Posts Tagged ‘efficiency’

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



Not Just The Splash

December 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When discussing the concept of risk in the last post, ‘tis nobler pointed out that the common view of risk and risk taking behaviour was invariably negative.  The ‘other side of the risk coin’ sees it as positive, effective and adaptive.  Finding your own way both through and away from risk involves both balance and self-management.

You can’t take a unilateral approach to risk as risk is not unilateral.  In the same way, consequences aren’t unilateral either.  We tend to think of consequences as significant events – the big splash – and ignore the continuing ripples.  It’s not just the splash that creates problems; you also have to cope with the ripples.  In an aggregate sense, constant ripples may pose much greater problems than the occasional splash.  And while ripples always follow a (risk-related) splash, ripples can flow from any disturbance.  You can’t have a splash without ripples but you can have ripples without a splash!

Consequences are to risk as ripples are to life; the ordinary poses many more challenges for us than the extraordinary.  The latest evidence suggests that ‘ripples’ follow cycles – we are more able to cope with ripples at certain times, times that coincide with the higher points of our daily or weekly life pattern.  We don’t call Wednesday ‘hump day’ just because it falls in the middle of the working week; Wednesday tends to be associated with higher levels of negative emotions.  In terms of peaks and troughs, Wednesday is a trough.

Compounding these broader cycles is the more volatile ‘ups and downs’ within them.  And the more you are (or allow yourself to be) buffeted by this shorter term volatility, the more likely it is that ripples will continue well beyond the point where others have moved on.  If you have an experience that you can’t forget, you’ll be affected by the hangover of ripples for some time:

It’s not just avoidance of the splash, or minimising its harm should it occur, that represents the self-management challenge.  The pattern of ripples, the volatility of ripples within that pattern and the flow-on effects of past ripples all combine to produce greater challenges than the occasional splash.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, you will make a much bigger splash by effectively and efficiently managing the many smaller ripples.

The Damage Done

November 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a media inquiry in Australia at the moment.  Apparently, according to newspaper reports and the testimony of newspaper executives, this inquiry is completely unnecessary as Australian newspapers are perfect.  It is a vendetta orchestrated by non-newspaper people – at least that is how it is being reported in, um, some newspapers.

At the heart of this examination are balance, bias and behaviour, systemic issues that could intentionally or unintentionally present inaccurate information as news.  Still, some may think that inaccuracies – deliberate or otherwise – can be remedied with a retraction, clarification and/or apology.  Is it a case of no real damage done?

The evidence indicates that this apparently reasonable approach of retracting and correcting your mistakes is not the remedy many believe it to be.  Retractions and corrections are the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted – they do not ‘place the horse back in the barn’, they just close the door on the original error.  When the damage is done, the damage (or parts thereof) remains ‘done’ despite efforts to undo it.

And the damage remains ‘done’ as it can resist multiple correction efforts, although stronger corrections are better but still not perfect – what is ‘done’ cannot be completely undone.   This remains the case even when corrective efforts are understood and accepted and the original error was relatively innocuous.  Complicating matters further and rendering corrective efforts even more impotent is being receptive to the original error through processes such as framing, priming or confirmation bias – if the error makes sense to you, you will resist attempts to overturn it.

Despite what Beyonce sings – I can have another you by tomorrow, so don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable – the damage done through misinformation errors is often irreplaceable:

How do you reconcile this resistance process – the continued influence effect of misinformation – with the effect that the retrieval of memories has on their content, which ‘tis nobler wrote about here?  The key message is set out below:

Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process.  Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past.  You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval.  The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present.  Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible. 

For ‘tis nobler, this underscores the importance of a systemic approach, the centrality of self management and the need to address the efficiency of interventions and not just their effectiveness.  It’s a continuing challenge to ‘connect the many dots’ on an ongoing basis in the most meaningful way you can; however, this is always better than placing your faith in fixed ‘solutions’.

How will you incorporate the message that the damage done cannot be fully undone into your learning and behavioural change efforts?  If redress is undressed for it fails to address the incorrect information expressed, what will you do to sort out the mess!

