Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

An Upside To Risk

December 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is ‘absolutely’ fabulous?  According to The Pet Shop Boys, it is:

There are many ways in which ‘absolute’ is anything but fabulous.  As a novice, you might have had absolute faith in absolute rules – this is what people are meant to do – and absolute confidence in your ability to follow those rules.  And then you realise that the real world is much messier; rules are replaced by skills and normative standards (the spirit) replace the ‘letter of the law’.  Absolute often becomes relative, with a ‘black and white’ view replaced by the colours of the rainbow.  Learning and changing becomes matters for continual and dynamic balancing, not adherence to blinkered absolutes.

Think of the words usually associated with risk taking or risk takers.  These words are probably, and overwhelmingly, negative – stupid, senseless, crazy, immature, thoughtless, idiotic or insane.  Risk takers are commonly seen as idiots.  Of course, there is an element of truth in these descriptions, particularly when risks are simply taken without being managed.  You could be excused for having an absolute position on risk taking in daily pursuits – it’s bad and always to be avoided.  Wouldn’t life be absolutely fabulous without risks and risk taking?

The answer is ‘No’, for you can’t adopt an absolute position on risk taking.  It can be relatively dangerous (with ‘danger’ being defined in many different ways) but rarely in day to day life is it absolutely wrong.  Think of the other side of the risk taking ‘coin’ – have you ever heard of risk taking being described as effective, positive or adaptive?  For managed risk taking can and should fit these alternative descriptions.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are traditionally viewed as methods to reduce or eliminate risks.  In contrast, ‘tis nobler conceives of experiential learning and behavioural change as methods to better enable self-management of risk, regardless of the type or level of risk.

Risk taking for the sake of taking risks is either unproductive or destructive.  Risk taking for the sake of learning and/or change can be managed.  It is essential to remember the big difference:

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and there will be consequences. Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Striking the right risk taking balance as your learning journey unfolds is crucial – too little is boring and too much is, well, you know what ‘too much’ is.  And ‘little and ‘too much’ are always relative terms, relative to you and the situation.

Managing risk by striking the right and relative balance can be absolutely fabulous!

Beneath And Beyond Feeling

November 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting.  More accurately, ‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting of a painting.  To be fully truthful, it’s a painting of a painting of a painting.  No, that’s not quite right; it’s a painting of a painting of a painting of a painting.  Still not there, but it’s time to change direction otherwise we’d continue to follow the paintings of paintings deeper and deeper.

And, as you explore ever deeper, you realise that this is just like experiential learning and behavioural change; whatever way you look at it, you should always try to look beneath and beyond the immediate.  The ‘painting’ may be nice but what can be found beneath and beyond the immediate ‘painting’ represents true value and perhaps your true values.

Beneath and beyond don’t just shape what you do, they can also shape how you feel about it.  According to some recent research, beneath and beyond feelings can reach the surface without you being aware of what lies beneath and beyond.  When ‘tis nobler stresses the core principle:

What you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are,

it is important to remember that there are situations beneath and beyond the immediate situation being observed.  Why are you doing that?  Why are you feeling like that?  Answers to these questions may be partly anchored in the immediate but they are also always likely to reflect goals, attitudes and values beneath and beyond the immediate.

Beneath and beyond are measures of depth and distance that indicate where valid and enduring answers may be found.  Where will you find your whys?  Will you always find it in the obvious and immediate or will you explore beneath and 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.

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’.

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!


Be Careful, It’s Catching

April 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘Connect’ is generally a positive thing.  Being connected, in a range of ways, to your experiential learning is always to be preferred.  Connection implies involvement, involvement suggests engagement and engagement indicates sustained effort.

‘Compound’ can be both positive and not so positive.  Compound interest can be very good, while a compound fracture is best avoided (a simple fracture is also best avoided but, if you had to choose between the two, stick with simple).  ‘Compound’ can suggest ‘connect’ or ‘combine’, as in a chemical compound; it can also reflect an inability to ‘connect’ should you find yourself in a prison compound.  If you make a second ‘bad’ decision and make matters worse, you are described as compounding the problem.

‘Contagious’ is generally a negative thing, simply because we most commonly associate it with disease.  ‘Contagious’ does have a relationship with ‘connect’ because contagions do require contact.  Originally, ‘contagious’ has been derived from ‘touch closely’.

What ties ‘connect’, ‘compound’ and ‘contagious’ together in a learning and change sense?  Think decision making – if you feel ‘connected’ to another, you may ‘compound’ the errors of their decision making by continuing to make the same errors, as though poor decision making was ‘contagious’.  And that’s nothing to sneeze at.  Be careful, it’s catching.

