“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Today I acquired a new word – ‘metacondition’. In a psychological context – and for the purpose of this post – it is defined as thinking about thinking. I gleaned this new word from an article it the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Learning is a learned behaviour. Here’s how to get better at it.[1] The title to the article caught my attention because I’m a big believer in the idea that we never stop learning. What I found curious about the piece and my new found word is the sense that you’ll achieve more if you actively engage in the act of learning, particularly if you act as a self-devil’s advocate and challenge yourself to test if you have really grasped an idea. The temptation is simply to review something and assume, almost by a process of osmosis that the information or data not only forms part of your memory but that you also fully understand it. To challenge this, the authors pose the questions: “Do I really get this idea? Could I explain it to a friend? What are my goals? Do I need more background knowledge? Or do I need more practice?”

Another interesting observation within the piece suggests that you do not need to have innate intelligence to be a good learner. I am not convinced that intelligence is innate; I have always felt that whilst it is useful to have a solid genetic foundation, intelligence is at very least strongly influenced by environment. But putting that moot point to one side, it would seem that through employing strategies that improve our ability to learn we can out-smart intelligence. One study quantified the mastering of learning at 15% more importance than intelligence[2].

Three recommendations flow from the article: 1. Organise your goals – clarify what you are seeking to achieve and make tangible objectives, 2. Think about thinking – in other words, challenge one’s basis of understanding a concept, and 3. Reflect on your learning.

I find the last of these the most interesting and also the most frustrating. I can think of so many times when I have been arguing a point – whether at home or at work – and have listened to the words coming out of my mouth and have realised that I’m not making the case. For someone trained as a barrister, it is probably a good thing I never practised law! Fast forward a couple of hours, usually when doing something completely unrelated and clarity of argument pops into my head and with it a mental chastising for not thinking of it and articulating it at the time.

I discussed in my last blog that I was about to embark on coaching (me being coached!) and the topic of our first discussion was whether I could justify setting aside time each Wednesday to write this blog? As someone just setting up their own consulting business, perhaps the time would be better spent on business development or searching out new prospects. Moreover, unless I am specifically advertising my proverbial ‘wares’, what is the benefit of my self-indulgent pontificating? Whilst our session focused on the benefits of broadening my networking and connecting, it also became clear to me that this blog-time is also my time to reflect on my learning. A quiet space to consider not just the subject-matter of the post, but also the highs and lows of the previous week; what I did and didn’t do and what other ways I can work to improve the chance of success.

I recommend the HBR piece. It doesn’t have all the answers, but has certain made me think and re-think!

[1] https://hbr.org/2018/05/learning-is-a-learned-behavior-heres-how-to-get-better-at-it?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social [2] Giftedness: Predicting the speed of expertise acquisition by intellectual ability and metacognitive skillfulness of novices, M.V.J Veenman

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