Sep 27, 2008

On Learning to Learn

Having been dabbling and trying to learn Instructional Design, and getting to know what the Walker Cycle and Bloom's Taxonomy is all about, a Tweet from Dina and her subsequent blog post triggered off a thought process.

We've all heard of the quote "the future belongs to those who learn to learn, unlearn and re-learn". But what does it mean?

Then it struck me.

Learning a higher level skill, specially at the analytical, synthesis and evaluation levels on the cognitive level - or any skill at the affective level - or the adaptation and origination category in psychomotor level - really calls for changing one's worldview.

While the word for all these might be learning - yet it does not justify the full import of the changes that are needed.

Let's take the developmental and learning need of managers who have to graduate to the next level and actually lead. As Marcus Buckingham points out what a great manager does and what a great leader does can seem contradictory.

To manage well requires that you recognize the subtle, but important, differences between people and that you know how to put those differences to work for your organization. Great managers thrive on helping people experience incremental growth. The dynamic creativity of figuring out how to move from the player to the plays is the real genius of a great manager.
Leadership isn’t about that at all. Leadership is about finding the words, stories, and images that bring great clarity to people. And that’s just different from being a good manager. You could have both talents, but good managers don’t necessarily make good leaders.

So when you actually "learn" leadership - you actually make a great shift in your worldview. You cannot build a new worldview on top of your existing ones. You have to let them go. These mindsets could be dependent on context of the role one is doing, too.

For example, specialist functions in HR focus on making a standard policy/process that can be applied uniformly across the business unit/organization. As a Training Manager/OD Specialist that was my role.

However, the mindset of the HR generalist is actually to manage exceptions and they face issues depending on how the specialist's policy/process is impacting their employees. When I did my stint as a HR Manager of a business unit that was clear to me.

So in a role, I couldn't really say which was correct and which was wrong. As both the roles are structured and the contexts are different.

Letting go of non-relevant mindsets is the first step of learning to learn.

That is the most difficult part than actually picking up the 'skills' IMHO. This is particularly true when learning interventions are given based on potential, rather than for people who are actually facing the situation. So when you tell a Manager that he/she needs a certain skill for being a General Manager/VP then they really don't know what would be actual shift required.