In experimental studies, the ‘connections’ did not need to be very strong; in fact, it was more affiliation than connection.  Even when the relationship was anonymous and the connection tenuous at best, subjects continued the poor decision making of their counterpart.  Perhaps you don’t have to be touched closely to catch PDMD (poor decision making disease).

The ‘connect-compound-contagious’ link finally gives ‘tis nobler an opportunity to embed this video.  If you ‘connect’ with your child and ‘compound’ or ‘combine’ two sounds, the result is highly contagious!

How will you balance the ‘connect-compound-contagious’ relationship?

The Changing Of The Reasons

March 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Why did you close the stable door after the horse had bolted?  You give a reason; for, after all, you have a reason for everything you do (even when these reasons look suspiciously like excuses).  Time passes, and then the same question about the same event is asked.

Why did you close the stable door after the horse had bolted?  And you give a different reason.  Hindsight can help you explain why you closed the stable door after the horse had bolted.  Even though it was a stable door, perhaps you now realise that the door wasn’t stable.  But what about hindsight itself?  Is hindsight stable or can you go back through different ‘doors’ at different times to explain the same event in different ways?

There is some preliminary evidence that suggests that the stability of reasons is unstable.  Why you say you did something at one point can be very different to the reason you give for the same event at another time.  Of course, one reason for these varying reasons is that you become aware of new information or you understand more about the ‘thing’ through more experience and consequent learning.  But what about when unstable reasons are generated in stable situations?  Doesn’t this call into question the validity and/or strength of your so-called reasons?

One ongoing challenge in experiential learning and behavioural change is to understand the differences between reasons and excuses.  Another challenge is to try to operate on the basis of reasons rather than excuses.

Yet another challenge is to strengthen and streamline the link between your behaviour and your reasons for that behaviour.  And this is easier to achieve when the connection between your actions and the circumstances within which you are acting is itself strengthened.  A reason to connect is to produce clarity of reasons.

Tracey Thorn asks this question in ‘Why does the wind?’

Why does the wind blow through my heart each time I look into your eyes?

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Both the wind and your reasons can change with changes in conditions.  But, in the same conditions, the wind, unlike your reasons, stays the same.  If, at different times, you explain your behaviour in differing ways, what does this say about you, your behaviour and your reasons?

A Patient Heart

March 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The very first line in the song ‘Patient Heart’  by Sean Flinn and the Royal We is:

The long road makes for a patient heart.

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And the implications of that line are the subject of this post.  What do you think it means?  These few simple words allow you to burrow down in several directions.

Regardless of other issues, the experiential learning or behavioural change road will always be long.  However, it may often be the case that the traveller on this road does not have a patient heart.  ’tis nobler suggests there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the road is not seen as long and therefore the traveller presumes that the journey will soon be over.  Why should you be patient until you arrive when you will arrive before you need to be patient?

Secondly, patience is seen as simply not required for it is presumed to be more important to travel with passion than it is to travel with patience.  But it is incorrect to assume that passion and patience are mutually exclusive; one must not preclude the other.

A recent study made the useful distinction between harmonious and obsessive passion.  The former led to a stronger focus on mastery goals, goals that are associated with deeper engagement and perseverance, and a greater commitment to deliberate practice.  When passion became obsessive, passion rather than practice became the end; avoiding failure overrode striving for mastery.  As a consequence, task performance suffered.

Excellence is never achieved through exhortation.

You may have noticed another line in ‘Patient Heart’:

You get far enough away, you’ll be back to the start.

This echoes the T S Eliot quote presented in the ‘About’ section.  Harmonious passion and patience are both required to ‘know something for the first time’.  Be passionate in the right way and be patient in many ways.  Be passionate about having a patient heart.

Don’t Assume You’re Connected

February 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Wavelengths are everywhere, in sounds, light and nature.  Given their frequency, it might be considered unusual to ‘be on the same wavelength’, even though high frequencies do have shorter wavelengths!  You might be close, particularly if the companion or circumstance is well-known to you, but to be on ‘the same wavelength’ seems to be pushing the odds.  Still, they say an inch is as good as a mile so it might be more appropriate to think of ‘same’ and ‘completely different’, where ‘same’ is unlikely and ‘completely different’ is unhelpful.

Does closeness encourage the same wavelength?  If I’ve known you for years, I should be able to communicate much more effectively than if you were strange.  Strange to me, that is, as in being a stranger.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be true, and the explanation and implications are relevant to experiential learning.  Here’s a classic clip from the 1970s TV show ‘The Odd Couple’ that sets us on the road to explaining and understanding:

When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME!

