Posts Tagged ‘depth’

Design Floors

January 18th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Look around you.  And then explore, analyse and establish.  Can you see the design floors?

A design floor is the ultimate and fundamental design flaw.  Individually, design flaws are often simple to identify and, with the right tools, rectify – at least in part.  Perfection is an asymptotic concept; striving for constant improvement will get you closer and closer without ever actually arriving.  Don’t be fooled though, design flaws can be persistent, ingrained and resistant to change.  Flawless is a nonsensical objective but ‘flaw less’ can be attained.

But the design floor might appear impossible to overcome, for it must be achieved through revolution rather than evolution.  Design floors can’t be tinkered with, they must be tossed out!  A design floor is the foundation on which a program, policy or pursuit is based, a foundation that allows certain things and constrains or eliminates other things.

Floors are low, not deep; when you think about it, floors can be viewed as a shield against the deep.  And low is close to the lowest common denominator, low is close to shallow and low is very close to face validity.  Low is about appearance rather than substance, low is about the bottom rather than the deep and the deep is the only way to get to the top.

Foundations can be strong but this needs effort, insight and persistence.  Foundations can be weak and this just requires disinterest and a willingness to tolerate the design floor; despite these weaknesses, things often keep rolling on:

It’s another fundamental choice in experiential learning and behavioural change.  Will you tolerate design floors and pretend that things are as good as they can be?  Or will you actively work to rectify design flaws and realise that things can be better than they are?


Adding Up

January 16th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.

That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it.  And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths.  In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!

10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.

That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Life and learning are not additive pursuits.  When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient.  Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’.  Transcend the mechanical.

2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.

That’s a reflection of values.  While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth.  Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.  Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:

Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity.  Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth.  It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  But there are infinite ways to get to 10. 

The best way is your way. Find it



Now Or Never?

December 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This week has seen ‘tis nobler explore the concept of happiness.  Apart from the ‘slow down’ post on Christmas Day, this is the last post of 2011.  ‘tis nobler can see a personal link between those two statements but would be disappointed if readers made the same connection.

To finish off for the time being, it’s now or never, and variations thereof.  ‘Now or never’ is often said with a motivational purpose, so what is the connection with happiness?  There is a connection; in fact there are many connections, which is why you must always find your own way.  There is no other way to navigate experiential learning and behavioural change; anybody who tells you different is selling you short or sending you off (your) course.

This connection is as much about principle as it is about evidence, it is as much about emotion as it is about reason and it is only about you, no-one else.  It is about trying to learn from the past rather than alter its meaning (see Monday’s post) and it is about trying to change the attractively abstract into the contentedly concrete (see Wednesday’s post).  And, perhaps most of all, it is about now and it is not now, or perhaps ever, about ‘about’.  Or is it, for these choices are yours alone?

There is evidence that ‘small and often’ is more potent that ‘large and occasional’ in producing happiness.  ‘Small’ can be a very discriminating predictor – a momentary delay during a pleasant experience can produce higher ratings of happiness as it creates the perception of two pleasant experiences.  And two is better than one.  Similarly, there are many studies investigating the relationship between money and happiness; in summary, it seems some helps but more doesn’t help more.

It is just as dubious to conclude that money or small pleasures cause happiness as it is conclude that money or small pleasures will cause you to be happy.  Understanding the former can be assisted by this insightful and accessible article  while understanding the latter can be assisted by appreciating the deep and durable power of ‘Find Your Own Way’.

Being happy now – as they say, ‘IN’ your life – or pursuing happiness – as they say, being happy ‘ABOUT’ your life – are not mutually exclusive or perfectly and consistently relevant to you.  Not now does not mean never, just as now does not mean always!  You must make personal sense of all of this rather than expect the meaning derived by others to apply to you as well; you must create it yourself rather than receive it from others.  After all, effort is essential.  And that message is a good way to see out 2011.

Enjoy this music video;

See you in 2012!

How Typical

December 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is that heading a statement, probably pejorative in nature, or is it a question without the question mark?  What’s that – you think it’s a statement?  How typical (which ‘tis nobler confirms is not a question).  Sorry, that sounded unintentionally pejorative, which is not typical of ‘tis nobler.

And, with your interest in experiential learning and behavioural change (why else would you be reading this?), it’s not typical of you either.

