mistakes and learn from them, our
emotions steer us away from making
mistakes. In school we get bad grades if
we make mistakes on tests; no one celebrates our mistakes. At work we can get
a poor performance review if we make
too many mistakes. Hence, even if we
know that it is okay to make mistakes,
we are conditioned to avoid making
them and, if we do make a mistake, we
feel frustrated and often embarrassed.
Similarly, we understand intellectually that technology can accelerate our
learning. Simulation technologies offer to train us in skills without the risks
of injury if we make mistakes—for example, in a flight simulator. Yet even in
virtual environments people commonly get frustrated with their inability to
learn as fast as they want and they give
up. Internet and Web technologies offer to bring vast stores of information
to our screen on demand via search
and give us access to the world’s best
courses free via MOOCs. Nonetheless,
most of us discover that neither Internet searches nor MOOCs answer our
questions. Instead of feeling empowered by these technologies, we often
feel overwhelmed and anxious about
how little we know compared to what
we think we should know, but do not.
We feel stupid if we do not know some-
WHY IS IT, when we need to learn something new that will benefit our work or home life, we often find ourselves
blocked by seemingly invisible forces?
When learning fails we miss out on important projects, promotions, and opportunities. We end up suffering and
falling short of our objectives. Somehow, for many of us, our natural capacity to learn seemed to deteriorate over
time, especially in areas that we care
about the most.
Educators and business leaders
have used the term “learning to learn”
to name a missing skill that would reverse the deterioration. The business
literature is filled with tips and buzz-words about this skill: “learn from
mistakes,” “fail fast and often,” “learn
faster with technology,” “be curious,”
“collaborate,” and “take down silos.”
But despite these wise aphorisms,
something holds us back. Something
within us resists—and even gives up
on—learning. What is it?
Time after time in our work with
professional teams we have found that
many are in the thrall of deep, automatic, and unnoticed assessments
and assumptions that guide what they
think is possible or appropriate to do.
These assessments and assumptions
are the invisible force blocking learning. They manifest as moods.
Cultivating moods conducive for
learning is not as simple a setting up a
good physical environment, for example with moveable tables, calming music, and bean-bag chairs near the community watercooler. In this column,
we argue here that learning to learn
is a navigational skill of recognizing
moods that block learning and of shifting to moods that enhance learning.
Developing the Skill
Although we understand intellectually that learning requires that we make
The Profession of IT
Learning to Learn
Do you get stuck when it is time to learn something new? Read this.
Learning to learn
is a navigational skill
of recognizing moods
that block learning
and of shifting
to moods that