Research studies have demonstrated that the effectiveness of communication between friends or partners and between strangers is essentially identical.  Isn’t this counterintuitive?  Wouldn’t you expect the benefits of experience to flow through to communication?  Shouldn’t communication be handled in the same way as any other skill?

The answers to these question should all be ‘Yes’, except for the fact that assumptions get in the way.  And assumptions are different to expectancies, even though they may be thought of as similar.  ‘I assume’ seems the same as ‘I expect’.

The difference can be found in the role of experience.  Expectancies are derived from experience and actively and directly help to fill in the information gaps.  Assumptions, on the other hand, are often oblivious to experience.  Rather than being derived from experience, assumptions are imposed on the experience, and the mismatches begin.

Such mismatches have been called illusions of insight – I know you; therefore I know what you’re saying.  Once communication or, by extension, any other skill is divorced from the situation, the errors mount up.

Stay connected to the experience; never just assume you’re connected, especially when there’s no supporting evidence!  It’s amazing how disconnected many of our connections can become.


January 28th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

If you have any interest in public policy, what sort of interest is it?  Is it the sort that means you are interested, even if you don’t find it interesting?  Or is it the sort that means you are disinterested? 

Is it possible to be both interested and disinterested in an issue at the same time?  In a semantic sense, it is possible for curiosity or concern and impartiality can co-exist.  And yet, in a practical sense, an interest in something is so closely aligned with self-interest that co-existence is rendered nigh on impossible.  How often do you hear people say, “I don’t care what’s in it for me”?  And, when you do, how often do you think they truly mean it?

It seems that it is not possible to be interested in something without being interested in how this interest can work to your advantage.  If there is no probable advantage, interest disappears rapidly.  Of course, this alignment of interest with self-interest distorts the issue, some would say strategically while others would describe this distortion as expediency or duplicity.  Or is this too cynical?  How do you balance interest and disinterest, and how much of your interest is actually self-interest?

For this question can produce harmonious, inclusive solutions or discordant, exclusive reactions.  There are always choices and, as a society, we are defined by our choices.  More accurately, we are defined by the choices made on our behalf.

It is important for interest and disinterest to co-exist in experiential learning, for curiosity and objectivity extend learning and understanding.  Self-interest is not the pariah you might imagine, for positive self-interest need not operate at the expense of others.  Commit to positive self-interest at the beginning and then put it away in the bottom drawer for it is a cause and not a consequence of sustained learning and sustainable behavioural change.

Where interest, disinterest and self-interest are concerned, it seems that we still have a lot to learn:

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*  this post is in response to the disgraceful notion that, rather than contributing equitably to flood reconstruction ourselves through a temporary levy, we should pay for it by reducing foreign aid.

Be A Breeze

January 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s Australia Day today.

There are celebrations and ceremonies, flag waving and hoopla.  At the risk of being labelled un-Australian, for there really is no such thing, this collective national exuberance can seem a bit forced, as though it’s more important to be seen to be celebrating than to celebrate.

And this excessive outpouring of national pride (on one day of the year) links to ways of helping others.  Traditionally, the preferred helping approach is to be explicit and obvious, to be right there when needed, to be unambiguously supportive by making the support so apparent that nobody could fail to notice it.  It’s like shouting, “I AM HERE FOR YOU” from the rooftops, with possibly the best of intentions and probably the least useful of outcomes.

Some recent research has indicated that the value of social support is maximised when it is invisible, although perhaps less visible is more apt.  It’s the difference between performing a service and serving up a performance.  The former helps the recipient, the latter helps you.  And helping is about the other.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are full of opportunities to help and receive help; as these opportunities become performances, an end in themselves, they become a distraction and an irrelevance.

To give help, be invisible.  Make the help about the other, not about yourself.  Have an effect, affect their affect, and be there for them without being on stage, act without performing.  Have an influence much like the wind:

But even the wind can sometimes take centre stage, so perhaps the metaphor should be reconsidered.

Be a breeze.

Say, Do, Be

December 8th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Saying is usually easy.  “I’m sorry.”  “I didn’t mean it.”  “It won’t happen again.”  “You can trust me.”  “Just give me one more chance.”  “I’m going to be honest with you.”  Life is full of statements that are designed to achieve some short-term advantage, an advantage that is often not disclosed by what is said.  If things get a bit awkward after any of these things are said, you can always rely on this:

“I never said that.”

Saying is usually easy, doing is usually more demanding.  Doing can be a challenge, doing demands effort and effort is required to meet the demands.  After much doing, the being begins.  Doing develops, doing transforms and doing has the power to make you into something new.  Doing is the essence of experiential learning.