You Are Free To Stop

October 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s an open secret that an open secret is an oxymoron.  ‘tis nobler is unsure whether this old news came from military intelligence or the Italian government for there has been a deafening silence.  There are contradictory views on the involvement of paradoxes and contradictions in oxymorons; actually paradoxes lead to contradictions so it might be a case that everything ‘tis nobler writes is false.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether you are able to exclude that last assertion from your conclusion; if you cannot do this, it’s rather paradoxical.

Perhaps it’s like concluding that you are not free to do but (and say this in your best Yoda voice) you are free to do not.  It would be more realistic if you said ‘free you are to do not’.

Are you free to do not?  So it would seem from the evidence (although it is restricted to very simple experimental tasks).  This is a very big topic – one that will generate much discussion between neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers for it is fraught with methodological  and conceptual issues – but let’s pick out the very essence of it as it reinforces the fundamental importance of self management.

One fundamental advantage of experiential learning is the shift from conscious or intentional processing of information to subconscious and unintentional (but NOT unintended) operation.  There are many, many examples that you could draw on from personal experience in which you are doing things in a sensible, co-ordinated, effective and efficient manner without being fully aware of them – the most ubiquitous example could be driving a car, much of which takes place ‘in the background’ and occasionally from the backseat!  Are you exercising free will in these instances?

This may or may not be different from the chain of events that underpin specific and isolated choices, for what affects these discrete choices may still be as complex as any skilled behaviour.  Being unaware of ‘what and why’ prior to the conscious act may have little to do with free will and more to do with learned, validated and elegant patterns.  Who knows?

But, regardless of the precise mechanism(s), it appears possible to stop this automatic process before the (non-conscious) action is implemented.  While the status of a ‘go motion’ remains debatable, a ‘stop motion’ exists.  Stop motion is a paradox and yet it is exceedingly clever.  It relies on compressing a large number of very subtle changes to produce a fluid pattern, which is not that far away from the goals of experiential learning:

Even on autopilot and not consciously aware of what you are doing, you retain the capacity to stop and change.  You should be aware that you have choices, even when you are unaware of their existence.

You have the power to choose to stop.  You have the power to choose to change.  What will you choose to do?

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘One or more’ changes many things.  Or one or more changes change many things.

When things change from one to more than one, things can get messy.  Then again, when things change from one to more than one, things can get highly focused, more efficient and very effective.  Was it the opening line to that less-known novel, The Tale of Two Entities’, that stated ‘’twas the best of outcomes, ‘twas the worst of outcomes’?

When you strive for the greatest good – Summum Bonum – ‘one or more’ changes many things, not least of which is perspective.  What do you do differently if you are learning or changing by yourself compared to doing the same things with others?  Is your answer ‘many things’?

Game theory demonstrates that individuals need to shift their focus away personal gain if their outcomes move from independent of others to interdependent.  They need to shift their focus from competition to cooperation for, if everyone tries to win, ultimately everyone loses.  Cooperation makes even more sense when you take into account how much worse people perceive losses relative to gains.

If you are not ‘flying solo’, you optimise your returns when you cooperate for win/win outcomes become possible.  Compete with yourself and cooperate with others.  ‘Flying solo’ allows you to be selfish – just concerned with yourself – while ‘flying in formation’ requires you to become less selfish.

Some recent research has suggested that this shift can go even further in certain conditions.  Rather than just being less selfish, individuals can behave selflessly to ensure group aims are achieved.  They sacrifice more of their personal entitlement when their group is competing with others – a classic example of putting the team before themselves – and trying to achieve the very best results.  With all (competing) groups trying to achieve the very best result possible, everybody wins and wins more than they otherwise would!

Within your groups, it can be a case of ‘war’ or it can be a case of ‘no more trouble’:

How you do decide between selfish, less selfish and selfless?  Depending on the circumstances, each of these can produce positive returns.  Applied inappropriately, however, everybody might lose.

You cannot win all the time.  You shouldn’t try to win all the time.  And sometimes you shouldn’t try to win at all.  Being your best is always available (and need not involve ‘winning’) while, for most of us, trying to be the best is the best way to fail.

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’?

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!


