Archive for August, 2010

Don’t Stop Motion

August 31st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Are you a patient person? Will you spend as long as it takes to get something done or do you just rush to get it over and done with?  Do you have an eye for, and commitment to, detail? Will you be thorough and dedicated or are you more of the ‘slapdash’ type (these are often called ‘big picture’ people, sometimes a modern euphemism for ‘sloppy’)?

Would others describe you as a planner (by the way, how do others see you)?  Do you spend time planning your activities or do you just see how things unfold?

Are you known for your perseverance?  Do you make the effort and sustain the effort or do you look for an early exit as soon as it gets a bit boring?  Patience, planning and perseverance are central to learning and behavioural change but what have they got to do with this music video?

This is a ‘stop motion’ video, comprised of thousands and thousands of photographs, each one very slightly different to the one before.  When they are combined, the pictures flow together.  Flow is another characteristic of learning progress, as it can represent progress, movement and fluency.  The video is also a good example of how skills are built – bit by bit, piece by piece, a gradual, non-linear process that is often invisible to the learner except through reflection on extended effort.

To create a video like this requires planning, patience, a commitment to detail and systematic effort.  These are qualities that are important in your learning and change, but with one crucial difference.

Don’t stop motion.  Get moving – effort is essential.

In The Dark

August 30th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

The Hawthorne Effect describes atypical responses by those being studied that are due to the fact that they are being studied and not to the effect of the independent variable(s) that form the basis of the study.  Many of the original studies, from which the effect derives its name, manipulated factory illumination levels.  You could say that employees saw the light and reacted positively even when there was very little light by which to see.  Everybody likes to feel wanted and, as they are made to feel wanted, workers did a gloomy job in the gloom very well.  The gloomier it became, the better they worked.

But the results had nothing to do with illumination and everything to do with knowing that they were being subjected to being a subject.  What effect does actually being in the dark have?  Well, if you believe The Balconies, ‘if you do it in the dark, no-one sees it’:

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In fact, though, the evidence indicates that the fact that ‘no-one sees it’ is not all that relevant as being in the dark is sufficient to affect your behaviour even when darkness does not provide anonymity.  In two studies earlier this year, participants in relatively darker conditions (who could all see one another) displayed less ethical, more self-interested behaviour than their counterparts in lighter conditions.  If you behave poorly and other people can see you, it’s seems more likely to be dark!

Darkness as a metaphor can also apply to learning and behavioural change.  When you commence your journey, you are ‘in the dark’ and must work effortfully and persistently to illuminate and then manage the challenges.  At every stage, it is possible for you to remain ‘in the dark’ but this is now a different type of darkness – it’s the sort of darkness that you might consider enables you to cut corners, take shortcuts and place short-term interests ahead of lifelong learning.  After all, if you do it ‘in the dark’, then others may not see it; all you have to do is fool yourself.  And this is such an easy thing to do for legitimate reasons are scarce and flimsy excuses are abundant.

Find your own way – it’s harder but still possible ‘in the dark’.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 29th, 2010 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

Hhmm, in this study, about 50% of drug addicts got initially addicted via medications prescribed by their doctor.

The most isolated man on the planet.

Fantastic aerial photographs – Earth From Above.

The jokes judged as funniest at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Never underestimate the value of downtime.

‘Surfing’ a Morning Glory cloud formation.

Journey through canyons is stunning.

Confirm The Bias

August 27th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

The way I have thought influences the way I think now and not necessarily in a good way.  The things I have thought influences the way I think now and not necessarily in a good way.  Seeking ongoing confirmation of my previous thinking is a bit like continual mental aftershocks that upset unbiased operation and reinforce the past.

The way I have seen things influences the way I see things now and not necessarily in a good way.  The things I have seen influence what I see now and not necessarily in a good way.  Seeking ongoing confirmation of my previous experience places blinkers on me that distort the present and skew my behaviour.  When you look to reinforce what you have thought and what you have seen – in essence, what you believe – you will just see this video as another ‘pea and thimble’ exercise:

Confirmation bias is a tendency to protect your position (attitudes, predispositions, preconceptions etc), a position that reflects your past, by being selective in the present.  A desire to shape the ‘now’ as a means of justifying the ‘then’ constrains learning and change.  In this way, experience can be a potential obstacle to progress.

