Unpacking Your Mind

No one would think of lighting a fire today by rubbing two sticks together. Yet much of what passes for education is based on equally outdated concepts.

Gordon Dryden, The Learning Revolution

E ALL GO TO SCHOOL, WHERE WE LEARN SUBJECTS LIKE SCIENCE AND history. We also develop various skills, mostly related to subjects but also some life skills. Strangely, however, very few people I meet have ever been taught how to learn. We talk about literacy and numeracy—but what about "learnacy"?

When I talk to audiences I ask them which they think is the most important part of their body when it comes to learning. Not surprisingly, they point to their heads. I then ask them how much time they spent at school or college or business school learning about their minds and there is an embarrassed and, increasingly these days, a worried silence. People are beginning to understand the real importance of the concept of learnacy, first talked about by Guy Claxton a few years ago.

The situation is similar across organizations of all kinds. There is much talk of global marketplaces, performance, cost cutting, knowledge management, culture, values, leadership development, and so on. But in most cases, how you might use your mind to learn to perform more effectively is simply not on the agenda.

It is as if there is a conspiracy of silence when it comes to learning to learn. We invest huge sums of money in business processes, in research and development, in computer systems, and in management training, but almost nothing in understanding how

Unpacking Your Mind the minds of our employees and colleagues work—or, indeed, how our own mind functions.

Nevertheless, talk to most managers today and it is the quality of their people that is apparently critical to their success. The old ingredients like price and product are taking second place to the way your people deal with your customers. This unique resource—people's ability to learn—is arguably the only source of competitive advantage naturally available to all organizations, and it is so often ignored.

There can be little doubt that how we learn is central to success in today's fast-changing world. As the great educator John Holt put it in the 1960s:

Since we cannot know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try and teach it in advance. Instead we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.

This is as true today as it was 40 years ago. But our understanding of how our brains work has advanced along with the extraordinary speed of technical change, so that common sense and science may well have caught up with each other at last.

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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