All Within, Partly Beyond

August 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has written several posts on the pattern of pattern formation, the gradual progression from coping with lots of little bits to efficiently managing the bigger picture:

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

Of course, other things change as well for you become more effective and efficient – for example, the ‘bigger picture’ supports multitasking.  If you are no longer ‘drowning in the bits’, you have the resources to handle other demands in parallel.  Patterns that are validated and refined through experience allow you to manage that experience with a minimum of fuss, leaving plenty of time and resources to deal with the exceptions.

Think of some of the things you have learnt through experience, things such as driving a car, doing your job or playing a particular sport.  In a sense, patterns do protect you within your performance of these tasks but they don’t necessarily protect you beyond that performance.  Within that statement hides the logic for the title of this post – ‘All within, partly beyond’.

There are specific performance elements such as (simple) reaction time that can transfer from one activity to another.  It would not be surprising to find (and there is supporting evidence) that those with very extensive experience and considerable expertise on one activity would do well on other activities that do have some common elements.  Whether it is judging whether a pitch is in the strike zone, a cricket ball is going to hit the wicket, a tennis ball is going to (just) go out or an approaching car poses a danger, there are some common elements that allow a top tennis player or cricketer to, for example, make better, yet still simple decisions on baseball pitches or road crossing opportunities.

In part-task demands within ‘unrelated’ activities that have some common elements, some of these overlapping elements that have been highly developed elsewhere can assist.  But there are limits, which is why Michael Jordan didn’t succeed as a baseball player or top cricketers don’t play Major League Baseball.  Elements may help the simple stuff but patterns prevail, for performance on a task never depends on a single element or set of elements.  If it did, young people at the peak of their psychophysical powers would always out-perform older, slower participants.  Anticipation is always better than reaction (regardless of how quick of the mark you are) and anticipation is enabled by patterns.

Regardless of how good you are at something, all good things come to an end when you leave that particular something behind:

A reliance on elements at the expense of patterns is dangerous – it reinforces the (incorrect) view that shortcuts are available and, as a consequence, effort is devalued.  It is important to remember that whatever is developed within can only ever go partly beyond.

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, connections are crucial.  It is important to recognise that connection is not the same as co-incidence; it is even less similar to coincidence.  Being contiguous and contemporaneous is neither necessary nor sufficient for connecting.  The ‘appearance’ of connection does not indicate that connections have actually appeared.

Being in the same place at the same time does not mean that a connection is made.  Doing the same things that you’ve done successfully before does not mean that a connection has been established.  Connection has to occur in your head before it can emerge and influence your activity.

Connection can occur during activity – let’s call this engagement.

Connection can occur after activity – let’s call this reflection.

And connection can occur before activity – let’s call this anticipation.  Anticipation is not doing things before connecting; rather think of it as one form of connecting.  It’s ‘before’ connecting in the same way that you have ‘during’ connecting and ‘after’ connecting.

Some recent research has indicated the value of ‘before’ connecting as a technique for reducing (test-taking) anxiety.  ‘Before’ connecting took the form of writing down anxieties just before the examination commenced; those that did so outperformed their equally anxious peers who didn’t participate in the ‘before’ connecting exercise.  It is important to note that ‘before’ connecting is the important message, realised through the act of writing, rather than the act of writing itself.  If just writing something down was the solution, Eccles wouldn’t find himself in such a pickle:

Appearances can be deceiving; connection can appear to be present without putting in an appearance.  As experience is gained, ‘during’ connection becomes more and more automated but you must actively pursue ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections.  Active ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections work together to make ‘during’ connections more enduring, more effective and highly efficient.

There shoudn’t be anything before connecting, there is just ‘before’ connecting!  And ‘before’ connecting comes before ‘during’ and ‘after’ connections.  Connect in every way in order to find your own way.

No Strings Attached

August 8th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Should I turn left or right?  Should I just keep going?  Does it make sense to backtrack for a while?  What does that mean anyway?  Where should I head next?  How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction?  Isn’t there a path I can follow?  Everything looks the same, nothing makes any sense, progress is very difficult to detect and I’m starting to wish I’d never set out.

Welcome to the labyrinthine world of experiential learning and behavioural change:

Despite many and ongoing attempts to present the learning and behavioural change ‘world’ as simple, straightforward and structured, the reality is that it’s messy.  But this doesn’t mean that it’s a mess for it is always possible to find your way and find it in a way that becomes increasingly effective and efficient.

