The Best Way to Learn

Nov 20, 2015 by

Jurgen Appelo –

As a speaker at many conferences, I sometimes ask people if they agree that we should celebrate our successes. Usually, many hands go up. I also ask them if we should celebrate our failures. Usually, a small number of hands go up. Finally, I ask the audience if they want to celebrate everything: success, failure, whatever… party all the time! Not surprisingly, there is a big laugh, and all the hands go up.

I learned to be a better public speaker by doing many things: I read many books and blogs, I experiment with lots of ideas, and I share my experiences online. The one thing I never did was attend a one-day course called How to Be a Successful Public Speaker because I don’t believe this can be taught in one day. Or two. Or three.

I do get together now and then with fellow speakers to exchange ideas and experiences. I found that it helps me understand what I learned by trying to explain things to others. The best way to learn a topic is to teach it, some people say. That’s true. I didn’t write management books because I was an expert. I became an expert in management by writing books about my experiences.

Another thing I often share with my audiences is that I failed terribly with my first business, which, as I realize now, was fueled entirely by absorbing the knowledge from experts and trying to replicate what they told me to do. It never worked. I saw their suggestions as rules to follow, not as experiments to try. And I certainly never shared any insights with anyone else.

It’s all different now.

I understood that my current approach to self-development is very close to what Alexandre Magno calls Learning 3.0. In this excellent little book, which I had the honor of reading before the rest of the world could get their eager hands on it, Alexandre writes that learning is best done by people acquiring ideas from various sources, running experiments in their context, and then sharing their insights with their peers. That sounds suspiciously similar to the way I’ve been running my current business. And it has certainly been more successful than the first.

I firmly believe you can also become more successful at whatever you do. Your brain is not a container that can be filled with someone else’s knowledge. That won’t work. You must create your own experience, by gathering, experimenting, and sharing. There’s no guarantee that it will work! In fact, people’s rate of learning is optimal when they succeed and fail in roughly equal measure. At least, that’s what I learned. And I have the bruises to show for!

No matter what happens next, adopting a learning 3.0 lifestyle will certainly help you celebrate the right thing: not only successes, and certainly not failures, but learning. It is the only thing that matters. And maybe, someday, you will share with us what you learned.

(Disclaimer: This post is an adaptation from the foreword of Learning 3.0, with permission of the author.)

I help people to introduce better management, with fewer managers. I am the leader of business network Happy Melly, and recognized as a Top 50 Management & Leadership Expert.

Source: The Best Way to Learn – Forbes

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