Posts Tagged ‘robustness’

Design Floors

January 18th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tweaking The Talk

December 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.

You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk.  But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others.  ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’.  It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk.  Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.

We often create false memories 

Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems.  One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour.  To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall.  How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?

And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:

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.

Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process.  We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves.   Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line.  These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way.   Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false.  It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.

Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences?  Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate.  Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion.  Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:

Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact.  How do you find your own way through this quagmire?  Do you do it by tweaking your talk?

Forward Is Not Straightforward

October 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We realise from the last post that around is not forward.  Around is around, and around is anything but forward.  Around can be a backward step in many ways, and not one of those ways is forward.

Trying to unpack ‘forward is not straightforward’ can also lead us in many directions.  One of the main reasons why forward is not straightforward is that going around is comfortable and non-threatening.  How do you break away from going around (in circles) in order to move forward?

It’s interesting that the last thing to do is often the first thing done – reduce the challenge and complexity involved in breaking away to simple catchcries and empty slogans.  If ‘just do it’ enabled people to ‘just do it’, then ‘it’ would always get done.  It’s just not that easy.  There is some general guidance from research studies that might make moving forward more straightforward (and remember, be positive, think comparative).

To move forward rather than around, realise firstly that everything is more important than it may appear, for the opportunity to move forward is ever present.  This does not mean that everything is crucial or critical; neither does it mean that you must never miss an opportunity for you will miss many, many opportunities.  But if you move forward more often because you understand that things are more important than they seem, it’s a step in the right direction!  And these steps form a pattern, and we all know how important patterns are to learning and behavioural change.

At the tipping point for moving forward, implement rather than create.  Thinking ‘on your feet’ might be all you need to decide that it’s safer to go around rather than forward.  Make symbolic changes as a means to an end; many think that symbolic change is an end in its own right for it is, after all, a change.  Real change, demonstrated by moving forward, can be made more likely by making small changes that symbolise a commitment to change.

Don’t focus on the process and ignore the occasional stumble; remember and reinforce the reason for moving forward.  You can avoid the process and the stumbles by going around but you also avoid the reason for breaking away from just going around at the same time.  Regardless of how you do it, the principle underpinning all of these strategies is a simple one:

Don’t hold back, just push things forward!

Forward does not necessarily mean straight so only you can decide whether ‘crooked’ is forward or around.  Straight or ‘crooked’, though, forward is never straightforward.  Can you get your head around that?

Positively Vague

September 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message More Than Medium

August 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cause it’s all in my head

I think about it over and over again

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

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

Right Or Wrong?

June 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week was simple and easy; actually, it was about simple (that’s hardly simple) and easy (when it becomes harder).  This week is about right or wrong.

There is a moral dimension to many of the decisions you make during experiential learning and behavioural change.  Decisions are made on the basis that they are good rather than bad, right rather than wrong, appropriate rather than inappropriate or fair rather than unfair.  However, it is never as clear-cut as these dichotomies suggest for most of these decisions occupy the grey, fuzzy space between these poles (and, to mangle a metaphor, this is fitting for they are often taken in the heat of the moment).  Moral is more tropical than polar!  ‘tis nobler could also suggest that this can also make them unbearable but that would be a step too far.

The traditional view is that we follow a systematic, methodical process in making these decisions, weighing the costs and benefits and identifying the best thing to do.  There is a range of judgments and decisions in the short film ‘Insomnio’ and it gives you the impression these are (silently) assessed over a period of time until a final decision is made:

But it’s generally not a systematic process.  The evidence indicates that the process we use to reach a ‘moral’ decision is as messy and ill-defined as the content of the question over which we are musing.  ‘How am I doing it?’ is just as difficult to answer as ‘What should I be doing?’  It’s fast rather than measured and it’s frugal rather than rich in its use of available information.

And, as you would expect, the process is not immune from external influences.  A dirtier, immediate environment can see you making ‘dirtier’ decisions while cleaner surroundings can see you making ‘cleaner’ decisions.  The process can be affected by mood and situations – holding a cup of coffee in your hands can see you making ‘warmer’ judgments of others – and there is also a ‘ripple’ effect in which a motivating experience leads to ‘better’ behaviour in the short term.  You have been ‘primed’ to act more morally.

