I thought of using the term Brain Plasticity in the title to this blog but since I didn’t understand the term I figured ‘Use it or Lose it’ would be a better way to go. But then that’s the point isn’t it? If you want to retain something you’ve learned, you have to use it on a regular basis. It’s the way your brain works.
Some 20 years ago, researchers found that with the right stimulus, brain deterioration and ageing was in fact reversible. The brain actually changes as you improve an ability. The local wiring changes how its connected and those changes result in the acquisition of an ability. The brain evolves as you acquire an ability.
It’s the reason that the Seven Times Principle works. So if you want to learn something:
- Write it down
- Repeat it seven times
- Make sure you’re tested on it.
- Use it or lose it.
Did you ever wonder why your teachers told you to study early and often for a test? Well it turns out that there may be something to it. You’re actually better off distributing your practise on anything rather than trying to learn something by cramming.
The problem is that it is easier to teach things in a group and not in a distributed pattern.It’s also more convenient although not better to learn that way. That’s why leadership and other improvement courses are all put in a day or a closely packed series of days, rather than over a longer period.
But studies by such researchers as Ebbinghaus and Dempster have been showing over the last century that distributed practise leads to more durable learning. I guess it comes back to the Seven Times Principle. You need to hear or try something seven times before it sticks.
If you’re trying to train someone on anything it will also work. You’ll have to get them to try it seven times before it will stick.
Do you remember the one person in the class who, when presented with something a little out of the ordinary, would ask the prof: will this be on the test?
Think now to the answer. If it was not going to be on the test, would you bother learning it or even bother reviewing the material once? I didn’t think so.
Now think about your company’s values. Can you even remember what they are. Heaven knows, some group of executives spent a long time coming up with them. But do they form part of your annual performance appraisal? Are you judged on how well you exhibit those values, how close you are to achieving them?
Chances are you aren’t evaluated on such things as how you exemplify the company’s values and that’s a problem. If it won’t be on the test, you won’t even think twice about it.
If you want someone to learn something and to change their behaviour, they have to think they’ll be evaluated on it or chances are it will go in one ear and out the other.
You have probably not noticed but over the last number of weeks I have been experimenting with trying to pick a subject for a week and present some ideas on that subject. Those ideas come with exercises, research, stories about people, videos, and in some cases irreverent posts. I’m working from a list of leadership skills that is forever expanding. Talk about a lengthy list of topics. The first set of things have dealt with Intrapersonal skills.
Intrapersonal skills are the foundations of a successful career. This is emotional intelligence, the ability to know, understand and mange your own emotions.
- Knowing what drives, angers, motivates, frustrates, inspires you
- Ability to control unexpected emotions like anger and frustration
- Knowing your own strengths and limitations
- Self confidence
- Taking measured risks
- Taking responsibility
- The ability to stay calm and balanced in stressful situations
- Persistence and perseverance in challenging situations
- Resilience and ability to bounce back from setbacks
- The ability to forgive and forget
Before we move on to another set of skills, I’ll spend this week blogging about Intrapersonal skills in general. What may you ask is the purpose of this summary if not to bore you to death. Well the whole purpose of Material Minds is to turn people into Conscious Leaders, make you think about what you’re doing from a leadership perspective, get you thinking at work about how you’re doing things.
As we move from Intrapersonal to other skill sets I’m hoping that you’ll use these other resources to drill down on the subject of emotional Intelligence.
Creative people don’t retire. They just keep on creating.
It’s probably because we love our work that we never want to stop. The question is: Do you love what you do enough to say the same thing? Do you love your work enough to never want to retire? And if you don’t then why not?
Why would you stay doing something that you didn’t absolutely love?
We all talk about Soft Skills and perhaps many of you are like me, you have trouble identifying what Soft Skills actually are. I found a good post the other day that laid it out. You can see the post here. Even better than the post was the accompanying chart. What I noticed right away is that as managers, we tend to hire for the Hard Skills and run into performance problems with the Soft Skills.
Derek Fisher relates how he learned to be a manager.
Harvey Schachter writes a good column for the Globe and Mail. His last one was about why people fail in careers. It’s worth a good read so I won’t summarize it here. Instead you can read it yourself: article2313473.
I found a good blog post on social_learning_for_a_social_workplace. In particular I like what the blog says at the very end (which I will reprint here as no one reads to the end of anything anymore.)
The key considerations to successful social learning in the workplace are simple:
- Enable and empower everyone in your organization to teach and learn at opportune times.
- Make learning collaborative and peer-to-peer, crossing department lines and organizational hierarchies.
- Make learning on-demand and experience-based.
- Combine learning with daily business tasks to create a more integrated learning and working experience.
It seems there is a general problem out there, both in identifying up and coming leaders and in training them. An article in today’s Globe states that ” We found that few organizations have a clear handle on the qualities they are looking for, and even fewer can claim that those qualities can be accurately measured. In short, they don’t know if they’re choosing the right people to train as leaders – or whether that training succeeds.”
If you think about it for a second, this is a serious problem. If we found that we spent a lot of money selecting high-potential doctors and then training them and that after all that selection and training we weren’t sure if we had good doctors or whether they were well trained we would sure be concerned. And yet the business world continues to over promote and under train. It may come down to expectations in that somehow, while people expect that you need training in medicine to be a good doctor, they think that you don’t need training in business or leadership to be a good manager.
You can read the full article here.