you are the most important person in the universe.
so is everyone else.
—e. e. cummings
Ultimately, you’re responsible for the life you lead. It’s up to you to learn what you need to succeed. That makes you responsible for your own knowledge management, learning architecture, instructional design and evaluation.
Professionally, we design learning experiences to meet concrete objectives. We plan ahead to prepare for the future. We try to avoid reinventing the wheel. We build systems to leverage the knowledge we already possess. We gather feedback so we can do better next time.
Personally, we should do no less. Intellectual capital is what separates winners from losers, and I want the best I can get. My personal learning and knowledge management are too important to leave to chance. So are yours.
Choose your goals. For next month, the next year, the next decade and before you die. Think about what you must learn to achieve them.
Become aware of how you learn. Your brain hosts a continuous, internal conversation. If you don’t like what you hear, change it.
You don’t need to know something if you know where to find it. Set up your own knowledge repository. For 20 years, I’ve saved factoids, quotations and reference information on my computer. It’s searchable. I couldn’t do without it.
You are what you learn. List your inputs—magazines, Web sites, courses and colleagues. Will these inputs enable you to learn what you need to know? If not, change them.
Life is not a true-or-false test. Everything is relative. Recognizing that what once appeared black or white is actually a continuum of grays is healthy unlearning.
Deep learning takes reflection. Every time you learn something, make a connection to something you already know. After attending any event, I give myself time to look over my notes, to write and to draw mind maps. Friends who took 6 a.m. flights to get back to the office won’t retain nearly as much as I will.
Hanging out with the same crowd all the time limits innovation and encourages groupthink. To learn new things, leave your comfort zone and sample new disciplines and cultures. Use the Web to read other countries’ newspapers, other professions’ journals and other people’s blogs.
Imagine that your field of work is a spinning disk. Things at the center move very slowly. Innovation resides at the periphery, far from that slow, established core. The edge is where your work interacts with that of others. You’ve got to be edgy if you seek fresh perspective.
Be your own sports psychologist. Visualize achieving your goals. Then go for it!
The process of change sees to it that lots of what you’ve learned is obsolete, inappropriate or simply dead wrong. The world is riddled with complexity. Admitting that some of what you know is wrong makes room to learn new things.
To deepen understanding and plant something in memory, teach it to someone else.
Human nature values urgency over importance. If the phone rings while you’re working on an important project, you answer it. You defer the important to tend to the trivial. Dumb move. Dedicate time each day for long-term thinking. Take time to learn. Remember the 80/20 rule! And don’t forget to cut off the phone.
Level 1. Are you happy? Do you lead the life you want to lead?
Level 2. Can you demonstrate what you’re learning? Is your learning sound?
Level 3. Are you progressing in ways that increase your economic value? Are you deepening relationships with family and friends? Are you growing spiritually?
Level 4. Are you doing your part to make the world a better place?
Jay Cross is CEO of eLearningForum, founder of Internet Time Group and a fellow of meta-learninglab.com. For more information, e-mail Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.