When you consider this ‘moral decision maelstrom’, you appreciate how challenging it is to be consistent in the frequent decisions that you must make within your own ‘world’.  We rarely, and fortunately, need to confront big decisions; rather, it is the endless, little decisions that can chip away at our commitment and erode our self-management.

And this is further complicated by our lack of self awareness, of the things going on in our own head.  ‘Should I have a third chocolate biscuit?’  ‘Would it be OK for me to miss a practice session today?’  These are small questions in isolation – perhaps a messy, inconsistent approach to resolving them doesn’t matter.  But you don’t live your life as a series of discrete and independent events – your life is an aggregation of these events.

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer to any specific decision you must make but there is a better or worse pattern that emerges from the sequence of decisions you make.  This is the essence of robust and resilient self-management, indulging in occasional, minor lapses as the exceptions that prove the rule of a more positive and sustainable behavioural pattern.

For Better Or For Worse?

June 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you somehow combine the two previous posts, you end up with a post that’s about simple choices.  This is that post, except I might delay writing it for a while.  I should write it now to conform to the posting schedule but I might choose to do something else.  Should I delay implementing my default (scheduled) option?

What is the relationship between simple choices and procrastination?  The relationship is summarised in the title of this post – for better or worse.

And it all depends on the nature of the default option when confronting a choice.

Simple choices often have a standard, popular, normative or default option, for it is the obvious that makes the choice simple.  If the default dominates, choosing is not complicated for the choice, in a sense, has already been made.  This is usually helpful for life is too short to be spent mulling over simple, perhaps irrelevant (to your life) choices.  Of course, the default may not always be the best option (for you or others) – can you imagine the inertia this introduces into attempts at behavioural change?

When choices are delayed, the evidence indicates that people shift from the default and so the effect of procrastination reflects the quality of the default.  If the default option is objectively better, the eventual choice will be worse; conversely, the eventual choice will be better when the default is objectively worse.

And so everything depends on your assessment and/or acceptance of the default.  Serendipitously, the name of this band is ‘Default’ but it’s the title of the song that is the point:

Are you wasting your time when you delay a choice?  Only you can answer that and your answer should reflect much more than your subjective view of your default options.  There are times when simple choices are hardly simple and there are times when easy choices should be made much harder.  Naturally, there are also times when simple choices are simple, easy and correct; at these times, delay can have a real opportunity cost.

When should you choose default and when should you choose delay?  Perhaps the rule of thumb for defaults and delays is ‘for better or for worse’!  And ‘for better or for worse’ is not really a choice, it is more likely to be a decision.  Decide to find your own way – for better.

Intentional Protection

May 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you remember when ‘tis nobler used lines and spaces to compare and contrast habits and skills:

Think of habits as lines and skills as spaces; habits are specific, skills are general.  Habits are towns, skills are continents …….. Lines can exist in space but there is no space in a line.  You can only move along a line; in a space, you can move in any direction you choose.  A specific situation triggers the habit whereas skills operate across situations.  Lines are static, spaces can be dynamic.  The link between situation and habit is explicit and known to the learner; skill learning is implicit in the situation, with the learner often being unaware of what is actually being learnt.

Habits can be notoriously difficult to change as habitual behaviour can be as unthinking as skilled behaviour is automatic.  It’s a deliberately ambiguous question, then: Can you intentionally protect yourself against your habits?

Intentions can influence behaviour.  Given their closer proximity to behaviour, intentions are a more reliable predictor of behaviour than attitudes or (more distant) values and achieve this by closing off (inhibiting) alternatives.  But it’s hard to rely on your good intentions ‘when your head is full of things you can’t mention ….. and you miss so much that requires attention ”:

If the connection between intentions and behaviour is imperfect, can intentions overcome the more ingrained habitual behaviours?  And the answer is ‘Yes’, for there is recent evidence that implementing intentions that are not concordant with habits can reduce the incidence of habitual behaviours (and that this is also achieved through an inhibitory mechanism).  As you should expect, the connection is again imperfect, suggesting that the road away from habits may be paved with good intentions but you might still end up heading towards them!