Can you appreciate the differences between being selective and being decisive?  How do you balance these influences on decision making?  Selective could suggest bias or discernment while decisive could reflect prompt and positive self-management or impulsive, reckless behaviour.  You have to find your own way.

Learning and behavioural change is a journey.  It’s an unexciting and unproductive journey if you never travel outside your own head.  If you review the evidence, can you confirm that statement?

Down, Down, Down We Go

August 26th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Located in Siberia and with an average depth of almost 750 metres and a maximum depth approaching 1,650 metres, Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake.  Challenger Deep, at the southern end of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, is the deepest point of the world’s oceans, reaching a depth of almost 11,000 metres.  Starting at the surface, any descent at either place would feel like you are just going down, down, down.  At the surface, there is little evidence of how deep you can go; you could swim around and have no idea that the bottom is a very long way below you.  You are immersed in much more water than you might ever realise.

These physical examples have many strong parallels with experiential learning and behavioural change; you don’t need to be a brave, bulging, buoyant clairvoyant to realise the importance of complexity and depth:

People talk about the ‘illusion of knowledge’, a situation in which people believe they understand more than they actually do.  One aspect of this illusion is the lack of explanatory depth; when you start to struggle with a task and seek to explain what the problems are, you realise how weak your grasp of the task and its demands actually is.  In experiential learning, you’ll never be able to unpack your performance through talking; with experience, you’ll demonstrate explanatory depth through what you do, not what you say.  It’s probably better to think of this as experiential depth.

It’s another tangled learning and performance web – overestimating knowledge and ability, underestimating the time and effort required and adopting the simplest, apparently most straightforward approach.  If you stay in the shallows, your learning will be shallow; if you venture progressively into deeper and deeper water, your learning will be deeper.  Learning and change are challenges; accept the challenges and be your own Challenger Deep!

Do Minds Ever Meet?

August 25th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can we ever be on the same page?  Do our minds ever meet?  In a broad, figurative sense, the answer is ‘Yes’; we are generally with (many but not all) others on a range of issues.  We say the same sorts of things, we align ourselves with normative standards and we generally behave in socially acceptable ways.  This is the big picture and, while it’s valid, it provides limited guidance for this picture is fuzzy.  It can be difficult to see the standards for the ‘snow’.

A person is clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.  After all, their thinking is generating their thoughts and, therefore, they know exactly what they are thinking.  Inside your head, your decisions, motives and actions are clear – all (personal) standards, no ‘snow’.  But this can’t, and doesn’t, extend to others; after all, you can only see their head, you can’t see inside it.  Therefore, it’s unclear just how accurate Fiona Apple’s  lyrics to ‘I Know’ actually are:

‘…I will pretend, that I don’t know of your sins

Until you are ready to confess, but all the time, all the time,

I’ll know, I’ll know

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How, and how well, do you interpret the actions of others?  Evidence indicates that we are biased in this interpretation, seeing ourselves as objective (because we know and justify (to ourselves) our own actions on the basis that we know exactly why we are behaving in a particular way) and others as wrong or misguided (because we fail to realise that we lack the complete picture that may explain their actions).  Assuming that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are (to us) leads to many attribution errors.

Interestingly, we also treat our future selves in this way.  We cannot know exactly what we’ll be thinking at some point in the future and so we predict our actions as that of ‘others’ rather than ourselves.  We equate others now with ourselves in the future (as both are similarly opaque to us) and become more biased in our assessments of both as a consequence.

Can you see how this relates to learning and behavioural change?  Knowing what you think is very different to thinking that you know.  Knowing what you think is an imperfect guide for learning, behaviour and change, unless you are, in fact, perfect; in fact, you are not perfect so this shouldn’t be used as the justification!  Thinking that you know (without the experience or understanding to support this view) can lead to overconfidence and error.  It’s vital that you find your own way to sort out the connections between knowing, thinking, doing and learning.

