Recently I’ve been catching up with people who I used to work with, as well as people from my extended social networks for a meal, coffee or virtually. I’ve noticed my networks now are reaching out for more one-on-one contact as opposed to making our communication public and open in social media.
I like this because it means that the conversations have now changed from small tweets to more long exploratory and deeper discussions that delve into more subjects around philosophy, psychology, arts, nature, anthropology and spirituality.
We’re all asking the same questions and delving for meaning in our own ways.
What I also like is that they move from just being in your network to more of a respected and trusted friend and confidante. You get to learn more about them as people and see another side to them from what you see online. It adds a whole other dimension. It’s nice. There’s no other way to explain it because, in all honesty, it makes you realise that we’re all want to know our place in the world; and play a part in some future.
What Got Me Thinking This Week?
I pay attention to serendipitous patterns around me. I seem to be attuned to them – don’t ask me how – they just seem to happen.
In the past, they used to freak me out. The scientist in me wanted to explain them logically and indeed, I know that it’s the algorithms from the online footprint I leave behind that is serving me up suggestions that are attuned to the interests I have. However, when I think to the times BEFORE computers, this was still happening to me. Anyway, this is not going to be a ramble through the Celestine Prophecy or some such but I wanted to share what has been hurtling through my mind with regards to how people learn – and why we are so slow to change.
This is partly because at times, I do feel that whatever I do, whatever I say, really, in the grand scheme of things if people aren’t motivated to learn – or don’t make the emotional connection themselves that they need to change behaviours – then really, why am I busting a gut to do so? (I’m thinking about it in terms of helping people skill up in new ways of learning, collaborating and networking to prepare themselves for future work).
I cannot effect change in other people if they’re not ready to change themselves. So the best thing I can do is to continue doing what I’m doing in my own way and just be content in doing it. However, there’s also another part of me that I too, will eventually, fall into the same trap – my comfort zone – because it’s the easiest route to take.
Make no mistake about it, I’m constantly at odds with it.
Past vs Future; comfort vs discomfort; now vs tomorrow; gratification vs patience.
It does my head in sometimes.
*Sigh* Why can’t it be easy?
How People Learn
This week, I listened to the Good Practice Podcast with Nick Shackleton-Jones who was interviewed about How People Learn which coincidentally is the title of the book he recently published. (For the record, I haven’t read it yet).
Admittedly the first half of the interview lost me because it focused on researchers and academic papers that in all honesty, I would have stood up on a table to catch the discussion that was flying over my head at rapid rates of knots. However, the second half of the interview started to get interesting because they started talking about applications for work and life.
(Don’t worry, this is just me. If someone makes arguments for, or against, a particular topic simply citing research papers to me to discount my argument as opposed to helping me understand through examples, metaphors and analogies, I get bored and switch off. (The irony wasn’t lost on me that I was doing exactly what Nick was talking about when it comes to “affecting context” – that is, a learning process by which people attach emotional or affective sense to information). You can read more about it in his blog post here. Or check out this excellent video which explains Affective Context.)
Well anyway, the one thing that stood out for me and which explained the Affective Context model immediately to me was that towards the end of this podcast, one of the interviewers cited this example where commuters of the London Underground had been “shocked” into learning new routes for their commutes when some of the Underground lines were under repair.
That is, as commuters, they followed a standard route for years and only when the system was disrupted in a way, caused such an intense reaction/emotion in commuters that they had no other choice but to learn a new route and most of the time, it was better and faster in getting them to their destination.
If Your System Was Shocked or Disrupted, Would This Make You Change Your Behaviour?
This got me thinking about everything that I learn and remember has some kind of emotional reaction to it.
Everything from my insane interest in maritime history and specific explorers like Bligh and Cook – and my weird obsession with breadfruit; all my adventures and travels that seem to connect and relate to these interests and uncanny links; my knitting which gives me my social connections; learning how to create videos and learning how to tell stories through comedy by creating a character called Shazza Breaknews, foreign correspondent for CNT News.
Everything I do to learn has some kind of emotional – and a social – investment in it as well AND it gets me out of my comfort zone.
Maybe we need a shock/disruption to our corporate work life to get workers, managers and leaders to see that they need to change behaviours if they’re going to effect real and lasting organisational change that gets their business future ready.
Is “digital transformation” that shock?
A Side Note
Weirdly, I seem to remember what I learned in the Navy more than my years of corporate life. I think it’s because the defence force had a great way of melding emotional, social, experiential and teamwork into their training and work experiences which in turn, make these experiences unforgettable, transformative and meaningful.
It’s hard to explain this to people who may not have served but this week, guess what showed up in my YouTube timeline that seemed to explain it so well. Adam Driver was an ex-Marine, now actor who shares his journey from the military into the arts.
(I do remember how to fight compartment fires, strip a rifle, and march a squad around a parade ground – they seem ingrained now because it was always around a group of us going through some experience. Trust me, you learn pretty quick to attach a bayonet to your rifle on command if one of your team members accidentally dropped it over the ship’s side and into the ocean which then sends a rough gruff quartermaster gunner into a massive hissy fit, yelling at us the top of his voice, stops our shore leave into Honiara and gets you practising drill on a hot stinking deck for hours on end as a punishment. THAT I remember.)
Zapping Ourselves Out of Our Stupors
So the topic of discussion with the people I’ve been talking to this week has been around how do we get people to sit up and take note?
With all this change happening in our workplaces how do we encourage an openness to start asking questions that may not have a simple answer? How do we encourage people to take charge of their own professional and personal development? How do we help people see that it’s their prerogative now to be continually learning to stay relevant in a changing world?
My gut tells me that digital transformation is not disruptive enough because currently, it’s not inducing some kind of emotional shock in some people – not yet anyway – because they’re still doing much of the same thing in their work.
It feels like I’m waiting for the penny drop with corporate workers.
For me, it took 4 redundancies and hundreds of job interviews but I was still repeating the same formula when it came to finding work. It was only when I became long term unemployed and receiving benefits that somehow ‘something clicked’ in my head. I never wanted to be on the receiving end of a government hand out – this was my shock – but it was a lesson for me. From that, I opened up other opportunities to consider contract work and then later, independent consulting to now, where I’m working part-time.
I’ve come to terms that I need to be continually learning myself in order to stay relevant but I’m also fighting my own comfort zone. I recognise it when I do by the actions I DON’T take, and the excuses I give myself to maintain the status quo or seek solace from how we did things in the past. The way to overcome these feelings is to continually provide myself with ‘shocks/disruptions’ that get me out of my comfort zone. Yes, initially they will be uncomfortable, awkward and scary but over time, you do get used to it and at the end of it, you come out of it a better person.
Sometimes, I wish I was like George Orwell, who didn’t seem to have a problem in immersing himself into situations, living like a tramp, living in poverty in Paris or going down coal mines to understand how they worked there but let’s face it, many people work on the premise that “what we don’t know, won’t hurt us“.
Thing is, it’s proving to be flawed thinking especially nowadays.
What’s it take for them to realise this?