Posts Tagged ‘mental model’

Skilful Or Superstitious?

November 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bobbing Cork, Sailing Craft

November 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Zero Tolerance

October 12th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Zero tolerance is a well-known approach to law and order that dismisses discretion and imposes automatic punishments.  If you do something, then this will happen.  No ifs, no buts, no nonsense, no escape.  There’s an iron-clad guarantee of a specific response.  These are the rules, and the rules must be obeyed.

There is debate within criminology and the justice system about the efficacy of zero tolerance.  There should be no debate within experiential learning and behavioural change circles about the intrusive influence of (arbitrary) rules.  They shouldn’t be tolerated.

And yet learning and change are often reduced to simple rules, but that’s another story for another time.

The previous post pointed powerfully to the pursuit of alliterative prose.  No, it didn’t but the previous sentence did have a point (and it had to do with tolerance!). The previous post talked about the relative ease of separating the possible from the ‘impossible’, which just left the ongoing challenge of sorting out the probable from the less probable.  Zero separation is straightforward; beyond zero lies everything with which you must cope.  And that, as every learner and changer knows, is not easy!

Can you identify things for which you do have zero tolerance?  For these things, is it zero tolerance in principle or do you actually practise zero tolerance?  As you know, individuals, corporations and governments do (sometimes or often) condone things for which they have expressed a zero tolerance attitude.

Beyond these things, that is beyond ‘zero’, what are your tolerances?  More importantly, how variable are these tolerances and how do they affect the way you behave?  These sorts of questions reinforce the principle that what you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are .

This father finds himself in a peculiar situation, for Buck is different – can you/should you  draw any conclusions that generalise beyond the situation?

Was Hamlet talking about zero tolerance when he stated “…it is a custom more honor’d in the breach than the observance …”?  The real challenge, though, can again be found beyond zero.  What are your tolerances and how flexible are they?

Possible, probable and tolerable all exist beyond zero; there’s nothing more to say but everything for you to do.

Zero Separation

October 10th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Last week, there was nothing and this week it is all about nothing.  Nothing changes, and therein can be found a key dimension of experiential learning and behavioural change.  It’s not that nothing changes for nothing does change – if you see what ‘tis nobler means.

Neither is it that nothing changes into something, for nothing has been something all along.  If some think that nothing is nothing, ‘tis nobler wonders whether this is why some also hold the view that nothing changes.  And they hold this view even when nothing changes! T here is much ado about nothing; not for nothing is nothing this week’s theme.

Zero separation suggests absolute proximity or the closest of close contact.  You might hear people say that you can’t tell two things apart or that they can’t split them.  Zero separation indicates equivalence and difficulty.  But, for experiential learners and behavioural changers, zero separation is often the first and always the easiest thing to do.

Unfortunately, being first and easiest can create problems, and this is the downside of zero separation.

It is easy to identify things that reside completely beyond your learning and change challenges – those things that have zero probability of occurring.  Separating these things from things that have a chance of occurring is straightforward for you only need to concentrate on the most extreme of events – your diet being threatened by winning a lifetime supply of donuts or crashing your car after swerving to avoid space junk that had just fallen from the sky.  The simplicity of removing the impossible may however spill over into a biased view of the possible – a sort of ‘simple is as simple isn’t’!

Separating the possible from the ‘impossible’ adds little value to your learning/change journey and neither does separating the possible from the ‘certain’.  All of the value can be found in how well you distinguish the probable from the less probable, realising at the same time that these probabilities change continually.

Once you leave zero behind, all you have to do is zero in – as much as possible – on the possible for it is in the way you cope with the richness of experience between zero and not zero that will define you.  The value of effort and experience is clearly demonstrated in the knowledge that beyond zero is everything:

It’s certainly possible to manage the probable but everything depends on you.

Outside The Chunks

May 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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.

And other things change as well.  You move from serial (from bit to bit to bit) to parallel (multitasking) processing of information, you move from dealing with objects to dealing with meaning and you move from a rudimentary understanding (perhaps comprising just a few of the available bits) to deeper, more valid and validated understanding of how your immediate ‘learning’ world works.  There are implications for memory, workload and processing; ‘tis nobler hopes you get the (bigger) picture.