Perhaps the most famous, yet mythical, labyrinth was that constructed by Daedalus – no bull!  Actually, there was a bull (well, that’s half right) but that’s another story.  You might like to ponder what implications Daedalus’ son’s behaviour also has for learning – his son was called Icarus – but that’s also another story.  The story to be told today concerns the way that Theseus found his way in the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur, the half man, half bull.  He used a simple ball of yarn; he overcame the labyrinth because of (his) strings attached.

Regardless of the complexity, the seeming impenetrability of Daedalus’ design, there was a simple solution.  And this is diametrically opposed to experiential learning and behavioural change, for there are no simple solutions.  ‘tis nobler suggests that acceptance of two guiding principles will ensure that you will always find your own way through each and every learning and change labyrinth:

There is no one right answer, but there can be many right answers.

Conversely, history tells us that there have been many wrong answers, but there is no reason why any particular answer should be wrong.

The only truly right answer is the one you provide to yourself through your effort and engagement; looking for others to supply it will ensure that you’ll remain lost in the labyrinth.  At any point in your journey, being ‘lost’ or confused is never an indication that you’re going the wrong way – change of direction is much, much less important than maintenance of momentum.

Just keep going and, while you never escape the learning labyrinth, many of the internal walls do disappear. Navigate the labyrinth your way, no strings attached.


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.

Vague? Precisely!

July 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you translate this sentence?  To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.

How did you go?  Did it take you long?  Did you make any mistakes?  Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.

Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:

Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase?  Miten kääntää tämän lauseen?  Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση?  इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?

Did you make any headway?  Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French?  Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’  And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’.  Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’.  How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark.  If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’

The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi.  As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’  And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’ 🙂

Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change.  You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate.  Translate, interpret, act.

And this is where there must a real change.  Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice.  In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.

But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support.  ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process.  ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider.  Their role is to facilitate, not force.

‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:

And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection.  Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!

In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions.  Vague?  Precisely!

Can I Come Too?

July 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

After waiting a while, to no avail, and then realising that learning challenges can’t be left to fate (but there is a chance that ‘fate’ can help cope with learning failures), ‘tis nobler wants to finish the week with a comment about outsourcing.

But it’s not the (all too familiar) outsourcing approach that organisations initiate in order to cut costs.  This outsourcing has to do with regulation, not of policies or products but of yourself.  Across all of these types of regulation is a sort of cost/benefit analysis in which you try to strike the right balance between risks and rewards.

Support, guidance, facilitation and encouragement are all fantastic to have as long as you realise that they can never replace ‘you’ in your journey.  Support can help you ‘climb your learning mountain’ but it can push you off your chosen path and unfortunately also hold you back.  Marching up and down on the spot – apparent effort – to someone else’s tune is not the same as moving forward to your own.

There is evidence that indicates the negative effects of outsourcing the self management responsibilities that you should not avoid.  When you outsource these responsibilities, you rely on others to achieve your goals for you; as a consequence, you can make less effort, hoping they will take up the slack.

Of course, it’s another balancing act.  When does help become hand holding?  When does support become spoonfeeding?  When does gentle guidance become strident demands for you to ‘do it the way I do it’?  Only you can determine what the right balance is at any point along the way (and it will vary over time) but do so on the realisation that asking someone else to assume your self management responsibilities makes as much sense as the question asked in this music video:

It will always remain your learning journey.  It will never be a guided tour conducted by others in which you have the luxury of letting them do the work.  The ‘self’ in self management is there for many reasons, all of which combine to make your learning journey relevant, effective and efficient.  In a very direct sense, experiential learning and behavioural change must remain self-centred.

Constant Mess

June 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today’s post is more than a game of connecting the dots, it’s a search for understanding what these dots mean for your learning and change efforts.  There’s an initial hint – it’s more about the constant than it is about the mess.  Firstly, let’s hear from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Secondly, let’s hear from The Pet Shop Boys:

And then turn the title around – “What do I deserve for what I’ve done?”

