Putting learning into action

As Charles Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

Biologically speaking, the human species is what it is only because of its capacity to learn, reflect on that learning, adapt to it, and change. Over a long period, our brain has grown in size and complexity. Over an equally long period, we lost our tail so that we now have a tiny stump at the base of our spine, and we moved from all fours to the two-legged creatures we are today.

The development of language was also probably a gradual process, moving from gestures through grunts to the articulation of words. Sometimes things happened suddenly, however. There must have been one day when we suddenly learned how to make fire, for example. In some cases, interestingly, we are still evolving. Take our appendix. Unless we have had it removed, it remains in our bodies as a throwback to the days when we were grass eaters.

Adaptation in animals obviously happens unconsciously, as in the example of the blue tits and robins on page 109. But, think about the robins and blue tits as if they were people for a moment. If you were a robin and able to reflect on what was happening to you, you might have wanted to talk about why you no longer seemed to be able to get to the cream on the top of milk bottles. You might have begun to notice that the tops were being pecked open and that there often seemed to be a small bird leaving a bottle every time you approached it.

You might even have put all your territorial instincts aside for a day and called all the robins in an area together to share what they knew about the mystery of the bottle top.

In the early days of the internet when Microsoft was doubtful about its likely impact, this is what Bill Gates famously did, calling on all staff to reflect on the situation and, almost overnight, changing the company's view of the serious business opportunity presented by the World Wide Web.

As Jayne-Anne Gadhia puts it: "The most important consequence of learning is new behavior."

Who would have predicted, for example, that we would come to rely so much on computers and that our lifestyle would become so sedentary?

The evolution of humans has taken many thousands of years. Naturally, your own personal evolution has and will take place over a much shorter timescale. You will probably already have experienced key moments, similar in their impact on you to the discovery of fire for humanity. Obvious examples of this would include the birth of a child, the loss of a family member, going through a divorce, or obtaining a new job.

Apart from our ability to use fire, what do you think the main steps have been in humanity's A evolution?

Use the idea of evolution to reflect on your own life so far. What have been the most powerful moments to date?

What have you learned from these? Which kind of experiences have shaped your development most so far? (This is an interesting activity to undertake with other colleagues at work and with your partner at home.)

What are the biggest changes you are facing at work and at home? How responsive are you to these changes?

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

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