Motivated To Reconcile

August 24th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

When I first heard that song, I hated it but then it went to Number 1 on the charts and all my friends loved it.  Now, when I listen to it, I realise it’s got a lot going for it.  I must have been confusing it with another song that’s nowhere near as good as it is!  It can’t be good and bad at the same time so I’ll rewrite a little bit of personal history in real time – I like that song now, I liked that song then, I’ve always liked that song.  Problem solved!

In learning, behavioural change and life, we often hold incompatible thoughts at the same time, thoughts that we seek to reconcile or rationalise.  If you know that ‘2 plus 2 equals 4’ while also thinking that, in particular circumstances, it suits you to think that ‘2 plus 2 can equal 5’, you have to address and overcome this dissonance.  How can you close, or eliminate, the gap between 4 and 5, between your feelings for the song and its level of success?  You are motivated to find ways to do this as the alternative is to be a ‘walking contradiction’:

The easiest but least constructive method for removing dissonance is to simply be dishonest with ourselves.  You can fool some of the people some of the time and you can fool yourself all of the time, should you so choose.  When you fool yourself in this way, you are just being foolish.  Pretending does not lead to mending.

And this dishonesty can affect many other aspects of learning and change, including the core processes of reflection and self-management.  When we’re talking about a song, it probably doesn’t matter if you rewrite your personal history so that harmony replaces dissonance.  You have to work out when it does matter and what you’re going to do about it.  You are motivated to reconcile; can you always reconcile how you reconcile without pretending?

Don’t Do That, D’Oh

August 23rd, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Remember the thinking challenge about penguins in The Manager Manages The Manager ?  Trying to suppress thoughts doesn’t work as you think about what you’re trying to suppress in order to establish how well you’re doing in not thinking about the thing you are just thinking about.  D’Oh.  Don’t think about what I’ve just written.  D’Oh, D’Oh.

But this mechanism isn’t just confined to thoughts, it also extends to behaviours and, what’s even more of a concern, is that it seems to lead to a strong rebound effect.  If you are trying to control your behaviour through ‘mind control’ alone, things will probably only get worse!

Things may not get worse in the short term, though, as the sole effect of willpower will kick in at the start.  Whether the target behaviour is related to diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption or many other things, the resolution to uphold the (New Year’s) Resolution doesn’t evaporate immediately.  But it will; it might take a few days, weeks or even months until the resolve breaks.  And then things break down and break out.  If you just try to suppress your thoughts or behaviours, you’ll go dizzy from running circles in your head and then you’ll break out: 


Sure, you can keep a lid on things for a while, you can stick to that diet or that exercise plan, you can stop smoking or reduce your drinking, through thinking and willing.  But will thinking ever be enough?  The answer is no!

It is not possible to manage complex behaviours through simple solutions.  Trying to achieve one thing by suppressing thoughts of another thing isn’t just ineffective, it makes the situation worse through the rebound effect.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 22nd, 2010 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

A medical model can only take you so far, and then you must transcend it to achieve further progress.

Removing access barriers at the Smithsonian.

Earth observation for climate change, a challenge for space policy – why is it so difficult to do such sensible things?

In science or the media, once something is said it usually stays.  That is why Retraction Watch is valuable.

The floods in Pakistan, the Moon, and many other things – compare them to things you already know to establish how big they really are.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some things don’t add up – wouldn’t that be amazing!

Do you remember?  Apricot is a hauntingly beautiful short film.

You Are In Your Own Words

August 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has previously dealt with the contrast between situation and personality (see Overpowering); essentially, what you do tells me more about the situation than it tells me about who you are.  Actions do speak louder than words and we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that your actions reflect your personality.

However, you are in your own words – what you say about me also says something about you.  There is a link between elements of your personality and what you say about others on these same elements; if I describe you as outgoing, positive or well-adjusted, it is, in part, a reflection of the fact that I am also outgoing, positive or well-adjusted.  While these assessments are reasonably stable over time and therefore reliable, they may vary in validity.  Can you understand why this may the case (hint: it has something to do with ‘overpowering’)?

It’s also worthwhile disentangling the content of these assessments from their process, separating the ‘what’ from the ‘how’.  Both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ could be expected to be consistent in broad terms; if the ‘what’ (positive or negative) reflects aspects of your personality, the message will probably be delivered in a similar (positive or negative) way.  One of these may be more affected by the situation – can you identify which one?