You move from trying to make sense of the jumble of jigsaw pieces to seeing the completed puzzle.  As importantly, you sense what the current puzzle means for you and how you should respond.  And then the current puzzle changes (something that you may already have anticipated for the availability of patterns gives you the ability to anticipate rather than just react) and you respond in a timely and fluent way.

But all patterns have outliers – novel elements – and limits; they can be both specifically different and generally the same and they are specifically general.  The former represents the balance between novelty and similarity; with increasing experience, the balance tends more and more towards similarity.  The latter indicates that patterns are not necessarily transferable to other activities (compare Michael Jordan’s basketball and baseball careers) and may actually be counterproductive.

Imagine being transported to a place where your patterns are at odds with the world around you and little makes sense.  While things look sort of the same, they are very different in fundamental ways.  And then you find a situation in which your patterns apply and things just ‘click’:

Practice promotes patterns and patterns promote efficiency.  But patterns aren’t a panacea for they might contain the seeds of their own irrelevance – the little bits that don’t fit and that might be overlooked – or they might not be as applicable to other areas as you might think.  And the more you (effectively) apply your patterns in one area, the less applicable they will become to other, unrelated applications.

In experiential learning, you develop the chunks through practice but you can never rely on just applying the chunks.  Chunks will contain novel chinks in your ‘chunk armour’ and, when you take on new challenges, other forms of experiential learning, you’ll have to think outside the chunks you already possess. Think through what the relationships between patterns and performance might be.

No Automatic Immunity

February 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Following on from the previous post, you might assume that the achievement of automaticity provides immunity from error.  After all, automaticity is acquired through extensive experience and is effortless (possibly resourceless as well) performance that, for most things, is a consequence of learning (some fundamental, ‘automatised’ perceptual and cognitive processes are hard-wired in our heads).  Perhaps the most important elements of this shift from manual to automatic control is that the latter is both unintentional and stimulus–driven (that is, the presence of a learned trigger is sufficient for automatic behaviour to be initiated, even when the actor is not consciously aware of its presence).

But there’s never automatic immunity from automaticity.  And the explanation is similar to the difference between assumption and expectancy.  Assumptions may be divorced from experience and disconnected from the situation whereas expectancies are derived from experience and applied automatically to situations.

Even automaticity does not allow you to disconnect from your performance; it makes performance more effective and much more efficient but it never makes you foolproof.

Assuming that your experience, your expertise or your personality somehow makes you foolproof is simply wrong unless you interpret ‘being foolproof’ as ‘proof of being a fool’.

Distracted or disconnected decimates the benefits of automaticity.  You cannot participate without attending, in the sense of paying attention.  There is a distinction, however, between being present and attending; if you’re present without attending, you could find yourself in difficulty.  If you attend, you are always present although automaticity allows you to ‘loiter in the background’.

Perhaps the best analogy for this post is with pyrite; you know, the yellowish iron sulphide that looks very similar to gold and is often referred to as fool’s gold:

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There is no automatic immunity, even experts are not foolproof and the concept of perfection is pyrite!

One Thing Leads To Another

February 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Regardless of what skill you’re learning, it’s impossible to know when the learning started.  It will always pre-date the time when you first started doing but by how long is anybody’s guess.  And it doesn’t really matter, for it is not the starting point but the journey that is important.

When learning first starts, you see ‘things’, even if you don’t notice them.  As you continue, you realise, and begin to understand, the connections that exist between these ‘things’.  As the connections multiply, so your understanding deepens.  There comes a point when you transcend these connections, forming patterns from groups of connections.  Only chumps don’t chunk!

And these patterns allow you to compare and contrast what’s in your head, the stored experiences that have created these patterns, with the actual ‘things’, connections and patterns in the world around you.  They will allow you to respond effectively but, more crucially, they will allow you to anticipate and respond more efficiently.