Even though you intend to move away from your (bad) habits, you might still act habitually because inhibition takes effort – it’s not easy being ‘single-minded’ -and this effort might not be sufficient or might be directed elsewhere.  The intention might only address one element of the habitual behaviour and is swamped by the other elements, it might be rendered impotent by your (negative) emotional state or it might sometimes just not be strong enough.  Intention is important but there are many reasons why it might not be enough.  Still, a positive intention is always a good start.

Intention is not a cure for bad habits – even when you’re attending to what you’re intending – but it is a useful tool in your self-management toolkit.  But a robust toolkit needs more than an intentions implement – how do you intend strengthening your intentions?

Preferably Reversible, Actually Not

May 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you remember the post (Day Tripper) that referred to figure skaters?  Among other things, it noted:

With equivalent amounts of experience, the better skaters in the group spent almost 50% more time practising more difficult manoeuvres rather than just doing the simpler things over and over again.  It all looked like practice, the quantity of experience was similar but there were significant differences in the quality of that experience…….If you are striving to succeed in anything, you must succeed in continuing to strive.

This is another reinforcement of the central point in Monday’s post that dismissed ‘natural ability’ for experiential learning is ‘never natural, it’s always effortful’.  And yet the temptation to find an easy way out is ever-present; it seems more comforting to ascribe our slow(er) progress to a lack of natural ability than to a lack of effort.  We can, and should act naturally:

But this does not mean that acting naturally can be reversed.  Still, we prefer to believe that acting naturally is reversible – we can naturally act, despite knowing that sustained, engaged effort is needed.  The contrast between preference and requirement was clearly shown in recent research that demonstrated a clear preference for endorsing natural talent.  Professional musicians were asked to assess recorded performances by two musicians, one of whom was described as having natural talent while the other had learned through hard work.  Their ‘methods’ were the only difference – the musical samples were, in fact, identical.

Despite professing the value of hard work, this group preferred the music produced by the naturally gifted ‘player’.  They could not conclude this on the basic of the music itself (which was identical, even though most could not discern this) but on the journey undertaken to produce it.  We cling to a preference for the ‘special’, for the ‘out of the ordinary’, for the ‘extraordinary’; does this mean that our strongest preference may be to leave ourselves an apparently acceptable explanation for our own relative performance?

It is important to act naturally; it is more important to realise that any skilled action does not come naturally.  Naturally, this is difficult to accept for we would always prefer to think that effort is not required.  Effort is essential.

What Am I Saying?

May 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is important to think of experiential learning and behavioural change as bottomless – you can never delve too deeply for learning is lifelong and change constantly presents new challenges.  Take a concept like self control that can be ‘dismissed’ superficially and semantically.  After all, it is just controlling yourself!  ‘tis nobler has unpacked self-control in various posts:

“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”.

And then ‘tis nobler wrote, “There is evidence that indicates that high discount rates – the ‘now, now, now’ phenomenon – are associated with reduced self control.  Immediate gratification is seen as much more valuable than something more valuable for which you must wait”.  It might help maintain self control by recognising that “Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence”.

And it is possible to learn self control – “And the point of this post is that there is evidence to indicate that there is a practice effect for self-control.  Implementing self control behaviours, rather than just coping through willpower or suppressing the ‘objects of your desires’, does lead to more effective self control”.

And now we turn to some research that emphasises the role of your inner voice.  Telling yourself what or what not to do is a popular cultural theme and it seems that it can be successful.  The evidence is indirect; suppressing your inner voice by requiring other verbal tasks while completing a primary task in which impulse control is important leads to more impulsive behaviour than when the secondary task is non-verbal.  Your inner voice is lost in the din, and impulsiveness  increases.

Think of the (inner) verbal interference you may experience during experiential learning and behavioural change – I’m not sure I can do this, just a little (lapse) won’t hurt, how is this going to turn out? – and it is little wonder that your inner voice struggles to keep you heading in the right direction for it is drowned out by doubts and short-term decisions.

But your inner voice usually does know the real answers and, like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within:

In self control, it helps to silence the noise in your head so that you can hear what your inner voice is saying.  This is easier said than done but, as noted above, there is a practice effect in self control; try repeating this mantra:

What am I saying?  What am I saying?  What am I saying?  What am I saying?

How Close? How Far?