What you do tells me about the situation and what you say tells me more about you.  These broad principles are examined in this great song by Kate Miller-Heidke  – the words that were spoken being overpowered by the situation ….. and I’m sorry:

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‘And I turned my back and just walked away’.  For sometimes, it is the things we don’t say (or don’t do) that define us more strongly.  You are in your own words and you are also in your own silences.

Expect And Dream

August 19th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

If I can dream, how should I dream and what else should I do?  Wendy Matthews sings:

If I can dream of a better land,

Where all my brothers walk hand in hand,

Tell me why, oh why, oh why, can’t my dream come true.


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So, why don’t some dreams come true?  Should I expect my dreams to come true?  I am positive that something negative might help.  Dreams can be fantastic in several senses of that word, including the sense that they may be fantasies – there is a difference between imaginative and imaginary.

Dreams are also of events yet to occur and there may be much that intervenes in the interim; although they will often be grounded in past or present occurrences, this foundation is usually more tenuous than another type of future-oriented thought, expectation.  Expectations have a harder edge to them than dreams; they can be based more strongly on evidence and are more amenable to probabilistic assessments.  An expectation is more akin to anticipation whereas dreams have more in common with hopes.

Don’t get me wrong – both have important roles to play.  We just need to sort out the relationship between them.  What should we expect from expectations?  Well, it’s probably not unexpected to discover that the evidence indicates that positive expectations are more predictive of success than negative expectations – there are probably elements of self-fulfilling prophesies at work here.  But it’s the evidence on dreams or fantasies that is more surprising.

When people were asked not what they expected to happen but what they imagined these happenings to be like, those who reported negative fantasies were more likely to succeed than those whose ‘dreams’ were more positive.  It is possible for positive dreams to become an end in their own right rather than a (motivating) means to the desired end; if the positive dream is enjoyed now, it is less likely to produce goal achievement in the future.  The dream is enjoyed even though it never leads anywhere.

Think through this as it applies to experiential learning or behavioural change.  Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success.  Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based.  Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.

Expect the positive and imagine the negative!

Fro And To

August 18th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Time marches on – while gravity slows time, it doesn’t alter its direction.  It may come to pass that time travel is possible but, for now, our everyday perception of time is that it moves in just one way, forwards, and at a constant rate.  But it is possible to manipulate time perception so that there is a mismatch between our perceptions and actual time.  Proverbially, time waits for no man but, if the circumstances are right, some people feel that they have to wait longer for the same amount of time to pass!  Naturally, if the circumstances are modified, the same amount of time can be made to feel shorter than it actually is.

Time marches on; time also flies.  It marches on all the time but, apparently, it only flies when you’re having fun.  If you’re not having fun, time can drag.  Would you imagine that manipulating your perception of time will affect your perception of fun?  Isn’t ‘fun’ derived directly from your activity rather than how long you believe you’ve been doing it?  Perhaps the best example of the relationship between time and fun is that of time lapse films such as this one:

Compressing time, making it ‘fly’, in this way can be entertaining and fun but fun can also compress time!  It turns out perceptions of time and fun, just like perceptions of other related combinations, can operate in both directions.  That is, you can manipulate either one to produce the appropriate perception of the other.  It’s not a case of ‘to’, it’s a case of to and fro, and fro and to.

Can you think of ways in which you could creatively apply this ‘two-way street’ to your experiential learning?  More importantly, perhaps, does this ‘two-way street’ alter your views on cause and effect?  One of the constraints on effort is a view that both the activity you’re learning and the ‘world’ in which you learn it comprise simple, linear cause and effect relationships that are easily understood and rapidly accommodated into performance.  This isn’t the case!

One way sees you heading ‘to’, two-way might see you moving to and fro but the world of experiential learning and behavioural change is actually multi-way.  In this world, you move to and fro, and fro and to, and to and to and fro and to, and fro, fro, to, fro and to etc.  A cause causes an effect that causes the first cause to become an effect, and so on. Other cause-effect-cause chains are operating in parallel.

Is time dragging for you right now?  This perceived effect must be caused by gravity; the only other possible explanation I can think of would be boredom and that can’t be right.