And being – new, better, more skilled, more resilient, more understanding – flows from the doing.

Let’s illuminate this say-do-be relationship with a concrete example – gratitude.  It’s easy to say thanks; it’s easy to say that you’re grateful.  How difficult or demanding is it to ‘do’ or ‘be’ grateful?  A very recent review of the scientific literature on gratitude concluded that truly ‘doing’ or ‘being’ grateful was a morally and intellectually demanding exercise.  Saying is easy; doing and being are much harder.  Doing and being require effortful engagement, regular reflection and sustained discipline.

And ‘tis nobler now hopes that the relevance of the daily practice of gratitude to experiential learning and behavioural change is apparent, both in process and content.  Listen to this Eric Clapton song – ‘You were there’ – and assess how far beyond the saying his gratitude goes and how deeply he feels it.

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The say-do-be relationship defines many aspects of experiential learning and you must find your own way, choosing between what’s easy and inconsequential or more challenging and worthwhile.  And don’t forget that repetition is vital for experiential learning – perhaps you need to say, do, be, do, be, do!  ’tis nobler is certain that you are grateful that you didn’t write the previous sentence!


December 1st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

In one sense, experiential learning can be all-consuming.  It is not confined to finite practice sessions or every second Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm.  Experiences that contribute to experiential learning are not confined to the skill being acquired.  Specific skilled performance is a subset of the experiences that inform and enhance it.

It is not possible, nor is it desirable, to impose artificial boundaries around your learning; it doesn’t make sense to suggest that what is ‘inside’ is always important and that what is ‘outside’ is of little or no value.  Making these decisions validly would be evidence for a prescriptive learning recipe and, if you’ve been paying attention, you will have realised that such a thing does not exist.  When the boundaries are so blurred, how do you identify and handle ‘downtime’?

The value of downtime has been demonstrated in a number of different settings, most often in work situations this isn’t surprising as, after all, nobody can be switched on all the time.  There is evidence that some detachment from the job when away from the job aids wellbeing and task performance.  As this detachment increases, wellbeing further improves but task performance when back at work deteriorates.  Is it possible to be too switched off when you switch off?

At any given time, you can be engaged, semi-detached or detached.  At any given time, how do you decide which to be?  Across all given times, how do you strike a balance between these three states?  This is a fundamental issue that must be resolved by each learner – ‘recovery time’ is essential to refresh and renew and yet ‘recovery time’ may contain valuable, if indirect, learning opportunities.  How will you distinguish between instance and interlude?  Here’s an interlude to allow you to reflect on that question:

Instances for engagement can be indirect and interludes for detachment can be intentional.  And yet these times can swap from one to the other and then back again.  How will you find your own way when the boundaries between learning instance and interlude are blurred or intermittent?

Social Solving

November 12th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

They say that many hands make light work so let’s twist this around a bit.  Will extra hands turn the light on in your head?  Welcome to the world of social solving.

Some recent research examined the effect of brief, positive social encounters on what psychologists call ‘executive functioning’ – things such as working memory and self-monitoring, processes that are central to problem solving.  Spending some time getting to know the other person, chatting about life in general or exploring common interests – the sorts of standard social interactions we tend to take for granted – contributed to better problem solving performance.

Interestingly, when there was a competitive dimension to the encounter (as there often is, for much applied communication has a persuasive aim), there was no apparent change in performance.  When you want to win, you tend to stay the same; when you want to share and understand, you tend, for a short time at least, to get better.

Social solving relies on your objectives.  If you want to impose, coerce or dominate, any benefits from this behaviour may be illusory.  Being involved and engaged and wanting to explore rather than conquer can enhance, broaden and deepen both the interaction and your consequent learning.

And this is a perfect opportunity to play this video:

What a joyful, collaborative experience!  As an experiential learner, engage authentically with those who pass by your journey for the benefits, while unpredictable, are important.  Now, if only corporations, governments and nations could learn this lesson!

Subtle Reminders

November 11th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments


And little of this explicit, direct and demanding noise has any place in experiential learning and behavioural change.  ARE WE ALL CLEAR ABOUT THAT?

Whether it is priming inside your head or framing outside it, there are so many subtle reminders that serve to affect your choices or attitudes.  Look at all the cues in this music video by Royksopp, appropriately called ‘Remind Me’:

Some recent work has shown that these effects can go beyond recall, word choices or self-reported attitudes; being subtly primed can shape subsequent behaviour.  It seems that those primed to think about money issues then spent more time ‘working’ whereas those that were primed to think about time spent longer doing social activities.  Afterwards, the latter group reported greater levels of happiness.