There are always times when you need to go beyond what is around you – can you think of any such circumstances?  In these circumstances, you are trying to match valid patterns in your head with incomplete or ‘fuzzy’ information that surrounds you.  In these circumstances, you fill in these gaps with the possibilities and probabilities you’ve collected through experience.  This is an example of going ‘beyond’.

There’s another type of going ‘beyond’, and this is where you can run into problems for you are also going ‘beyond’ your experience, not just the immediate circumstances.  Let’s use an analogy to help explain; many people have heard of the halo effect whereby, on the basis of a single, positive quality, other positive qualities are ascribed without any evidence whatsoever.  These are assumed connections that are not derived or inferred from relevant experience.  One thing leads to another and, as Vanessa Amorosi sings, “before you know it, you’re in too deep:”

One thing does lead to another – that’s how you learn experientially.  But there are ‘anothers’ that flow from your experience, either directly or indirectly, and there are ‘anothers’ that have little or no relationship to your experience.

When you arrive at an ‘another’, how did you get there?

Is Your Mind Set?

January 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

All of us come to experiential learning or behavioural change with baggage.  It might be prior effort, previous ‘failure’ or past experiences.  Unlike real baggage, which can be a useful way to confine clothes to a finite and manageable space, the other sort of baggage can be a hindrance.  But not necessarily in the way that most people think it’s a hindrance.

In popular culture, ‘baggage’ often refers to emotional issues, whereby the past continues to affect the present because of a failure to resolve it and move on.  And these can be important, serious effects.  However, while the consequences may be far-reaching, the ‘baggage’ can usually be traced to specific events or circumstances.  What about ‘baggage’ that is more general and more amorphous – the ‘baggage’ that has been built up through countless small experiences, ‘baggage’ that you weren’t aware was being built?

And hence the question, “Is your mind set?”  For this type of ‘baggage’ produces a mindset that has the potential to influence your approach to learning and change.  By filtering out alternatives, by restricting choices and by constraining understanding, mindsets distort experience and experiences.  It’s the everyday, as you see it, and not necessarily the everyday that is or the everyday that could be:

Of course, the effects of mindsets are not as blatant as the video suggests and it may be that their subtlety masks their existence.  If you follow instructions or accept advice to alter your behaviour in certain ways, it is possible to overcome mindsets temporarily.  But putting your ‘baggage’ down for a while comes at a cost.  Overriding mindsets can be overwhelming, leading to subsequent loss of self control.

Don’t leave your ‘baggage’ circulating on the carousel while you attempt something, only to pick it up later.  This achieves little in a direct sense and the pervading effect and affect of the ‘baggage’ remains a significant, indirect influence.

‘Baggage’ is something that has to be actively managed and resolved, it has to be unpacked and then re-packed in a different way.

Is your mind set on lugging around your ‘baggage’?  Or can you set your mind to revise and replace your ‘baggage’?  It’s the everyday that produces the ‘baggage’; therefore, your ‘baggage’ removal efforts must be applied every day.

More And/Or Less

December 6th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

This post is about more and less, more or less.

Experiential learning could be conceived of as gradually less absence and progressively more presence.  It could also be thought of as gradually more absence and progressively less presence.  These two statements appear contradictory but aren’t.  ‘tis nobler wonders if you’d understand more if less was written – ‘tis nobler is sure you’ve heard the saying, “Less is more.”  Aren’t more presence and less absence always better in experiential learning?

We become accustomed to busyness; we think of busyness as business.  We fill vacuums, we take up spaces, we break silences and we, more or less, reject the ‘less is more’ credo time and time again.  Nature abhors a vacuum and so we naturally do something about it by doing something.  Less might be more but more is perceived to be invariably better.

Often, to demonstrate apparent competence or expertise, the same approach is applied.  More is better unless less is more.  Doesn’t it follow that, if less is more and more is better, less is better?  Can you see how this relates to experiential learning, or does ‘tis nobler need to say more?

Perhaps less words and more action will help explain these issues, particularly when there is no action:

If this post has all been a bit too cryptic, ‘tis nobler should perhaps have said more.  If this post has encouraged to explore issues of more and less, ‘tis nobler could perhaps have said less.

More and less.  You have to more or less find your own way.