Step Outside

August 17th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Isn’t life and learning so much easier, more understandable and more predictable when you are able to view it as a spectator?  Sitting in the grandstand and watching events unfold down on the field is a luxury that we all have from time to time.  And everything is much clearer – you can judge what others should be doing, you notice things that they fail to realise and you can often spot the way events are unfolding well before those involved do.

But neither your life, nor your learning, is a spectator sport.  You are always on the field, never in the grandstand.  Without the physical and psychological distance available to spectators, people have to make sense of their actions while being in the middle of the action.  Chris Rea was perhaps only half right when he sang, “And I see you, And I see me, I see it all, Just like a diary”:

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I see you because I am a spectator whereas I can only ‘see’ me because I am the actor.  These perspectives can produce very different results, in part because spectators operate on incomplete information while actors have much more information (including information hidden from spectators) at their disposal.  But the main point for today is how do I see me as you see me.  How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

The more correct approach is to introduce some psychological distance into the assessment process by becoming a spectator of your own actions.  In this way, your own assessment becomes more divorced, more abstract; you are not basing it on your own direct information but on an abstraction.  The associations between my more abstract views and your view are stronger.

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

Purpose Full

August 16th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There are many behavioural and emotional correlates of motivation, ways in which your motivation is broadcast to the world around you.  Persistence is one such correlate, resilience is yet another.  Patience, hope, and curiosity are other ways in which you can exhibit your motivation.  Motivation is goal-directed; it is the effort and energy you channel into achieving your goals.  But there has been some recent work exploring a construct that sits above goals, something that spans and unifies different aspects of your life.  This something can have a profound influence on your learning and positive behavioural change.

And that something is purpose.  Purpose gives meaning to the journey.  If you make a commitment to wait for someone, your whole purpose (not just one of many goals) becomes one of waiting for them:

What are the characteristics of ‘purpose’ as a cognitive process?  Firstly, purpose defines life goals, not activity goals (some of which are compatible with purpose, some of which are incompatible – such is life).  Secondly, purpose provides personal meaning across and beyond activities rather than within them.  Thirdly, purpose provides general and generalised direction to your life rather than specific directions for any part of it.

In any learning session, you can have an aim; if you don’t, then that session, and your learning, could well be aimless.  Across sessions within an activity and between activities, you can have goals; if you don’t, your efforts will flow in all directions, thus becoming directionless.

Beyond activities, you can have a purpose, the influence of which will be reflected in everything you do.  Purpose enables you to strive for consistency and authenticity across and beyond the specific activities you undertake.  Be purpose full.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 15th, 2010 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

Earth as a process, not an object.

This visual diary of a long-haul flight will strike a chord with many who have had to tolerate a seemingly endless flight.

Five trillion seems excessive – couldn’t we just round it off to 3.1416?

Is foam a hidden danger in helmets?

You can get to a place where you’re sort of free ..”  Catching the wave makes the struggle worthwhile.

Don’t curse me; everything you ever wanted to know about the Tutankhamun excavation can be found here.

50 People, 1 Question.  How would you answer it?

That’s Wrong, I Believe

August 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s no real difference between “I believe that’s wrong” and “That’s wrong I believe”.  Both relate to a judgment that something is incorrect (or unacceptable).  However, there is a big difference between “That’s wrong I believe” and “That’s wrong, I believe”, and it’s all in the power of the comma.  The second version, the one with the comma, does not necessarily mean that the something is incorrect (or unacceptable).  What’s going on here?

It might be clearer if I write, “That’s wrong, I believe differently”.  In this case, the something may still be incorrect (or unacceptable) and your belief is valid; however, it is also possible that the something is correct (or normatively acceptable), an outcome that you refuse to acknowledge due to your belief (part of which has been shown to be invalid).  And the evidence is that we’ll do most everything we can to discredit and reject (correct) information that is contrary to our beliefs.  An open mind is a laudable aim and a difficult practice.  When you look at the world around you, what do you see?