But what is typical, particularly when most of these judgements concern ‘global’ concepts, concepts that may have concrete definitions that mask their abstract nature?  Are you a typical teenager?  Are you a typical learner?  Are you typical of those trying to change their behaviour?  Are you a typical driver?  Are you typical?

The short answer to these questions is that people regard others who are similar to themselves as typical.  You are typical if you are like me for I like to regard myself as typical – I fit the ‘model’, I am the archetype.  There’s an interesting interplay going on here:

If you are like me, you are typical (for I consider myself the standard), and/or

If I like you (or what you are doing), you are typical (for I consider myself to be or do exactly like that too).

As Jamie Foxx sings in the song ‘Just Like Me’ – You’re just like me and I’m just like you …… How typical. How typical?

Think about and through the possible processes going on.  There may be elements of efficient pattern matching intertwined with perceptions of personal qualities that are influenced by self esteem in this judgement process.  It seems that concluding that someone else is typical is typically complicated.  The implications of this process can be equally complicated when you think about ‘Islands’:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.  Further, if I think you are dissimilar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am less likely to behave poorly.  In both these cases, I don’t need to know anything about you other than your level of similarity.

Assuming someone is typical because they are like you is typical.  Of course, people are books but you can only see their ‘covers’ in judging whether they are typical or not.

Do you judge a book by its cover?  How typical is this cover of the book?  Does your pattern matching transcend the cover?  Based on the way you answer these questions, should ‘tis nobler apply the statement, the question or both?

How typical.  How typical?

The End Of Fooling

December 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

That must be good news, surely – the end of fooling.  However, where fooling ends is not necessarily the end of fooling.

In a 1939 radio address, President Franklin D Roosevelt uttered these words:

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

This is undoubtedly true in principle.  A fiction does not become a fact simply through the process of being repeated.  But the evidence indicates that it is not always true in practice, particularly where an individual and management of their own behaviour is concerned.

Unless we are vigilant, monitoring and managing our behaviour, the ‘lies’ we employ can and do transform into our ‘truths’.  Fooling ends because we no longer consider ourselves to be fooling and that is, perhaps, the ultimate foolishness.  The Doobie Brothers acknowledged this in their – What A Fool Believes – when they sang that ‘what a fool believes, he see’:

Fooling can end when we ‘see the light’.  However, fooling can also end when we hide the light so deeply that we forget that this particular light exists, replacing it with the false illumination produced by our deceptive behaviour.

The approach known as bounded rationality does not mean that our rationality is applied in leaps and bounds; it means that our rationality can be constrained.  Our rationality is not bound (in the sense of ‘heading for’) the right reason or understanding.  Rather, it is bound (in the sense of ‘tied up’) to just a slice of the situation we find ourselves in.  Within this situational slice, it is both easy and tempting to distort things to suit your needs and then consider this distortion as truth.  Are lies the new honesty?

What a fool believes, he sees.  If you see it often enough, what you see eventually becomes true for you.  The end of fooling is determined by what you remember and what you forget.  Will you remember to not believe your own lies or will you forget that your own lies are (and will always remain) lies?  Do you repeatedly transform your own lies into truths?

Would I Lie To You?

November 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

One aim of experiential learning is to make sense of the world around you.  Armed with this understanding, you are better able to cope with the ‘usually usual’ and its variations.  Sense comprises a number of dimensions – good/bad, valid/invalid, possible/impossible, right/wrong, expected/unexpected and many more.

It is not application of these polar extremes within a given situation that enables you to manage effectively but your ability, developed through extensive experience, to discern and act on all of the subtleties that may appear between them.  Being able to appreciate the rich detail between these poles, the many shades of grey rather than just black and white, is an indicator of expertise.

Today’s post focuses on another dimension – true/untrue.  There is self deception, something that ‘tis nobler has written about here and here; let’s look at social deception in this post.  There are various guides to language, both verbal and body, that present indicators of deception.  These indicators are similar to the ‘poles’ of sense, perhaps helpful at a general level but rarely relevant at the specific level.  Deception interacts with intention to make the implausible plausible and the unreasonable reasonable.  This is absolutely true – if you don’t believe ‘tis nobler, believe The Eurythmics:

Do people lie to you?  Of course they do, for communication is not restricted to a neutral process of information transmission.  There are no ‘one size fits all situations’ recipes – life is not that neat and predictable.  There is, however, some evidence-based guidance that is summarised below; be warned, some of this guidance is drawn from the literature and some of it is concocted.  How and why will you establish the difference for therein lies the real value in this message?