April 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you cannot be a passive consumer of experiences for your learning will be less effective and much less efficient.  While learning opportunities are a feature of the immediate world around you, they are incidental rather than ingrained.  You must actively pursue them rather than just wait for them to roll past.

But there are limits and so direct experience can and should be complemented by vicarious experiences.  Learn directly by doing and learn indirectly by engaging with the doing done by others for it will comprise both shared and independent experiences.  It’s good to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’:

But the answer to ‘when to learn vicariously’ is not whenever, for there is one application that appears to have costs greater than benefits.  Self-control seems to be hindered by ‘wearing other shoes’; in this circumstance, watching may be better than wearing!

In Other Shoes, ‘tis nobler stressed the value of distance to enhance self-control – Putting yourself in other shoes can help you succeed in your own.  Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey – but there is distance and then there is greater distance.  And greater distance seems better than distance in this instance – can you see now why wearing might be better than watching?

The vicarious experience of ‘wearing the shoes of another’ may provide useful insights into self-control but recent research indicates that this distancing may not be sufficient to overcome its costs.  Those that ‘wore the shoes of another exercising self-control’ were subsequently unable to match this level of vicarious self-control whereas those that ‘watched’ (actually read about someone practising self-control) demonstrated subsequently enhanced levels of self-control.  Insufficient distancing exacted a price.

Both direct and indirect experience can be valuable but this is not guaranteed.  In many ways, indirect may mean insufficient.  And insufficient is neither effective nor efficient.  Can you untangle proficient, sufficient and efficient in order to guide your learning journey?

Easy To Believe

April 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s a common saying – easy to believe.  Appearances can be deceiving, even to an experienced performer, which is why experience builds in multiple redundancies.  Looked at in one way, an appearance can be deceiving; when looked at in different ways or when different things are looked at concurrently, the ‘deception’ can be revealed.  Still, notwithstanding the various fail-safes we use, we are never safe from failing, underscoring the need for robust self-management in addition to skilled performance.

But nothing’s perfect and even robust self-management has its lapses.  This is where deception can make an appearance; this appearance is all about deceiving!  If it was just a bit of harmless deception, the little ‘white lies’ that are often used to lubricate the wheels of interaction, this post would come to an early conclusion.  However, it’s more than that for the ‘lies’ are not as ‘white’ as they might seem.

It’s not just deception; it can also be about self-deception, a combination of deception and delusion.  There is evidence that self-deception is resistant to self-correction, in part because we fail to see the need for correction.  In this sense we are, as Smoosh  tell us, our own lies:

We are so afraid to be ourselves …

We are our own lies…


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Pretending that we know is much, much more frequent than knowing that we pretend.  There are, however, choices.  We don’t know what we don’t know but we can discover what we don’t know through effortful practice.  Similarly, we may not know when we are pretending to know but we are not destined to be our own lies.

These are difficult learning paths to navigate – can you find your own way?

While Or Instead?

March 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Happy’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Can you be effective when affective?  Obviously, it is a matter of degree (in a similar way to arousal) – too much or too little and performance suffers.  But being happy could be viewed as a desirable precondition for learning.  Experiential learning can have a social dimension – learning with others – and research has shown that learners who are happy extract more value from their situation than those who are annoyed or frustrated.  Interestingly, being on the ‘same affective page’ – either all happy or all annoyed – can enhance the learning experience (defined as information transfer).  Still, as a general rule, it is better to be content than congruent!

So, as a general rule, whistle while you work:

But be careful that you don’t whistle instead of work.  It is important to view happiness as an end – after all, everyone aspires and deserves to be happy – but it must also, and simultaneously, be viewed as a means.  In a large study investigating the relationship between positive affect and college success, the inferred difference between while and instead appears stark:

Instead is positively associated with self-reported measures of success – feeling good just by itself creates higher self-assessments of success, but:

Instead is negatively associated with objective measures of success – feeling good just by itself produces lower levels of performance.

You will feel better if you whistle instead of work, and you’ll believe that you are doing better as well.  The first may be usually true but the second rarely is.  The challenge is to multi-task by replacing instead with while.  Whistling and working is more effective than whistling rather than working!

Whistle while you work.  If you feel you can do both, It may be the best way to both feel and do better.