Thirdly, think through the saying ‘Winning Isn’t Everything’, particularly as it relates to the way you ‘play the game’.  When you do, including all sorts of concepts such as self efficacy, motivation, engagement and success into your musings, it might be useful to know that the evidence for the relationship between ‘getting’ and ‘deserving’ supports many interpretations.  For example, self efficacy has been shown to be an important predictor of enjoyment; at the same time, enjoyment has been shown to be an important predictor of self efficacy.  Engagement can be both a cause and an effect.  You will sometimes be motivated by reasoned action and you will sometimes act on the basis of motivated reasoning.  It’s getting very messy.

Perhaps this is a Gordian Knot problem, requiring a ‘Great’ solution.  Rather than trying to disentangle the messiness, it might be better to realise that explaining this messiness, like so many other aspects of experiential learning, is subordinate to the one constant that always applies and that is your effort.

Unfortunately, effort itself can get messy and highly variable, but only if you allow it to become so.  Effort can be independent of time, place and situation.  Effort can determine if you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.

It’s not a constant mess, for systematic effort will refine your operating systems.  Without the constant, though, things will remain a mess.  And it’s a constant struggle to overcome the mess for ‘Everyone wants better.  No one wants change’.

Where’s The Zone?

June 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is wondering whether you’ve ever experienced being ‘in the zone’.  If you have, directions would be appreciated.  Where exactly is this ‘zone’ that people keep talking about?  It appears to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time for you can be in it and then out of it in the blink of an eye.  It’s one of those strange places that you are unaware of entering, aware of while you hang around and always sorry when you apparently depart.

It must be a special place, an exclusive place, a highly sought after location.  You have to be invited but you have no idea what form this invitation takes.  Still, you are always excited to be there, for you can do no wrong while there.  Things just ‘click’ – being in this zone is error-free and empowering.  You never want to leave but you always have to go.

This ‘zone’ is a very special place indeed.  Everybody knows it, everybody aspires to it and everybody hopes that at this time, during this game or in this performance, they’ll enter the zone.  The zone is a special place.

But it doesn’t exist.

To be clear, there’s no supporting (empirical) evidence from a number of well-designed studies, although many will still attest to the zone’s existence.

If you flip a (fair) coin four times and it comes down ‘Heads’ on each occasion, is this ‘being in the zone’?  Are you an expert coin flipper or just an average coin tosser who’s on a ‘streak’?  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no (although there is some evidence that it seems possible to ‘game’ coin tossing through extensive practice) for what is observed is improbable (relative to other outcomes) but not unknown.  It’s not a ‘streak’; rather it’s just one short-term version of a larger, 50/50 pattern.

Being ‘in the zone’ is the opposite of the gambler’s fallacy, in which a perceived dependence is established between independent events.  Rather than relying on non-existent dependencies between events, this video emphasises the value of effort to improve each event – if you watch to the end, you’ll realise that Sherwin Williams is not the name of the boxer 🙂

One way to avoid becoming unstoppable is to hope for the appearance of dependencies, for they will convince you that you can enter ‘the zone’ rather than invest and sustain the required effort. If you establish dependencies between independent events and then use them as an explanation for your performance, you might also be delegating responsibility for your performance to these dependencies, to being in the ‘zone’.  Are you using dependencies as both invalid explanations and poor excuses in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts?

When Easy Seems Hard

June 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The previous post, ‘Simple Is Hardly Simple’ explored unnecessary complexity; let’s continue to explore this area by listing a few statements that ‘tis nobler will leave to you to unpack.

Choices are choices but decisions reflect skill.

You make choices but you learn to decide.

You do decide to choose but you don’t choose to decide.

Choice is intentional whereas you may not be aware of many of the decisions you make.

Complexity is a strategy affecting choice and a challenge to be mastered in decisions.

For choices, easy can often seem hard.  For decisions, hard becomes progressively easier.

In experiential learning, detail aggravates until experience aggregates.  One of the benefits of ‘time on task’ is the way in which you ‘see’ the world around you – no longer a large number of little bits.  You see the whole rather than the parts; you see the patterns rather than the pieces.  Details lose their capacity to aggravate as they disappear into a bigger picture.

In making choices, however, detail aggravates because experience cannot aggregate the detail.  They remain details, mainly because these details are constantly changing form.  Colours change, packaging changes, options change, new information is presented and the choice you made last week may no longer apply.  In choice, you must constantly re-invent the wheel.