Those seeking to deceive:

Say as little as possible to avoid tripping up.  Or do they hide their deception by speaking a lot?

Justify what they are saying while saying it.  Or do they fail to provide a justification?

Pay close attention to your reactions as they speak.  Or do they pay little attention to the reception of their story?

Will speak faster as the story unfolds. Or do they speak slower to make sure they remain consistent?

The statements are correct.  Or are the questions correct?  Perhaps some statements and some questions are true.  Confronting the need to discern truth from untruth is an ongoing challenge as part of your mission to make sense of the world.  It is unlikely you will encounter the logical absurdity of the Liar’s Paradox; it is much more likely that you will need to resolve issues on a relative basis.

And in a relative, probabilistic and imperfect world, the one thing you can always apply to this task is effort.  Would ‘tis nobler lie to you?

Just Must

November 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the relationship between ‘just’ and ‘must’?  It sounds initially like an imperative relationship – You JUST MUST do this, go there or see that.  But there’s a deeper connection – there’s always a deeper connection.

The deeper connection is similar to the connection between fairness and fault.  If you view the world as just, often a series of ‘must’ statements follow to reinforce this view.  For the world to be just, the bad things that happen to people just must be their fault.  When you have a choice between the world and a ‘victim’, it’s easier to blame the ‘victim’ than modify your world-view.

Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote:

As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Think of the choice that is available to all of us all of the time – we can examine and explain or we can believe and blame.  The former takes a lot of effort and may not always be possible or successful but the alternative, while simple and tempting, will invariably be counterproductive.  This is not an argument against beliefs; it is a suggestion to review the connection between belief and blame.  Does it make sense for specific blame (it must have been your fault and you got what you deserved) to flow from a general belief (the world is a decent place)?

‘tis nobler has examined this music video.  ‘tis nobler cannot explain it.  Nor can ‘tis nobler believe it.  However, ‘tis nobler is not about to blame The Who for their ‘failure’:

Blame is an attractive proposition for it protects your belief that bad things happen to people who deserve these things.  Which path will you take – the ‘examine and explain’ journey or the ‘believe and blame’ shortcut?

You have to choose either the ‘Es’ or the ‘Bs’ as this fundamental choice determines the direction and distance of your learning.  You can move forward and keep moving or you can stay where you are and just go through the motions without much progress.

Choose? You just must.

Standard Bearers

November 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration.  Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards?  Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?

When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards?  It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.

Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.

It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals.  And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality.  Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:

We weren’t born to follow

Come on and get up off your knees

When life is a bitter pill to swallow

You gotta hold on to what you believe

Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you.  ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need.  Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.

Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise?  Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards.  Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly.  We weren’t born to follow in this way.

Exactly Like You

November 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Who is exactly like you?  While a range of criteria could be used to answer this question, let’s just use one – standards.

As individuals, we have standards.  Some of these standards are personal, others are broadly normative and yet others are societal.  In descending order of importance (from the personal to the societal), these standards help to define us.

As members of a small group, we have standards.  Some of these standards remain personal, others reflect specific group norms.  Broadly normative and societal standards also remain in place.

As members of a larger group, we have standards.  Some of these standards reflect specific group norms, while broadly normative and societal standards remain in place.  Did you notice the change?

In the previous post, the relationship between anonymity and aberration was explored in general terms – with anonymity comes aberration.  But, as groups get larger, our personal standards recede further and further into the distance.  Does this indicate that there are degrees of anonymity?  Is it possible for the personal to disappear completely within the impersonal group?  The evidence supports the notion of disappearance.

Anonymity breeds aberration and the more anonymous you believe you are, the more aberrant your behaviour becomes.  In large groups, you can scan the sea of faces trying to find someone like you:

And realise, perhaps ashamedly, that they are all like you and you are like all of them.  Situations overwhelm standards and inhibitions disappear as your personal standards depart.  Due to the situation and the behaviour of others, you become someone like you and not someone exactly like you.

What does it take to be exactly like you across situations and within groups?  Only you can answer that question.  It is essential to realise, though, that self management doesn’t cease simply because you’re with others!

Skilful Or Superstitious?