When there is evidence that a belief you hold  is incorrect, you generally do not modify the belief; rather, you set out to protect your belief.  You will look for mistakes in the evidence, try to get other information that supports your position, attack the messenger, ignore the evidence or simply and more strongly re-affirm your belief, often with the support of those who share your view.  While there are a number of factors that will mediate your response, the principle of belief protection in the face of correct and contrary evidence is a clear and common practice.  Things may not be as different as chalk and cheese if, for whatever reason, you ‘believe’ that chalk is cheese.  In such circumstances, it can be surprisingly difficult to convince you otherwise.

You will have beliefs and expectations of your learning before you have experience of it.  Before the first ‘practice’ session or before you commit to changing your behaviour, you may already have a belief as to what it will be like, how you will go and what you need to do.  And the temptation is ever-present to force your experience to conform to these beliefs and/or to reject evidence and outcomes that remain inconsistent.

Will you place your beliefs about learning above your learning?  Will you distort your experience so that it conforms to your beliefs?  ‘tis nobler suggests two answers to these questions for your consideration:

Firstly, that’s wrong I believe.  Secondly, that’s wrong, I believe.

Do Or Blue

August 12th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Resistance isn’t futile, despite what the Borg might say.  Resilience, resourcefulness and repetition are common themes in experiential learning and behavioural change but you don’t hear that much about resistance.  Resistance could have negative connotations derived from resistance to treatment or resistance to change.

But there can be positive dimensions to resistance, particularly resistance to idleness.  Idleness may be our preferred natural state, stemming from an evolutionary preference for managing scant resources by making as few demands on them as possible.  Activity needs ‘fuel’ and acquiring ‘fuel’ needs activity – less activity requires less ‘fuel’.  There is a direct cost with every activity so, if you take it easy whenever you can, you’ll only need to ‘hunt’ occasionally!  There has to be a justifiable reason to overcome this preference for idleness.

But times change; these days, the reason doesn’t have to be too compelling.  There are two explanations for this; firstly, the evidence indicates that we are happier when we are busy and, secondly, we seem satisfied to use excuses (rather than reasons) to justify action over inaction.  Being happy by being busy and using the excuse of ‘work’ to make the effort are features of this fantastic video by OK Go :

In learning and change, effort is essential and you have to overcome your instinct for idleness in order to make it (where ‘it’ is deliberately ambiguous, representing both effort and achievement).  For every excuse for not doing something, there is both a reason and an excuse for doing it.  If the excuses cancel out each other, you’re just left with a reason, a reason to be active, a reason to be involved in your learning and self-management.

And you’ll be happier.  It really is a case of “Do or Blue”, so the choice is simple.  Do!

Every Island, All The Water

August 11th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

By definition, islands are surrounded by water; the great majority of islands are designated as tropical.  Tropical islands conjure up many romantic images – blue water, white sand, coral reefs and palm trees – and have a timeless appeal.  Josh Rouse  sings about his desire to live on islands:

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‘Islands’ have, however, held back progress in experiential learning and behavioural change for a long time.  Think of an ‘island’ as a concept, any concept, which pertains to learning or change and you’ll have islands dotted all over the place.  Over there you can see an ‘attitude to authority’ island, off to the left you have a ‘perception of risk’ island and, to the right, you’ll find the islands comprising the Cognitive Bias Archipelago.  Many, many islands abound, all cut off from each other by water.  As a result, everybody tends to stay on their own island.  They think their island represents the best approach.

Over time, people might tire of their particular island – after all, you can only have so many variations on a limited theme – and start island hopping.  There’s no great plan, often no underlying logic, but, if one island is good, two islands must be better.  And, in this way, tradition crafts experiential learning and behavioural change programs,  grounded very much in the designer’s ‘home’, occasionally expanded through a bit of aimless island hopping.  Look around you, examine your own experience; can you see the ‘islands’?

These posts may appear to be  islands, with what appears to be a daily bout of island hopping.  But these posts are definitely not aimless and, most importantly, they are not the learning model upon which ‘tis nobler sits; they are but a small insight into one part of the model.  Can you imagine a limitless region of islands rather than just a small island group?  Can you imagine a place where the water is as important as the land?  Can you imagine a place where, despite their number and diversity, all the islands and all the stretches of water are included?  Can you imagine leaving tradition behind and hacking the present?

You can hack a lot further than you can hop!  Holistic is better than haphazard; it is impossible to pick and choose validly, which is why you need every island and all the water.

