Learning to Do

30 09 2010

My colleague Narendra Laljani and I were talking about learning about “how to do things” the other day. This may seem vaguely odd coming from business school people, but it shouldn’t. We are genuinely interested in getting beyond the model I’d written about earlier by Huczynski and similar models by others where they present a continuum from learning about through to being able to do. Memorisation and writing essays which integrate various facts is actually not that hard. Genuinely learning to do things is much harder and reaching expertise is even more difficult. Gladwell popularised the concept of 10,000 hours of practice. For what it is worth, and typical of the popularisation of academic thinking, Gladwell is not the originator of the idea. It stems from a 1993 article by Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin.

 So the challenge then is how to get beyond knowing about and to approach 10,000 hours of practice without spending 10,000 hours at it! The easiest place to start is simply to do what one is reading about. In business schools, some claim that case studies are better than just reading. Well, sure, but they do not actually get to “doing” anything. Simulations and role plays go a step further. The problem here is that if the simulation is not credible, then it carries no weight. What it does attempt to do is to compress time and allow multiple rounds of decision making to act as a proxy for 10,000 hours.

 In some cases, one really can do concrete things rather than play act. Here at Ashridge, we do something called newsday where a team puts together a news programme. I’m thinking about how we can fast forward that activity into the here, now and tomorrow. In this thinking, I’m being helped along by my #PLENK2010 course which is into the third week of it’s data flood, discussion, and illumination. We are way beyond web 1.0 where traditional teaching is simply ported online (I did that sort of thing in the late 1980’s at IBM and in the early 1990’s in Rotterdam and it really is a bit dull). We have just passed web 2.0 where learners learn with the facilitator and there are no constraints on which learning tools are allowed. Yesterday we looked at www 3.0 stuff like datasift, twazzup, foursquare and storify. Most are still in alpha phases, but they do look like fun. In some cases, I can see piecing together things to amuse myself in others, piecing together interesting narratives. In all cases, it gives one the impetus to actually do, rather than just to see, and that, after all, is half the battle.

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