November 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Birds of a feather flock together, for they say like attracts like, whether they like it or not.  If you combine sufficient and sufficiently robust ‘likes’ together, a pattern is produced.  But what does ‘of a feather’ actually mean in practice?

More importantly, when any two or more things flock together, does this mean they are ‘of a feather’?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that subjective assessments determine the presence or absence of beauty.  What about patterns – are they also in the eye of the beholder?  Are one person’s patterns another person’s coincidences?

The development, refinement and ongoing validation of patterns underpin skilled performance.  The generation of such patterns could be considered the primary objective of experiential learning.  As you now know, patterns afford greater effectiveness and much greater efficiency of performance.

You take a big chunk out of the required effort to do something because you’ve put in the required effort to establish chunks!

Nevertheless, each and every pattern is affected by transient outliers; such novelties could the unusual forms of the usual or usual forms of the unusual.  In contrast, patterns are usual forms of the usual, which usually apply most (but not all) of the time.  Sorting out the unusual ‘usual’ (unexpected variations), the usual ‘unusual’ (unexpected novelties) and the usual ‘usual’ (expected routines) is the essence of validation – what do these things mean and how do they link together?  This is another area in which distortions can appear.

Validation is a product of continuing experience.  ‘Flocking together’ does not, by itself, make a valid pattern, even if you initially assign meaning to these apparent links.  Coincidental connections occur all the time and mean little or nothing.  Experience will diminish and delete these connections but only if you stop clinging to them, defying the evidence of experiences to protect personal superstitions. And ‘when you believe in things that you don’t understand ….. superstition ain’t the way’:

The distinctions between cause, correlate and coincidence can be difficult to learn for experience and personal meaning are common to all three dimensions.  Patterns can contain real and illusory elements – making sense of the former and seeing sense on the latter is all part of your learning journey.  Will you be skilful or superstitious?


Wide Shut

November 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you look up, what do you see?  If you’re indoors and taking this question literally, you might answer ‘the ceiling’.  If you’re outdoors and thinking atmospherically, you could answer ‘the sky’.  There is one answer that is independent of location and almost certainly correct regardless of where you are, who you are or what you are doing.

Any ideas on what this could be?  It’s not really a trick question although the answer does involve trickery.  This ‘thing’ must always be above you for you are always under it.

What are you always under?  An illusion!  Being under an illusion – that you are as clear to others as you are to yourself – is a constant companion in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts, simply because you are you and you are therefore not somebody else.  Of course, they (being all the others) are under the same illusion that you are; this turns the shared illusion into the reality with which we all must cope.  It’s crowded under there!

We all think that others will understand us as we understand ourselves.  We believe this should be straightforward as we consider our feelings and actions to be an ‘open book’, unambiguously there for all to see and comprehend.  Further, as our ‘book’ is open, we should all be on the same page all the time.  But even ‘open books’ present many challenges:

Can you imagine the ways in which misunderstandings flow from our mistaken belief that we are transparent to others?  Can you imagine the ways in which this illusion is compounded because we also assume that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are?

As a learner and changer, it’s never easy being ‘you’ for you are continually monitoring, identifying, analysing and resolving challenges.  During this process, you will be selective, sometimes to your advantage and sometimes not, you will be suspicious without necessarily knowing the cause and you will be caught short-handed for demands may exceed your capacity to cope.

It’s hard enough being you.  With the ‘book’ metaphor, it is challenging enough to establish where you are, what is happening and what it all means, even when you know the page, paragraph and preceding chapters.  Can you really expect others to ‘read what you are reading’ and therefore understand what you understand?

Try to be transparent, for valid connections with others can only help your journey.  Never just assume that you are transparent, for even though you consider yourself to be an ‘open book’, you will still often appear as an enigma machine to others.

Bobbing Cork, Sailing Craft

November 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If ‘tis nobler said that this post was ‘hicoec’, would you realise that it is about choice (or, less cryptically, choice about)?  Perhaps this unusual opening indicates that the spelling of choice is adaptive – that is, it can be changed to adapt to a different situation.  And in this case, the different situation involved a need to be cryptic.

Exercising choice is inherently adaptive in a way that is much deeper and much more important than you might realise.  If you stay on the surface, it is easy to be dismissive of your role in making choices, something which happens many times every day.  After all, many of these choices are straightforward, many of them don’t need a second thought (in fact, many of them don’t even need a (conscious) first thought).  These choices are made to preserve patterns that provide the foundation for skilled performance (and patterns can be known as mental models, schema, mental representations etc).

