“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird….So let’s look at the birds and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
Richard P. Feynman
It is easy to get caught up knowing and using the buzzwords of the day, but not actually knowing what they mean and how to apply the concepts that underlie the name. Simply dropping terms into a conversation or saying that I employ the principles in my training does not mean I understand the concepts.
When you hear terms like interleaving, desirable difficulties and effortful retrieval as important concepts in training and learning, then before you start using the terms take time to research them and find out what they mean and how they are applied. Seek out people who understand the principles and have deep conversations about how they can be applied. Read at least two books that talk about these concepts and while you are reading them be thinking about how those concepts apply to the training you do. You can also search for scholarly articles on the topics to get different perspectives.
Once you feel you have a grasp of the concepts, start to implement them into your training and then spend time assessing and reflecting on how you can improve and build on the concepts. Explain to the participants in your training what you are doing and why. It may be frustrating for some of them as it will be different from how they have been taught in the past.
The same goes for concepts like Psychological Safety, Systems Thinking, the System Model of investigating human error, the Cynefin Framework, the OODA Loop, human factors, Naturalistic decision making, Recognition Primed Decision Making, Cognitive Load Theory, courageous leadership, servant leadership, motor learning, learning organizations, implicit bias, Human Behavior Pattern Recognition and Analysis, Left of Bang, Finite and Infinite Games and creating a culture of inclusion and belonging. Before you decide on the value, or lack thereof, of any of these concepts study them, work with them, reflect on them and discuss them with people who do understand them all with the goal of improving your understanding of the concepts and your understanding of the application to your training and to our profession.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master”
Let’s be clear. I am not claiming to be an expert in any of these concepts or the application of them. I am a novice, a student of them. I am a man with limited formal education and I am continually working to learn what they mean, how they apply to our profession and how to implement them, share them and teach them in the programs I teach. It is a continual learning process. I am further along the path with some of these concepts than others and do not expect to ever master any of them. I have read a number of books, listened to presentations and podcasts on these topics. I am also very fortunate that I have the opportunity to interview a lot of really smart people for the Excellence in Training Academy who are patient with me and help move my understanding forward.
Knowing the words is a start. Studying the concepts that underlie the words and seeking to understand the application in training and life is the next step. Applying these concepts, then reflecting, assessing, learning, refining and repeat is the next phase. The next phase would be sharing and teaching what you are learning with others to get their thoughts, insights and feedback. The more you study, apply, reflect and share the more you realize how much you still have to learn and the process and the journey continues.
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