Unusually, Usually

November 26th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There are two types of ‘unusual’ things:

There’s the type of thing that starts out being unusual and gradually becomes usual, and;

There’s the type of thing that always remains unusual.

Don’t think it’s only the always unusual things – the odd, the rare, the unlikely – that present challenges to experiential learners, because it’s the usual things they have to watch out for.  Nobody is perfect in dealing with the usual things – error is a frequent companion to performance – and errors while doing the usual  occur many, many more times than errors learners make while trying to cope with the unusual.  Overall, there is more (aggregate) risk associated with the usual than the unusual.

When you start out doing something, most of it is usually unusual.  While you’ve seen others do it, while you may have watched it on TV, while you may have had a bit of a go from time to time, everything changes when you actually and seriously begin to do it.  Everything is, or appears to be, unusual.  With growing experience, much of the unusual gradually, very gradually, becomes usual; despite this shift and despite what you might think, the ‘usual’ remains your biggest problem.

So, don’t think that all of your effort is directed towards being able to cope with the unusual, because the unusual may never occur.

So, do think that all of your effort is directed towards being able to cope with the usual, because the usual happens every second of every performance episode.  But it is never as usual as you think it is.  But what should you do if you find yourself confronted with unusual circumstances?  What would you do in these circumstances?

Maybe the answer is to treat these very unusual circumstances in the same way you handle the usual stuff, the way you manage your ‘usual’ skilled performance  and its attendant risks day in, day out, time after time.  Do you think that the unusual demands that you do things that you don’t usually do?  Perhaps responding to the unusual with the unusual isn’t such a good idea.

Are you unusual in coping with the usual?  Are you usual in coping with the unusual?

Backwards And Forwards Without Moving

October 21st, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today, let’s have words.  ‘tis nobler doesn’t want to have words like centrifugal, celebratory or chromatography, interesting as these words are.  No, today, ‘tis nobler WANTS TO HAVE WORDS.  Of course, having words is another way of saying having a forceful discussion, which itself is another way of saying heated argument.  AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR NOW!

And all of these ways usually reduce to some simple statements or questions: I AM RIGHT.  YOU ARE WRONG.  HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID?  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?

These interactions can be frequent, explosive or smouldering and they usually come free of charge.  Sometimes, though, there is a fee involved:

At the personal and interpersonal levels, conflict usually involves going backwards and forwards, without actually moving, without making any progress.  ‘Winning’ is often seen as more important than settling; there may be precious little resolution for seeking a resolution.  Neither is appeasement a sensible strategy for the underlying issue remains and it will re-surface in an hour, a day or maybe a week.

Perhaps it is better to move towards the conflict than retreat, either to an entrenched position or the apparent safety of greater distance.  This is the idea underpinning the concept and practice of Restorative Circles (read about it in this report).  Moving closer together is the only place where shared understanding can be found.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, conflicts will arise.  The aim is not to prevail but to resolve constructively.  The aim is not to waste time going backwards and forwards but to make progress.  The aim is not to allow conflict to supplant learning or change but to learn and grow.

Find your own way, respectfully.

Travelled, To Travel

October 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past satisfies the present but it does not necessarily inspire the future.  In fact, the past can be a reason, make that excuse, for stopping instead of continuing.  It depends on how you measure progress and the perceived length of your learning journey?  How do you measure these things?

One way, perhaps the most common way, is to recognise how far you’ve travelled since you began.  If you contrast your first tentative steps as an experiential learner with your current, apparent, capabilities, the difference will be stark.  When you examine the stages, even just the duration, of your learning to date, there is (some) good reason for satisfaction.

And therein lurks the danger of the past/present comparison.

Concentrating on what you have already completed – the road you have travelled – encourages you to stop travelling.  After a while, your efforts do seem to be producing diminishing returns.  While progress does become much less obvious, it is not diminishing; rather, continued effort will refine, reinforce and deepen your learning.