The methods we use to make our choices are subject to many distortions and biases and yet we strive to avoid losses while trying to gain some benefits.  Most of the time, we’re OK at this (with OK being some distance from ‘good’); some of the time, though, we’re absolutely hopeless.  Again, if you stay on the surface, you can just look at the rewards within a given choice and then bounce from choice to choice.  This sort of behaviour could be considered specifically adaptive and generally positive (adaptive behaviour is designed to make things better).

But choices provide the opportunity to go deeper than this, should we so choose!  It is possible to transcend the rewards within our choices and reap the rewards that exist beyond specific choices, rewards that are found in the act rather than the outcome of choosing.  A bird in the hand might be worth two in the bush but a bird in the hand will always be worth less than the three birds you can obtain by making the effort.

Each choice gives you the opportunity to put your personal stamp on things, to make real that which is important to you.  Choice is about choosing – the surface view – and choice is about control – the deeper view.  Choice as control goes to the heart of self management and is fundamentally adaptive.  The previous post ended with these words:

You have the power to choose to stop. You have the power to choose to change.

And now you should realise that you also have the power to control through choosing.  What you actually do is up to you, for you are free to decide:

A bobbing cork at the mercy of the waves and the wind or a sailing craft pursuing the course established by you as captain – you do have the choice.  Find your own way to choose and control.

Positively Vague

September 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Vapid – offering no stimulation or challenge, insipid, flat, dull or tedious.

Vacuous – lacking in ideas or intelligence, mindless, stupid, inane or empty.

Vague – having uncertain, indefinite or unclear meaning, imprecise, inexact or unfocused.

Be Yourself – a catchcry of the self-help and life coaching industries.

Which ‘v’ word would you apply to the catchcry ‘Be Yourself’?  You might consider ‘Be Yourself’ in more directly positive terms – valid, valuable, venturesome or virtuous.  Actually, ‘tis nobler thinks one of the first three – vapid, vacuous and vague – is positive, fundamentally and inescapably positive.

And that word is vague.  Vague isn’t vaguely positive, it’s very positive.

It can be good sometimes to know exactly how you’re going – whether learning or changing – but do you really need to know exactly?  There is a body of evidence that indicates that precision of feedback can have negative consequences; knowing exactly leaves you little room to ‘be yourself’ as a learner or changer, leading to motivational and/or attitudinal problems.  It’s also another argument against ‘spoon-feeding’ for your (perhaps) messy contribution to your own learning is supplanted by a more defined yet less effective contribution from an outsider.  The traditional teaching and training model sees vagueness as an enemy, replacing it with concise definitions and clear prescriptions.  This model replaces your vagueness with its clarity to the detriment of your learning.

Can you see how vagueness relates to effort?  From the fuzzy logic of the real world, you create and validate patterns through your own efforts and these patterns guide your behaviour.  The fuzziness, though, is never eliminated.  This is where the real value of ‘being yourself’ can be demonstrated, just as Audioslave do in these lyrics;

And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up, With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck, Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright, You may win or lose, But to be yourself is all that you can do ……

If you think it through, ‘be yourself’ is positively vague and therefore very positive.  If you don’t think it through, then ‘be yourself’ is vaguely positive and therefore very irrelevant (just like most other things are when you’re a passive recipient).

The only way to deal with vagueness is to find your own way, not once, twice or occasionally but each and every time.  There is nothing vague about that.

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?


September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind.  As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this).  Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.

‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger.  In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent.  Stranded – things are as they are.

In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around.  And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable.  What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands.  How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?

What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles.  ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:

This is another example of why effort is essential. Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief. The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward. Can you believe that?

As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be).  These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:

As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded.  Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.


Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s easy to have an opinion; from having an opinion, it’s a short and backward step to becoming opinionated.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to establish a position; do you understand the difference between opinions and positions?

It’s easy to hold an attitude; from holding an attitude, it’s a short and backward step to ‘having an attitude problem’.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to adhere to values, to be purpose full; do you understand the difference between attitudes and values?

It’s easy to nominate a goal; from nominating a goal, it’s a short and backward step to becoming fixated and inflexible.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to strive to achieve aspirations; do you understand the difference between goals and aspirations?