And so we spend more time and invest more effort because we perceive a simple choice as more difficult than it actually is.  This has been described as a metacognitive mistake and the paradox of choice.  These details aggravate because constantly dealing with the world in terms of the myriad bits comprising it is ineffective, inefficient and exhausting.  What is the best mobile phone plan?  What is the best breakfast cereal to buy?  As The Hoosiers sing, “You demand I make my mind up, I decided not to care, Stop giving me choices’:

Is choosing to decide the only sensible choice?  Strip away the unnecessary complexity of choice and focus on developing and validating the decisions that underpin your experiential learning and behavioural change.  It’s not your choice – it’s your decision.

Simple Is Hardly Simple

June 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Mustique is a small island in the Grenadines island group, part of the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Mustique has nothing to do with this post, other than to introduce unnecessary complexity, something that skilled performers at any stage of their learning are wont to do.  Of course, something that is unnecessary for task performance may be highly desirable for the social ‘performance’ that accompanies the task – look at me, look at me!

This post is more about mystique than Mustique.  ‘tis nobler seems to recall that Mystique is the name of a perfume, which is yet again another layer of unnecessary complexity that is designed to throw you off the scent.  Mystique isn’t mystique and mystique isn’t Mystique.  Mystique both is and isn’t Mystique (it isn’t if you could begin a sentence without a capital letter).

This post is getting very complicated, a sure sign that ‘tis nobler must be clever, skilled and (possibly) very handsome in order to handle its demands.  It’s odd that, as you de-mystify performance for yourself through experiential learning, you often try to increase the mystique for others.  Is it because people favour being seen as ‘better’ rather than hard-working?  Is an explanation based on personal qualities preferable to one that proffers effort as the reason?

Continuing to complicate things as they in fact get simpler, whether through jargon, exaggerated effort (the tennis ‘grunt’ for example) or opinion, is creating a rod for your own back.  Think of your learning journey as a search for the simple.

There should be no doubt in our mind that the power of simple is significant and far-reaching.  Simple underpins efficiency and fluency in many aspects of behaviour and skilled performance – there is much evidence that ‘simple’ is seen as more intelligent, more attractive (in commercial and literary senses), more pleasurable, more effortless and less dangerous.  In many of these areas, ‘simple’ can be manufactured; in experiential learning, however, ‘simple’ must be earned.  In this early Katy Perry song, she sings:

…that it could be so simple, Life could be that simple, I wish it were just that simple

But wishing doesn’t get you to ‘simple’, effortful learning does.  And life is never that ‘simple’ but a sustained commitment to experiential learning can, and does, make it simpler.  Just remember what Einstein said:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

‘tis nobler thinks you know what is fundamentally required to make things as simple as possible.  The ongoing challenge is to avoid going straight to simplistic, a destination that is on the other side of ‘too simple’.

Aim to achieve the power of ‘simple’, recognising that getting (and staying) there is hardly simple!

Distance Between Strategy, Motivation And Excuse

May 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A constant theme in ‘tis nobler posts is that of the learning journey, a journey that, for it to be effective, efficient and durable, demands that you must find your own way. Not surprisingly, then, ‘distance’ has featured prominently. It was used as a metaphor for progress and as an important self control strategy (here and here).

The use of ‘distance’ is a way to gain insights into your own behaviour and the ‘distance’ that still lies ahead improves goal adherence. It has also been used to dismiss decision making styles as a helpful framework.

‘tis nobler has covered quite a, um, distance in exploring the concept of ‘distance’, which is central to construal level theory. But that’s another story, a story for, shall we say, further down the track.

There is some recent evidence that ‘social distancing’ – the interpersonal rather than the intrapersonal ‘distance’ or greater interpersonal ‘distances’ (between strangers and friends) – can also assist problem solving and creativity. Add these to the list of ‘distance’ beneficiaries listed above and dealing with the ‘concrete’ – the directly and immediately personal – seems to be on shaky ground. Abstraction can assist, if only because it removes a number of personal distractions that would otherwise apply.  In this song by Brandon Heath, he sings:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

It doesn’t really matter whether it is ‘Your’ (as intended) or ‘your’ in this chorus, the principle remains. Using ‘distance’ can help in many ways, ways that lead to breakthroughs, solutions and actions.

