — and I don’t have much use for yesterday’s thinking.

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I had to save a few memorable entries. Here’s The Great Divide (from the age of material to the age of relationships).

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How people learn…
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Basics of working smarter…
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Synopsis of The Halo Effect
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I thumbed through the journals as I took them from the shelves. As I dropped each volume into the stack, I tried to let go of its ideas. I want to make room for the next wave or thoughts worth jotting down.

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Remembering

brainRemembering is vital. In fact, remembering is as important as learning itself.

There’s no point in learning something if you forget it before you can put it to use. Yet research finds that people forget the majority of what they learn in workshops and classrooms. Typically, only 15% of what’s covered in a workshop ever shows up on the job!

Many L&D departments act as if their work is over once the learner walks out the door. I hold them accountable to the point that performance changes.

Here’s 37 minutes on remembering. Luckily, you can fast-forward over the parts that don’t interest you.

This is an excerpt from a webinar I presented on behalf of Raptivity on April 30, 2013.

Slides

The Tale of Two Cultures

Effectiveness, Chief Learning Officer magazine, June 2013. This is the article as submitted; the printed version may vary.

Most columnists in CLO magazine advocate something they’re sure of. This column is different: it’s about an issue I’m not at all sure of but I think it important and would enjoy getting your opinion.  

In 1959, British scientist/novelist C.P. Snow wrote an essay describing the “two cultures,  whose thesis was that ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society’ was split into two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Snow contended that scientists did not understand the humanities and humanists did not understand science. As the world grew more complex, the two groups grew further apart.” (Wikipedia)

Half a century later, the world grows more complex everyday and the two cultures have grow further apart. It’s worth a revisit because the growing divide will shake the training industry to its roots. I am going to use the concept to describe two different sorts of knowledge and the different way we learn them. #1 is intuitive knowledge and #2 is logical knowledge. They are different as night and day.

Intuitive knowledge

Intuitive knowledge is what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as System 1. It’s the province of the emotional brain. Intuitive knowledge works with patterns; it knows no words. In other words, it is tacit. Since the emotional brain is much older and works faster than the logical brain, intuitive knowledge is the first to come to mind; the rational brain uses logic to weigh whether or not an intuitive response is valid or must be tempered. Intuitive knowledge is also known as muscle memory.

Intuitive knowledge is complex and hence unpredictable, inductive, volatile, and emergent. It’s the realm of imagination. It deals with people’s interpretations. It lives in the minds of the people who pull it together.

Examples of intuitive knowledge: how to dance and to sell. Training departments can’t do much with the increasingly important Intuitive skills. Intuitive things are learned by doing: experientially. People “get” the skills of dealing with complexity: critical thinking, prioritizing, working with people, design thinking, and so forth — by doing them.

“I do things I do not know how to do by doing them.” Picasso

Experience can be supplemented with stories (someone else’s experience), simulations (fake experience), trial and error (the school of hard knocks), and mimicry (copied experience).

Rational knowledge

Rational knowledge is the opposite of Intuitive knowledge. It’s the province of the rational brain. It works with logic. It is explicit and can be explained with words.

Rational knowledge is straightforward (or complicated, which is several simples mushed together.) It’s Newtonian clockwork, an equal and opposite reaction for every action. It is formulaic, yes or no, and reductionist. It deals with facts. It’s true no matter who is looking. Training departments help people learn the Rational. Workshops, programmed instruction, and Kahn Academy can teach Rational Knowledge. Example of rational knowledge: programming PERL, the states and their capitals, multiplication.

The Explicit and the Tacit

As the world becomes more complex, people need to rely more on the interpretive power of Intuitive knowledge. So what does this have to do with a CLO? (The editor here gets on my case if I don’t relate topics to the needs of chief learning officers.) Well, here’s the punch line: people learn Rational knowledge and absorb Intuitive knowledge by different means.

The basic difference is that you get to know Rational Knowledge. Intuitive Knowledge, on the other hand, transforms your identity. For example, I can know a lot about plumbing but until I have Intuitive Knowledge, I can’t call myself a plumber. It’s learning to know vs. learning to be.

While different parts of the brain deal with Intuitive and Rational knowledge, these are not the old (and discredited) left/right brain theories. This is more about the conscious and subconscious minds.

Dave Snowden, a oracular figure in interpreting complexity for business ends, says the greatest danger is confusing a complex situation for a merely complicated one.

If you are concerned only with helping people learn rational knowledge, you’re abandoning a vital facet of learning. Facts are impotent until coupled with feelings. Feelings without facts are mute. A successful learning organization is bi-cultural; it melds the intuitive with the rational

Bi-culturalism melds two originally distinct cultures into a holistic co-existence.

Ask yourself: is your learning  bi-cultural?

50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. implementing 70-20-10 is not simple. Sharing 50 suggestions on putting 70-20-10 to work has consumed five posts spread over two months. Today the series is complete. Here’s what you’ll find:

Post 1   Post 2   Post 3   Post 4   Post 5

Post 1 People learn their jobs by doing their jobs. Effective managers make stretch
assignments and coach their team members. Experience is the teacher, and managers shape their teammembers’ experiences. Knowledge work has evolved into keeping up and taking advantage of connections. We learn to do the job on the job. To stay ahead and create more value, you have to learn faster, better, smarter.