Opinions can be shallow.  Attitudes may be short-lived.  Goals may be simple.  When you think about opinions, attitudes and goals, there is nothing necessarily wrong with them but neither is there anything necessarily right with them.  Opinions, attitudes and goals need to have strong foundations, and the best foundations are comprised of positions, values and aspirations.  Without these foundations, it is all too easy to slip away unnoticed.  To avoid this, adopt a deep, durable and high approach.

‘tis nobler has emphasised the importance of ‘pattern development’ to make skilled performance more effective and much more efficient (most recently here), which raises the question – What are the ‘patterns’ underpinning your behaviour?

In addition to the (inescapable) opinions, attitudes and goals in your daily life, are there deeper and stronger patterns to your behaviour that enable you to go above and beyond?

Do you have positions or just opinions?  What are your values?  How will you achieve your aspirations?  These are big questions; the starting point for the last question might be to have aspirations (for research has shown a strong and positive link between aspirations and achievement).

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!


Generally Correct?

August 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Just recently, we went sailing on the Specific Ocean: on this journey, ‘tis nobler noted:

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions…….More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways. This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies…….It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way. Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

You might think it’s best to get as far away from the Specific Ocean but trekking what ‘tis nobler calls the Plains of Vague also has many pitfalls.  These pitfalls can be summarised as follows:

Appealingly vague statements aren’t vaguely appealing – they are very appealing!

And this particularly applies when the statements are about you; welcome to the world of subjective validation in which positive and general are perceived as specifically personal and generally correct.  Unlike the Specific Ocean, where you can’t seem to avoid the most available, single ‘reef’ on which to founder, the Plains of Vague envelop you in a blanket of generalities from which there is no escape – not that you ever try to escape -, just the security and warmth of identification.  This blanket is so comforting, so reassuring and so, so true!

The Plains of Vague convince you for its general features can be massaged into any shape that fits you.  Ultimately, though, generalities convey little information for they rely more on affect than effect for their power – of course, that’s me to a T, all the good things that you’re saying about me really ring true.  But information is defined as that which reduces uncertainty and generalities can’t reduce uncertainty; they’re like saying “Thank you for everything, thank you for nothing” in the same sentence, sweeping statements that sweep away little if any uncertainty:

Most of the time, you wander around in the vast region between the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague, trying to understand the more than specific and less than general information that confronts you.

Availability of specific information is no guarantee of accuracy or utility.  The accuracy and utility of general information, information in which everyone can find a ‘home’ if they go looking, is equally suspect.  How much of your experiential learning and behavioural change journey is spent at the ‘Poles’ – the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague?

As you must find your own way, you are the only valid subject of your learning journey.  Don’t waste your time by subjectively validating the vague!  This is NOT generally correct.

Slipping Through, Working Through

August 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week, it was noted that retrieval of memories is not a neutral process – it’s not a case that we remember something and then file this untouched memory away again.  The present influences our recall of the past, revising pre-existing memories or creating false memories.  The retrieval process is active, not passive.

Now, you would expect that vision is a neutral process; after all, our eyes do the seeing and the brain supplies the meaning.  But the more we understand visual perception, the more the balance shifts towards the brain.  The eyes let the light in and the brain does the rest – it’s more about perception and (as we’ll soon see) perceptions than sensation.  Vision is an active process, not passive.

In biological terms, this is similar to the difference between diffusion and facilitated osmosis, between slipping through and ‘working’ your way through, between effortless and effortful (ignoring the detail, regular osmosis can be passive).  Diffusion and the two types of osmosis are explained in this short video, perhaps more fascinating than entertaining:

The specific trigger for this post was some recent research that indicated that exposure to gossip affected vision as well as judgement.  As noted, vision transcends sensation and perception is, in one sense, just a subset of perceptions (which can be cognitive as well as sensory).  Images with negative information were given preference (by the brain) if this information (gossip) was socially relevant, that is, it allowed users to pass judgement.  Negative but socially irrelevant information (e.g. broke their leg) did not attract preferential treatment.  Can you imagine why we subconsciously direct our visual attention more to those associated with socially negative information?

But there’s a broader issue at play here, with implications for experiential learning and behavioural change.  Perhaps novices operate more as diffusers, ‘allowing’ information in and out with little effort or control and unable to operate strategically.  Gaining experience can be seen as a way to shift from passive to active, to move from externally controlled (or pushed around) to internally controlling (or effectively self managing).