‘tis nobler wonders whether a ‘distance’ strategy (using the abstract to solve the concrete) gradually evolves into a ‘distance’ motivation (motivated more by the abstract than the concrete) and eventually into a ‘distance’ excuse of only being interested in the abstract. Finding ways to understand the personally concrete is fantastic, using one of these ways as an excuse for avoiding the concrete much, much less so.

You can set your own ‘distances’ between strategies, motivations and excuses. How will you find your own way, how far will you travel and how involved in your journey will you be?

Deliberately Incidental

May 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The previous post dismissed the concept of natural ability as a predictor of experiential learning success and emphasised the central role of effortful practice, sometimes called deliberate practice.  The connection(s) between skill, practice and learning must be of sufficient and sustained strength; if not, your role reduces to that of passenger, someone along for the ride while others take responsibility and make the effort.

But there are passengers and then there are ‘passengers’.  There aren’t, however, learning opportunities and ‘learning opportunities’, for everything presents as a real learning opportunity (and so you should never think that all learning has to be deliberate for it can also be incidental.  As a deliberate learning strategy, it can also be deliberately incidental).  Evidence indicates that a combination of passive ‘passenger’ and learning opportunity can still be beneficial.

The value of expanding direct learning with vicarious experiences has been discussed previously by ‘tis nobler (here and here), although the antagonism between vicarious experience and self control has also been noted (here).  Both effectiveness and efficiency will benefit when greater effort is invested in direct learning; similarly, there will be further (perhaps smaller) benefits when direct learning is complemented by participation in vicarious experiences (again, perhaps, proportional to the level of engagement).  Experiential learning is ‘moreish’ – more effort, more engagement, more direct and indirect experiences all combine to generate more effective and efficient learning.  Can ‘lessish’ also be ‘moreish’ for learning?

It may be that direct and vicarious can be reinforced even more by passive, incidental experience (although the evidence is limited to the type of task studied at this stage).  It makes sense, though, that you can still learn when you’re in less obvious learning situations, you can still learn when you are a passive ‘passenger’.  In these circumstances, you may be unaware of your learning but you are still soaking up the ‘lessons’ the real world is presenting:

Experiential learning can happen in every place and at any time.  Effectiveness and efficiency vary as a function of direct, vicarious and passive experience but all three types can add value.  You can learn while you do, you can learn from what others have done and you can still learn when you don’t think you’re doing anything.

There is no one way and there is no right way.  There is just your way.  Find it.  Directly and incidentally, this is a good thing on which to deliberate!


Never Natural

May 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start with a brief quote (you can read the full report here):

The commonly held but empirically unsupported notion that some uniquely ‘‘talented’’ individuals can attain superior performance in a given domain without much practice appears to be a destructive myth that could discourage people from investing the necessary efforts to reach expert levels of performance.

It is true that, for certain pursuits, fundamental physical characteristics such as body size and height can overpower the effects of sustained and effortful practice.  But there are always exceptions – just ask Spud Webb or Mugsy Bogues.  Apart from size and height, a review of the evidence indicates that necessary physical adaptations can be achieved through appropriate practice.  For most things, size is not a reason for the sighs that accompany discouragement and despondency!

Does this suggest that the only limiting factor in your experiential learning is the effort you are able to invest and sustain?

Believing that others are ‘better’ because they are ‘naturals’ usually undersells their efforts and certainly sells yourself short.  Natural ability may be a convenient excuse but it is never a constraint.  This is not to suggest that the learning ‘playing field’ is level for all, far from it in fact.  Opportunities, resources and support can be very unevenly distributed but these things, in the same way as ‘natural ability’, don’t determine your learning outcomes.  If you apply yourself, you might find the formula for success:

In your learning journey, you don’t transcribe the formulae for they are implicit in the understanding you develop through experience and reflected in the internal models, patterns and representations you use to perform effectively and efficiently.  These critically important elements do NOT come naturally!

It might be natural to assume that not being a ‘natural’ is an insurmountable obstacle.  But it isn’t an obstacle, it is an illusion.  It is an illusion that can be shattered by effort.

It’s never natural; it’s always effortful.