If you demand things of yourself – learn this now! – or have things demanded of you by others – learn this now! -, any short term effort won’t be sustained.  An imposition is an imposition irrespective of the imposer.  Do you think you can shape and sustain your learning journey through coarse demands and brute force?

If not, how will you use the subtle effects of priming and framing to enhance and deepen your learning?  What subtle reminders will you use to activate learning experiences?

Learning through coercion will quickly crumble whereas frequent yet subtle reminders will sustain.  Remind yourself to continue your learning journey, but do it subtly.

Follow, Depart Or Personalise

October 27th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is there any difference between these two approaches to doing something?  If you had to choose, as you do every day, would you choose to:

Do it the same as everybody else just for the sake of being the same, or;

Do it differently to everybody else just for the sake of being different.

Or would you choose to do it another way – do it differently in order to do it better, to do it in a way that suits you?  Would you choose to behave in accordance with your own experiences, try to reflect who you are in what you do?  This choice is always available to you and is one way of demonstrating your connection with the task.

Here’s the original version of Teenage Dream by Katy Perry:

And here’s a cover version by The Rescues:

‘tis nobler reckons the cover version is sensational for it places an authentic personal stamp on the original material.  Whether it’s better or worse is a subjective judgment; regardless of what you think about in relative terms, it has been personalised and that is the most important point. Mimicry often delivers a pale imitation of the original.  Deliberate departure often delivers a pale imitation of what you would have done if you weren’t so intent on just being different.  You can follow, you can depart or you can personalise.

It’s easy to follow, perhaps just as easy to depart.  But it takes real and sustained effort to personalise your performance.  It’s not called ‘find your own way’ for nothing. 

Find it.

The One Thing to Avoid

October 26th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wonders how many people think that ‘Roget’ of Roget’s Thesaurus fame was French; actually Peter Mark Roget was British, but his nationality is not the issue.  Let’s use his thesaurus as a starting point.

Inside Roget’s thesaurus, you won’t be able to find ‘avoidance’ as a synonym for ‘solution’.  You can substitute a number of words for ‘solution’ while retaining meaning; unfortunately, for this remains a common tactic for solving problems, avoidance is not listed.  Undeniably, avoidance is not a solution.  You can’t solve or resolve by avoiding; you can evade (for a time) or pretend (for a time).  However, eventually and despite your best avoidance efforts, you won’t be able to ignore the parade behind you:

And you will have noticed that the parade got bigger and bigger.  Failing to deal with any one issue doesn’t mean that it goes away.  Instead, it gets joined by another issue, and then another and another.  Overwhelmed by the issues you have tried to avoid, you can start feeling trapped and powerless; what happens to your self-control, your coping skills and your self esteem in these circumstances?

It is not possible to learn by avoiding learning.  It is not possible to practise by avoiding practice.  It is not possible to change your behaviour by avoiding change.

It is not possible to solve problems by pretending they do not exist or that they will eventually disappear.  Perhaps the only legitimate thing to avoid is avoidance!


October 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Sincerely, thank you.

The start of this post was both an expression of gratitude and a fiendishly clever psychological tactic.  If you are still reading this, thank you once again.  Did I mention ‘fiendish’?  Of course, there’s nothing actually fiendish about it as you’ll see because doing the right thing is never fiendish!

Saying ‘thanks’ is not just a common courtesy (that may not be all that common these days) but is also a way to generate subsequent support from the person being thanked.  There is evidence that thanking someone for helping you makes it more likely that they will help again if you ask them to.  And it is not a marginal effect; in fact, they are twice as likely to help (compared to the rate of helping when thanking is withheld).  It seems that the act of thanking makes people feel both appreciated and useful – there are many reasons for withholding assistance and being thanked seems to make these less relevant.  After all, why not continue to help when you know that you are actually helping?

Further, one instance of gratitude seems to encourage people to help in independent circumstances; if I thanked you and then someone else subsequently asked you for similar help, the evidence indicates you are more likely to help out this ‘stranger’ (i.e. someone who hasn’t yet thanked you).  Validation of your helping behaviour helps you to keep helping.

Experiential learning can be a social, yet ‘anonymous’, activity – you may not know the other learners or participants.  While learning is your responsibility, there will be many small examples of help along the way.  If you want more help, show you appreciate what you’ve been given.  Regardless, showing appreciation requires nothing but the willingness to show it.  It’s neither a duty nor a chore; it’s simply a decent, positive thing to do.

‘tis nobler will now let Sinead O’Connor close this post.  Thank you, see you tomorrow.

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