Day Tripper

March 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In their song ‘Day Tripper’, The Beatles sang – ‘Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out’:

You can be a day tripper in your learning and behavioural change.  You can have many good reasons, good in your eyes at least, for being a day tripper.  For many, finding the easy way out is the main purpose for looking in the first place.  If you can’t find an easy way out, what’s the point of looking?  It’s time to move on to another type of day trip, which is, in itself, the ultimate act of a day tripper.

If you can’t find an easy way out of one day trip, move on to another type of day trip that will, hopefully, have an easier way out.  After all, if you have to make an effort to find an easy way out, then it’s no longer easy.  Perhaps it’s better to withhold the effort and change the excursion.

But it’s never better and never will be.  It’s always worse.  There’s a lot of evidence that ‘day tripping’ is ineffective.  Not surprising, really, for it’s the difference between skating over the surface and diving down to explore what’s underneath.  There was a fascinating study on figure skaters several years ago.  With equivalent amounts of experience, the better skaters in the group spent almost 50% more time practising more difficult manoeuvres rather than just do the simpler things over and over again.  It all looked like practice, the quantity of experience was similar but there were significant differences in the quality of that experience.

If you are striving to succeed in anything, you must succeed in continuing to strive.

Being a day tripper may appear to have the hallmarks of a learning journey, and therein can be found the essential problem.  From the outside, others will see similarities between day trippers and explorers; others may fail to distinguish between day trippers and explorers for this distinction is not amenable to snap judgements.

It is possible to accumulate much experience (measured by time) while remaining inexperienced (measured by progress), something that ‘tis nobler will henceforth refer to as the ‘skating’ effect.

If you don’t push yourself forward, you’ll be pulled back by the comfortable inertia of your ‘yesterday’.  The contrasts are stark – shallow or deep, day tripper or explorer.  Find your own way.

If Only Or If, Then?

February 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments


If only this post was more entertaining, my life would be much better.  But it isn’t and it isn’t.

Sigh.  If only things were different, things would be better.  But they aren’t and they aren’t.

So we wait for all of our ‘if onlys’ to arrive and for things to then change.  But they don’t and they don’t.  And we pay the price, in many different ways, for this inaction.  And the price we pay pushes positive action further and further away.  For, when we get disheartened or annoyed, frustrated or irritated, the evidence indicates that we are more likely to be reckless.  In fact, there is evidence for associations between negative feelings and a range of negative behaviours.  If only I didn’t get so annoyed, I wouldn’t be so reckless.  But you do and so you are.  Annoyed and reckless.


What happens if you tolerate this?  The Manic Street Preachers sang about this at a societal level; if you tolerate an ‘if only’ perspective, what are the personal consequences?

One thing to consider is the potential value of ‘If – Then’ thinking, for which there is supporting evidence.  In contrast to the passive nature of ‘if only’ thinking, ‘If – Then’ can promote positive action by replacing usually forlorn hope with practical actions.

And it may be that the commitment to act that is implicit in ‘If – Then’ is more important than the specific type of action.  But that’s another story, another part of the journey.

If only we could replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’, things would be different.  Sigh.

If we find ourselves bemoaning the lost opportunities reflected in ‘if only’, then we’ll replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’.  And then we’ll act accordingly rather than just hope to act.

Only then will things change.

Hoping, It’s Never Enough

January 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It was a Pope who said that hope springs eternal, the same Pope who was quoted in the ‘tis nobler post ‘Forgiving’. 

This Pope may have been clement, but he wasn’t Clement.  This Pope may have been innocent, but he wasn’t Innocent.  This Pope may have been urbane or pious, but he had too many letters to have been Urban or Pius.  And this is strange, for he was a man of letters.  This Pope was Alexander, and he was a Pope by name, not by office.

Hope springs eternal, and that is a good thing.  But the fact that hope springs eternal can also have a downside.  And this downside is when action is confined to hoping rather than being transferred to the doing.  You can hope for all eternity, yet your life can be eternally unchanging.  Hope is a starting point, not a destination.  Hope is a means, not an end.

Of course, this doesn’t stop us from committing to hopes as though this is the same as committing to action.  The best example of this may be resolutions, particularly around the New Year.  We resolve to change many aspects of our lives but our resolution to accomplish our resolutions is often less than resolute.  And, naturally, nothing is resolved for this is another of the (countless) examples of False Hope Syndrome.