Diffuse or osmotic applies at the cellular level and can be used as ways to describe (in a non-technical sense) vision and memory processing.  In the labyrinthine ‘world’ of experiential learning and behavioural change, can you connect these concepts, and the shift from one to the other, to effortful practice and self management?  Is it ever possible to simply slip through to success or do you always have to work your way through the challenges?

Message More Than Medium

August 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Almost 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan introduced the saying ‘The medium is the message’, which noted that the method of message transmission influences how the message is perceived.  This contention has many implications for experiential learning and behavioural change but these are not the focus of this post.  Can you imagine what some of these implications are?

So, when ‘tis nobler writes ‘message more than medium, what exactly does this mean?  What changes if ‘message’ in the title is a verb rather than a noun?  What changes if ‘medium’ in the title is an adjective rather than a noun?  Making sense of the world around you is never as direct or straightforward as your initial interpretations suggest.

The starting point for this cryptic title is in some recent (business-related) research that investigated the effect of information flow on project completion.  In summary, the research indicated that managers who were deliberately redundant in their instructions – building (necessary) repetition into the communication process – were more successful in getting projects completed.  Deliberate redundancy was considered more important than clarity of message.

Imagine how the expertise bias affects the frequency and clarity of communication.  Think of the problems that the basic proposition of this bias creates for learning and behavioural change:

I’ll explain your behaviour on the basis of who you are simply because what you do is, for me, so easy that your performance can’t hold the explanation.

Creating redundancy requires repetition, even if you think repetition is no longer necessary (which most people believe well before that moment arrives).  Repetition is never exact and all of the little variations add more value and understanding.  This is the point made by Nelly and Tim McGraw:

Cause it’s all in my head

I think about it over and over again

Whether the communication source is external or internal, the challenge is to get the message into your head and then keep it there so that you can think about it over and over again.  Of course, redundancy transcends communication; it applies more generally to learning and behavioural change.  Redundancy as, for example, practice of perfect, is one way to make both yourself and your behaviour more robust.

One person’s repetition is (eventually) another person’s redundancy, even when they are the same person!  If you are sending messages to others or to yourself, message (verb) more than medium (adjective).  Messaging and practising more isn’t a redundant strategy – it’s an effective strategy to achieve redundancy.

Experience, A Placebo?

August 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It seems that medicine need not be medicinal for benefits to accrue – welcome to the placebo effect.  Placebos are traditionally denoted as inert substances that have the appearance but not the mechanism for a therapeutic role.  Give one group a white pill containing an active agent and a second group apparently the same white pill without the active agent; it could just be a sugar pill.  It stands to reason that the difference between the groups will be due to the active agent.  It’s reasonable but often incorrect.

The more we investigate the role of placebos, the more interesting their role seems to become.  There is evidence that placebos are becoming more effective and, more recently, some initial evidence that positive effects are produced even when people know they are receiving a placebo (usually, deception has been thought of as a pre-condition for the placebo effect).

In psychology, the Hawthorne Effect (and a range of other ‘effects) could represent types of placebo effects whereby the process of being studied is an active agent in its own right.  Sometimes, perhaps all the time, just being there (or even being nearby) can effect change.  In experiential learning, can experience itself operate sometimes as a placebo?

‘tis nobler suggests that the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.  Fundamentally, the issue is not whether experience offers learning value, for it always does; the issue concerns the efficiency with which this learning value is extracted from the experience.  Participating in any experience, directly, indirectly or vicariously, offers learning opportunities even when you think these experiences are nothing more than ‘sugar pills’.  Despite just going through the motions, learning is still taking place, albeit more slowly, more half-heartedly and much more inefficiently:

‘tis nobler was reminded of ‘experience as placebo’ when reading about some recent happiness research.  The conclusion was very telling – ‘We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention’ (emphasis added).

Experience can be a placebo but it can and should be more than just a placebo.  If you know about, endorse and commit to experiential learning, learning outcomes will be more effective and much more efficient.  ‘Spectators’ learn but participants learn more quickly and more deeply.

Going through the motions is a form of self-deception. How do you deceive yourself when exposed to each and every experience that adds learning value?  Find your own way to enable your experiences to be more than placebos.