The Manager Manages The Manager

August 10th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

When I count to five, you can think of anything you like except penguins.  Ready?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  Now I’ll wait 30 seconds.

You lose, for the chances are that penguins, in some shape or form, popped into your head.  After all, you are a sentient being, a being that thinks and feels about what it thinks and feels – you have an awareness of your awareness, you can be consciously conscious.  With the explicit goal of not thinking about penguins, you will have monitored your progress towards achieving that goal by thinking about penguins.  You lose the game but, through thinking through how you think, you win at experiential learning and behavioural change.  Assuming you engage and connect rather than drift, that is.  If you have seen ‘The Matrix’, it’s like the choice between the red pill and the blue pill.  Always take the metaphorical red pill.

For this enables metacognitive thinking- the thinking about how we are thinking, the thinking about how we are feeling – something we are all capable of doing and yet something that is done less frequently than it should be.  Could this be explained by the attractiveness of drifting and/or an aversion towards effort?  If you think things look OK as they are or if you are satisfied when things are satisfactory, extra effort and a deeper connection may be difficult to justify.  The opportunity costs of this perspective are enormous.

It is possible, perhaps common, and undesirable to just coincide with learning opportunities, rather than fully engage with them.  If you proceed in parallel with learning opportunities, physically attending without being attentive, your effort may never overlap with these learning opportunities.  It is possible to be isolated from yourself as well as other people; as R.E.M.  sing in ‘Hollow Man’, I’ve been lost inside my head ….For saying things I didn’t mean and don’t believe …… I’ve become the hollow man I see ….:

Don’t be hollow – thinking about your thinking is vital.  Self-management is crucial but not sufficient for efficient learning and sustainable behavioural change.  Through metacognitive thinking – self-monitoring, self-assessing, reflecting and predicting, thinking about how you are thinking and feeling – you can actively manage your self-management.  You are the manager and you are also the one who manages the manager.  Can you manage that?

Choose Then Choose Again

August 9th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you feel when someone demands that you do something?  Even if it is something you like to do, being forced to do it can be irritating, if not upsetting.  When you freely decide to do something, your perspective of the task will be different than when the task is imposed on you – there are big differences between “I’ll do it because I want to” and “Do this because I tell you to”.  Coercive compliance underpins many educational activities; volitional action is a much less frequent feature.  A volitional choice, even if perceived as ‘wrong’ by others, embodies greater learning weight and has positive implications for motivation, engagement and sustained effort.  But there is one aspect of choice that might be risky.  And that is why you must choose and then choose again.

That aspect is risk.  There are many factors that influence perception of risk and choice is one of them, although its direct role is difficult to disentangle from other influences.  Still, if you choose to engage in an activity, you will generally perceive it as less risky; after all, it’s your choice!  If you see others engaging in that activity, particularly if their actions may affect you, you tend to view their behaviour as more risky.  In your opinion, what’s OK for you to do is apparently not OK for them to do because the risk they expose you to through their actions is not your choice.  Naturally, they’ll be thinking exactly the same!

Still, it seems that it’s better to choose your risk than to receive their riskiness.  Both aspects can be managed if you choose, then choose again, and again, and again.

An activity’s objective level of risk will not be altered simply because you have chosen to do it; choosing how you do it can reduce this level of risk.  However, when choice alone lowers your perception of risk, you may not be as rigorous in self management.  Choice does not stop at ‘What’; it must continue on to select the ‘How’.  And there is not a single ‘How’ choice to be made.  There is an ongoing series of ‘How’ choices to be made – it’s called self management.

For there are consequences to all of the ‘What’ and ‘How’ choices you make, unless you’re the man or woman in this video:

By themselves, ‘What’ choices reduce perceived risk and may increase objective risk as you may not see the need for protective behaviours.  But ‘What’ choices shouldn’t be influenced by risk, perceived or otherwise; rather, they should be influenced by what you want to do.  ‘How’ decisions are designed to manage risk after you have made the ‘What’ decisions that interest, excite or motivate you.  Your choices are crucial; choose whatever ‘What’ activities you want but then make appropriate ‘How’ decisions again and again.