Research has shown that continued effort flows from a focus on the future – the learning ‘road’ yet to be travelled rather than the distance already covered.  You can be motivated to continue by the challenges and excitement of what lies ahead or you can be satisfied, perhaps smug, with what you’ve done.  Thus:Owls  sing about future challenges in their song, “Climbing the fjelds of Norway”:

“…. and climbed the fjelds of Norway

I could never reach the peak of the mountain

There was always another one behind ….”

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There is always another one.  It’s a journey, not a day trip.  Regardless of your experiential learning status, look ahead and continue.  Don’t look back and stop.  The journey does not end simply because you stop travelling for there are always more, varied and deeper experiences ahead.  You don’t reach the future, you just keep travelling towards it.


October 8th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you’re going on an extended trip, you don’t set off without luggage.  If you’re about to commence an experiential learning journey, it’s near impossible to set off without baggage.  Luggage is invariably helpful whereas baggage can be either a help or a hindrance.

Baggage can be a help because it can contain previous, probably vicarious, experiences of the skills you want to acquire.  You don’t see a car or traffic for the first time when you set out to learn how to drive; you don’t see a game of football for the first time when you front up to try out for the team.  You’ll have some knowledge of what lawyers, salespeople, real estate agents or police do.  These experiences can shape prepotent behaviours and, if these are generally in the ‘right’ direction, some of the necessary foundation can be built ahead of time.  It is always possible to start learning before you think learning starts!

Baggage can also be a hindrance as these prepotent behaviours are not derived from your direct experience and are more likely to introduce bias – things look different if you are a spectator.  One way to offset this is through the use of self control, which allows you to engage in learning rather than implement behaviours that reflect expectation rather than experience.  It can be tempting to assume, on the basis of observation and peripheral involvement, that you can already do what you’ve seen others doing.  It can be tempting to mimic the things you’ve seen others doing.  But these temptations are not learning; they are a house of cards that will collapse under the slightest pressure.

The use of self control has an added benefit.  There is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.

We tend to think of our baggage only when looking backwards, particularly in the last three minutes:

But this need not be the case.  Although grounded in the past, baggage can be used prospectively and positively.  Experiential learning and behavioural change should not involve being controlled by others.  It does, however, require self control.  Find your own way and control your own journey.


September 15th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, understanding the world around you is your greatest challenge as appearances can be deceiving, even more so when some things don’t appear to appear.  But they are there, nevertheless.  Not seeing something doesn’t make it invisible but it can make it very surprising, when it eventually appears to you while having been there all the time.

So, appearances can be deceiving in a couple of ways.  Is it better to be fooled than unaware?  Are there things you can do that can reduce the chances of being misled because of something someone else did or something you failed to do?  Appearances, misleading appearances and unseen appearances, either separately or sometimes all three in the one place at the one time, can conspire to produce error.

This video is called The Other Sky – it presents things that appear as they are and things that appear as reflections.

Small actions – a breeze, a raindrop or a pebble – and appearances can alter, with significant consequences, not just where the action occurred but radiating out from that spot to affect a much larger area.  You may not be aware of the initial action – it could happen before you arrived, in the next office or around the corner – but that does not mean that you won’t be affected by the ripples.

Reflection is both a useful metaphor for cause, effect and spread while also being a powerful thinking strategy – reflect on appearances, actions and ripples.  What can you do to avoid being affected adversely by them?

All At Once

September 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you be too switched on?  Can you try too hard?  Can you fail because you want to succeed too much?  If you focus, really focus, on the details, won’t you have a very detailed focus?  And isn’t a detailed focus a good thing?  If it is, why do people talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees?

Perhaps William George Horner or  Charles-Émile Reynaud might be able to throw some light on these sorts of issues as they invented the zoetrope and praxinoscope respectively.  Both of these devices use a number of small pictures and either slits or mirrors to create a big, animated picture.  Here’s a great music video that uses praxinoscopes for their visual effect (you can see how it was done here):

Hhmm, so you get an integrated big picture from a series of little bits.  This is similar to one of the benefits of experience – the ability to transcend the bits and deal with situations at a more holistic level.  When you commence, your learning space might seem like a large number of jigsaw puzzle pieces; rather than form a coherent pattern, you get lost in the details.  Experience doesn’t give you the bits, it gives you the pattern!  And operating at the level of patterns instead of bits produces an array of benefits.

