Do not let your business outgrow the people
Just knowing that a learning organization is a growing organization is not enough. We must ensure that the learning sticks. Understanding the basics of how the brain receives, stores, and retrieves information is critical to the process.
Author James Zull writes the following in his new book, The Art of Changing the Brain:
“As new and different networks of neurons fire because of our sensory input—our experience—these networks constantly change. They form new connections and lose others. The brain physically changes.
(Bill breaking in here – That concept bears repeating. When we learn something new, our brain’s structure changes in a material way. That is, new connections are formed that were not there before the new thought occurred.)
Let’s review some of the specific ways teachers (Leaders & coaches – my addition) can change brains:
1. Watch for inherent networks (natural talents) and encourage their practice.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
3. Arrange for “firing together.” Associated things should happen together.
4. Focus on sensory input that is “errorless.”
5. Don’t stress mistakes. Don’t reinforce neuronal networks that aren’t useful.
6. Try to understand existing networks and build on them. Nothing is new.
7. Misconnected networks are most often just incomplete. Try to add to them.
8. Be careful about resurrecting old networks; error dies hard.
9. Construct metaphors and insist that your students build their own metaphors.
10. Use analogies and similes, too.”
This supports what I have learned about how we learn from David Rock, Amy Edmondson, Timothy Gallwey, and others.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said that “once we stretch our mind around a new idea, it never returns to its former shape.”
Bottom line: If you want your team to learn something new, find out and focus on what they already know about the topic and help them build a bridge between that and what you want them to know. If you forget this, you may build a bridge to (or from) nowhere. Learning will not take place.
Sometimes, using metaphors or analogies is necessary and useful.
It is vital to remember that everyone has different, old concepts to work with. Since this pre-knowledge is physically represented in the brain, often, you must build a neuronal bridge from what they already know to the new concept you are presenting in unique ways that help each person. Here is an example from the book:
“One method I have used in my small classes is to have students explain their previous experience and ideas about the subject material. Specific questions can be used to get this going.
For example, I might ask the students to write out their idea of a gene or draw a picture that conveys their idea. Usually, they are not allowed to use technical terms.
Then I ask them to exchange their responses, and each student then tries to explain what they think their classmates are trying to say. Inevitably, as they hear their ideas described by another person, an active discussion will ensue, which uncovers a lot about the neuronal networks of each student.
I ultimately try to use the information I get in these sessions to guess what each student will find interesting.”
I do this when working with teams on Strategy. I first ask each to share a definition of strategy. Many of the answers are different. Most focus on the plan or the steps. That is, the doing. My goal is to help them to understand that strategy is, first and foremost, thinking and choice; mostly choosing what not to do. I illustrate this with examples from successful companies like Southwest or Apple or Dyson.
If you want to grow your top and bottom lines, you also have to grow the team members responsible for making those happen.
If not, the business will outgrow the people leading to struggle or failure.
Please contact me with any questions or other suggestions.
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