Listen to the lyrics of ‘Hope’ by R.E.M. –

“You want to climb the ladder,

You want to see forever …


And you’re looking for salvation,

And you’re looking for deliverance ….


You want to go forever …”

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You will never climb the ladder just by hoping to climb it.  You might want, really want, to go forever but unless you get going, you will never leave.

And you’re looking for deliverance, but deliverance is never delivered.  You have to do more than hope.

If you are hoping to learn experientially, you must first learn that hoping to learn may be necessary but it is always insufficient.  Effort is essential.

Fair, Just Fair Or Just, Fair

January 17th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In recent times, there has been much speculation about tragedies and controversies.  Much of this has been driven by a need to fill up space in a medium, be it press, radio or television.  Nature abhors a vacuum; unfortunately, nature is oblivious to much of this content.  Otherwise, it may find it more abhorrent than a vacuum.

Whether it has involved Wikileaks, floods or anti-government protests, our brows have been beaten by others beating their chests – “Listen to me,” “I am telling the truth,” “This is what it means.”  Our lives have been buffeted, our senses assailed.  And often with a resolute determination to prolong rather than resolve, to inflame rather than enlighten.  Such is the way it usually appears.  And such is the way it usually is.

But change need not mean turmoil.  And variability need not mean uncertainty.  At times, it may appear easier to succumb but it is always better to sustain, sustain yourself and your journey.  For there are silver linings:

But these silver linings are just that – linings – and it is always difficult to cope with the clouds.  And every learning journey, every journey, will have clouds.  What can you do to help with coping in the short term and then, in the longer term, prevailing?  Research has indicated that perspective is important in this regard.

Daily evidence suggests that justice, fairness, optimism and hope are in short supply and that, as a result, there is a strong emphasis on seeing the clouds only.  However, people with a strong need to believe that life is fair and just, and not just fair, are more likely to see the silver linings.

The forest and the trees, the clouds and the linings, glasses half full or half empty – perspective determines how we handle with all of these situations.  On an experiential learning or behavioural change journey, it is tempting to only acknowledge the clouds and decide the effort is not worthwhile.  Is there any type of defeat worse than being self-defeated.

Fair, just fair or just, fair.  Think that sentence through and then find your own way past the clouds.

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?

As One

November 24th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Have you noticed how often we use shoes as a metaphor?  We invite others to ‘walk a mile in our shoes’.  To resolve a dispute or make our position known, we might suggest others acknowledge that ‘the shoe fits’.  If we are trying to extricate ourselves from an awkward situation, we might entreat others to imagine ‘if the shoe was on the other foot’.  At the same time, we could encourage people to think about what they would do ‘if they were in my shoes’.  Apparently, anybody can be ‘too big for their boots’, while there is nothing as ‘comfortable as an old shoe’, except, perhaps, for an older shoe.

All of these metaphors indicate a need for greater concordance, more congruence, stronger agreement or closer alignment.  ‘tis nobler hesitates to say ‘a better fit’.  It would also be inaccurate to suggest more synchronicity but ‘tis nobler will leave you to find out why (isn’t that an ambiguous saying – ‘tis nobler isn’t leaving).

Before you go, perhaps it’s time to watch a marvellous video and then unpack the point of today’s post.  First, though, stand by me:

Having watched the video, I’m hope you’re back from exploring synchronicity; if you are, you probably realise the difference between it and synchronisation.  And today’s post is about a fascinating example of synchronisation, building on the previous post about our memories.  Recent research at Princeton has provided some evidence for the concept of ‘cognitive coupling’ – the synchronisation of brain waves between communicators and listeners when they are on the ‘same wavelength’.  The slight response delay (or lag) reduced and, in some cases, disappeared as comprehension increased; those who ‘clicked’ with the speaker were anticipating what was being said to bring about (close to) perfect harmony.

Our memories play a vital direct and indirect role in experiential learning.  When the memories are indirect – communicated by another for us to learn from – it is possible to synchronise or couple cognitively.

And that’s what ‘Stand By Me’ portrayed – people all over the world communicating in a beautifully synchronised way.  But you don’t need sound engineers and audio software to synchronise.  You just have to listen.

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.