There is some evidence that people might make better decisions if they do so without conscious thought, and this might lead to downplaying the value of analysis while reinforcing the apparent benefits of distraction or ‘intuition’.  However, what some ascribe to ‘intuition’ is more often a reflection of the benefits of increased experience, the ongoing development of mental models and a consequent reduction in intentional effort.

When you begin your experiential learning journey, you’ll only be able to see a few of the trees, not all the trees and certainly not the forest.  As you continue, the trees will form patterns; eventually, you’ll become very efficient at detecting patterns and deviations from them.  When you choose to do something because you’ve detected a deviation, often without conscious thought, you are reaping the benefits of experience, not intuition.

Intuition is intuitively appealing but is mistakenly thought of as separate from experience, something magical rather than derived from hard work and extensive preparation; effort has less appeal but much more value.  Find your own way, all at once.

Cause And Defect

August 5th, 2010 | Specific | 1 Comment

There was a time when many people believed the Earth was flat and that sailors who failed to return had sailed off the edge.  Throughout history, various mythical creatures have been viewed as real, from dragons to unicorns, from centaurs to werewolves.  These views helped explain things that were not understood.  The surreal appeared real.

Sometimes, good things happen to a person.  Sometimes, bad things happen to the same person.  Sometimes, things just seem to go well for an experiential learner.  Sometimes, nothing seems to go right for the same experiential learner.  The causes of these occurrences are not always apparent; consequently, a cause may be attributed that shifts responsibility from the person to something or someone else.

If you passively observe this video, it may appear weird, perhaps nonsensical, unless you make the effort to explore its content:

Are you likely to view this as a ‘flat earth’ video, making your apparent ‘facts’ become the real facts?  How much of your conclusion was derived from misunderstanding or, more importantly, not making the effort to understand what the messages may have been?  If you attribute cause to effect when you do not understand how the ‘world’ works, you are likely to produce a cause that is more a defect than a valid explanation.

You will often hear the mantra, “What’s meant to be, will be”, as though things are pre-ordained, as though your journey is predestined, as though what you do makes little difference.  Rather than grapple with issues of spirituality or faith, let’s narrow the focus to experiential learning, for your perspective and understanding can have a major influence on the quality of your learning journey.

Much of this learning journey involves gaining a more valid, more reliable and more efficient understanding of how your experiential ‘world’ works – how things fit together, what things mean, how likely things are to occur.  Without this understanding, there is a chance you will attribute events along the way to your own version of ‘dragons’ or ‘unicorns’ because they seem to fit the facts as they appear to you.  And ‘dragons’ or ‘unicorns’ let you off the hook at the same time.

“It’s not my fault” is a ‘dragon’.  “I didn’t mean for this to happen” is a unicorn.  “After such a short time, I already know it all” is a Bigfoot in the mouth!  Summoning myths can be convenient and tempting; do convenience and temptation have a role to play in your journey?


July 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

That heading doesn’t make sense.  What’s ‘deef’?  It could represent many things but, in this instance, it represents ‘feed’ back.  Feedback is rightly regarded as a crucial component in learning, although the actual use of feedback can be unhelpful at best, destructive at worst.

Listen to a tennis coach telling a young learner to ‘get the ball over the net’; there is little point to this feedback and it probably doesn’t even qualify as information in that it doesn’t reduce uncertainty for the learner (who is perfectly aware they are hitting the ball into the net and probably unaware of what they are doing incorrectly).  Does this seem like helpful deef to you?

As a learner driver, you hear a car horn sound – was that warning directed at you?  Was it in fact a warning?  What was it warning you (or others) about?  There are many more examples.  As an experiential learner, you’ll realise that feedback is often absent, hidden or ambiguous.  In the real world, feedback is as scarce as deef!

So, how should you extract useful feedback from your learning experiences, given that it has to be prompt and not delayed, anticipated and not unexpected, specific and not general, constructive and not dispiriting.  Who is in the best position to analyse and understand each and every one of your learning sessions, embedded as they are in your day-to-day life?  Who can you always rely on to be there?  In the words of Baby Tate , who is best able to ‘see what you done done’?