The Coherent OrganizationAs standalone companies realize that they’re really extended enterprises, co-learning with customers and stakeholders becomes important as everyone faces the future together. Players throughout the corporate ecosystem need to be operating on the same wave-length. This can only happen when we’re adapting to the future, i.e. learning, at the same pace.Internally, everyone needs to stay current.

These posts offer guidance to managers who want to make learning from experience and conversation more effective. Replacing today’s haphazard approaches with systematic, enlightened management accelerates the development of future workers and gets the entireorganization working smarter. The potential is great.

Among the organizations that have adopted the 70:20:10 approach are Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Mars, Maersk, Nokia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, L’Oréal, Adecco, Banner Health, Bank of America, National Australia Bank, Boston Scientific, American Express, Wrigley, Diageo, BAE Systems, ANZ Bank, Irish Life, HP, Freehills, Caterpillar, Barwon Water, CGU, Coles, Sony Ericsson, Standard Chartered, British Telecom, Westfield, Wal-Mart, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and Coca-Cola.

Charles Jennings made 70:20:10 a guiding philosophy of learning during his eight-year tenure as Chief Learning Officer at Reuters, the world’s largest information company. (Disclosure: Charles and I are colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance. He is the world authority on 70:20:10 and these posts draw heavily on his work.)

Post 2 The 70 percent: learning from experience. People learn by doing. We learn from experience and achieve mastery through practice. Experience is a difficult task master. We learn more from making a mistake than from getting it right the first time. That’s why wise managers throw team members into stretch assignments. It accelerates learning. Being ejected from one’s comfort zone is why some say that the only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Matching the most appropriately challenging experience to the developmental stage of the worker is the most powerful lever in the manager’s toolbox.

Charles Jennings reports that performance inevitably improves when managers ask their team members these three simple reflective questions:

  1. What are your reflections on what you’ve been doing since we last met.
  2. What would you do differently next time?
  3. What have you learned since we last met?

Post 3 The 20 percent: learning through others. Learning is social. People learn with and through others.

Conversations are the stem cells of learning. Effective managers encourage their team members to buddy up on projects, to shadow others and to participate in professional social networks. People learn more in an environment that encourages conversation, so make sure you’re fostering an environment where people talk to each other.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a social network of people who identify with one another professionally (e.g. designers of logic chips) or have mutual interests (e.g. amateur photographers). Members of CoPs develop and share knowledge, values, recommendations and standards. An effective community of practice is like a beehive. It organizes itself, buzzes with activity and produces honey for the markets.

Post 4 Formal learning includes courses, workshops, seminars, online learning and certification training. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations aren’t using online learning to its full potential, and the results at those organizations reflect that. Learning expert Robert Brinkerhoff figures only about 15 percent of formal training lessons change behavior.12 This is a reflection of both formal learning creation and of the lack of focus on experiential and exposure learning. If what we learn is not reinforced with reflection and application, the lessons never make it into long-term memory.

Formal learning is typically conducted by an instructor. So why do we address it in a paper on managers? Because managers can make or break the success of formal learning programs. Research has found that the most important factor in translating formal learning into improved performance is the expectation set by managers before the training takes place13. Understanding the needs of the learners and following up after the event are also essential for formal learning success.

Post 5 You will need to become a champion for the new approach to developing talent. You must convince your sponsor that managers and supervisors are the linchpins to developing new talent. Without them, the company could find itself with nobody on the bench to take on future challenges. For your career, this lead role is high risk/high reward.

Managers have to learn how to develop their people. It doesn’t always come naturally, and managers can get too busy to pay much attention to it. Let them know you don’t expect them to train their people. Rather, they will set examples for their team; they will foster experiential learning by leading their team to tackle new challenges (the 70), by helping them reflect on the lessons of experience and by coaching them at every step (the 20), and by showing them how to get formal learning on the subject (the 10).

The Learning and Development Roundtable of the Corporate Leadership Council pinpointed three management practices that significantly improve performance.

  1. Setting clear expectations and explaining how performance will be measured.
  2. Providing stretch experiences that help their team members learn and develop.
  3. Taking time to reflect and help team members learn from experience.

Managers who set clear objectives and expectations and explain how they measure performance are much more likely to succeed. Their teams outperform their peers by 20%. That’s an extra day every week to get the job done (and engage in deep learning). Managers should make explicit why they’re assigning particular projects, what they expect people to learn and what sort of debrief will occur after the assignment.

The 70-20-10 model depends on L&D teaming up with managers to improve learning across the company, but often managers do not appreciate how vitally important they are in growing their people. This is the absolute, must-do secret to success to improving learning and development. Frontline managers must take this as the very definition of manager: someone who develops others by challenging them with assignments that stretch them to the point of flow17. This takes a can-do manager who knows how coaching creates mental models and habits, how motivation activates a chain of high-performance activities and what success habits their team members need to adopt.

Charles Jennings says that the role that managers play is far more important than that of Learning and Development or HR. Your role is to help managers learn that:

  • People learn from experience.
  • Managers shape the experience of the people on their team.
  • Experience coupled with reflection sticks lessons in memory.
  • Daily mid-course correction is much more powerful than after-the-fact reviews.
  • Every project they assign is a potential learning experience for their team members.

#itashare