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Who can ‘see what you done done’ in ways that guide and enhance your journey?  Initially, Yvonne Or Ursula?  At the start, Yvette Or Uma?  Finally, GarY tO LulU?  These may be as cryptic as ‘deef’ appeared to be but it’s always the same answer – YOU.

But wait, there’s more.  Research has shown that the awareness that prompt (external) feedback is available moderates expectations of performance while substantially improving actual task performance (with a likely motivational link between these two effects).  If, through self-management, you become your own supervisor and frequently review where you’ve been and where you’re going as a learner, does it seem reasonable that you would also perform better?

Free Can Be Expensive

July 16th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

The competing issues of free will and determinism have been discussed by philosophers and others for a very long time.  Find Your Own Way requires experiential learners to exercise their will freely as a means of shaping and sustaining the most effective and efficient learning process for them.  They must be determined (but not ‘be determined’) in this regard for, as experiential learners, they must not be seen as mindless instruments controlled by outsiders:

Freedom is central but not absolute in the ‘tis nobler learning model for there is a way in which free will becomes both expensive and undesirable.  Fortunately, you can avoid this significant expense if you are dedicated to making the effort to learn experientially.

One of the most fundamental benefits of sustained experiential learning is the performance shift from manual to automatic control.  You are aware that manual control is very demanding as you’ve felt it firsthand at the start of your various experiential learning journeys to date.  In contrast, automatic control is essentially effortless – you have personal experience of being able to operate successfully and efficiently on ‘auto-pilot’.  This doesn’t mean that you’ve tuned out; rather, it means that you’re really switched on and tuned in!

In some really clever research, the difference between responding automatically and responding intentionally was measured across visual search tasks.  The results indicated that operating under manual control increased the time needed by 200% – 300% compared to when participants operated on ‘auto-pilot’.  In performance terms, free will comes at a considerable cost.

Improved efficiency of operation supports greater effectiveness of operation for you are able to do more with less effort.  And that’s a good way to measure your learning journey – from doing less with more effort to doing more with less effort.  As ‘tis nobler says, “Effort is essential”, more or less!

A Prompt Or A Problem?

July 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you’ll have to deal constantly with uncertainty.  One way to do this is to fill in the gaps yourself, using expectancies (or likelihoods) derived from your experience to date.  When you don’t know, you’ll fill in the gap with what you (have come to) expect, with this information becoming increasingly refined over time.  But that’s another story.

You can also follow the lead of others.  This is where the concept of social proof – a fundamental relationship between individual and group – arrives to muddy the waters for learners.  When uncertain what to do in a given circumstance, a person will often assume that those around him know what they are doing and thus provide the necessary guidance.  I’ll do what they are doing because they know and I don’t – a conclusion that inexperienced learners will often reach.

Social proof is meant to help but it can often hamper, particularly when novices try to use it, and the potential culprit in social proof is normative standards.  Normative standards are the informal behavioural ‘values’ that are shared and accepted by broad user groups (e.g. drivers, lawyers, athletes etc).  While they may have some overlap with formal rules and regulations, they can also be (substantially) different.  While many of our experiential ‘worlds’ have a formal framework, our behaviour reflects much greater flexibility within and beyond this framework. 

Trying to behave like those with much more experience creates a host of problems.  You can pretend that these problems don’t exist and that this approach is OK but you’d need to convince yourself that, as a novice, you’re the same as others who have been playing the sport, driving the car or doing the job much longer than you have.  In her song “I Don’t Know”, Allison Crowe  sings “And I won’t try to be judgemental, I won’t try to be holier than thou, I don’t get this, And I am not going to pretend I do.

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Just seeing what others do doesn’t enable you to imitate them.  Knowing what they’re doing doesn’t mean you’ll understand their actions.  As an experiential learner, you must find your own way rather than try to follow the path shared by those with more experience and a more developed skills base.

Social proof can be a prompt or a problem – only you can decide which one applies at any given time and what you’re going to do about it.