Posts Tagged ‘validation’

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Deception, whether you apply it to yourself or you adopt it in your behaviour towards others, washes through and throughout daily life.  It is such a common occurrence that ‘tis nobler wonders whether the deception process requires regulation, perhaps through the issuing of fooling permits.  With such a permit, fooling yourself or others would be permitted under certain conditions.  Would you queue for a licence to fool?

Of course you wouldn’t – it’s a foolish idea.  But there are serious issues involved if you view ‘permits’ in the tile of this post as a verb and not a noun.

What does fooling permit?  The short answer is that fooling permits foolishness.  A display of ‘fooling’ produces (negative) consequences beyond the display itself – a ‘fooling’ incident’ can degenerate into a foolish game:

Let’s use the evidence from a recent study to illustrate how ‘fooling’ can lead to foolishness.  For once, ‘tis nobler doesn’t need to go beyond the report’s heading to make the point (emphasis added):

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors

People who took what they thought were dietary supplements expressed an intention to do less exercise, a greater intention to pursue pleasurable activities and made poorer food choices than control subjects.  The explanatory mechanism was the perceived (but illusory) invulnerability bestowed by the supplements.

Relative to the benefits of a balanced diet, there is always the chance of some ‘fooling’ to support supplements.  But the most worrying aspect of this study is that this ‘fooling’ behaviour promoted foolish behaviour; it’s as though supplements can be seen as validating an unbalanced diet and an unbalanced lifestyle.

Within the borders of the ‘fooling’, (self-) deception can be unhelpful through to upsetting and destructive.  However, ‘fooling’ need not stay within its borders and this is how the original (self-) deception creates more problems.

The question remains – who are you fooling?  Following on from this question, ‘tis nobler can now add – are you being foolish?  ‘Fooling’ does not always produce ‘foolish’ but it may be that ‘foolish’ is always preceded by fooling.  It would be foolish to ignore the effects of ‘fooling’ and it would be foolish to ignore that ‘fooling’ is a cause of foolishness.

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

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?

 

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 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.

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Within, Partly Beyond

August 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Generally Correct?

August 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places And The Moon

July 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

For a start, there’s the Sea of Tranquillity, the site for the first Moon landing.  What’s that?  Read the title of this post carefully.  It’s ‘and’, not ‘on’. Is there a link between places AND the Moon?

The first, um, place to start is with some recent research that reinforces the value of pattern recognition derived from experience.  When people were asked to make quick judgments on the safety of (photographs of) unfamiliar neighbourhoods, their ‘gut feelings’ were accurate.  Of course, this has little to do with ‘the gut’, for the explanation can be found between the ears.  Neither should you dismiss this capability as just ‘a feeling’ or intuition, for the effort invested to produce these snap judgments is substantial.

This research complements many other studies that have shown the emergence of pattern recognition as a function of increasing experience.  Learners move from trying to cope with all the little bits through to holistic assessments of more global patterns.  Experienced learners just ‘know’ things, not because they get better at guessing but because they can identify, understand and act on the patterns they perceive.

That’s the relevance of places, now for the Moon; enjoy this fabulous song by The Waterboys and pay particular attention to the lyrics:

I had flashes.”  Novice learners deal with the bits they encounter.  “But you saw the plan.”  Experienced learners combine (or chunk) these bits and operate on the basis of patterns, not bits.

I saw the crescent.”  Novice learners deal with some, but not all, of the bits they encounter.  “You saw the whole of the Moon.”  Experienced learners incorporate all of the bits into the one pattern.

I saw the rain dirty valley.”  Novice learners deal with the bits literally and independently.  “You saw Brigadoon.”  Experienced learners are able to extract meaning from patterns (in part because they’re not overwhelmed by juggling the many bits) and ‘see’ not just the big picture but beyond it as well.

Can you imagine the benefits to precision, fluency, workload and decision making when you see the whole of the Moon and not just the crescent?  Commitment to a sustained learning journey will take you many places and, eventually, take you to the (whole of the) Moon.

Constant Mess

June 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where’s The Zone?

June 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

But it doesn’t exist.

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

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

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

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

Can’t You See – It’s Right

June 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can’t you see it’s for the best?  How hard is it to see that it’s for the best?  Perhaps the best way to see that it’s for the best, that it’s the right thing to do in the circumstances, is not to see it at all.  Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)?

When you look, you can be bombarded with the noise and clutter of life, every part of which is clamouring for your attention.  Some parts will receive it without really deserving it while you’ll overlook some important parts because you are looking over there.  One of the many benefits of sustained experiential learning is the increasingly refined process of sorting the important from the irrelevant and this advantage, while never perfect, can really help decision making.

Still, moral decisions can be more nebulous than performance decisions – compare the differences between ‘Should I say that ball was just over the baseline?’ with ‘Should I hit down the line or hit cross court?’  For a start, the former requires conscious deliberation while the latter is (after some experience) done without  conscious thought.  But there are many other differences and doing the right thing is, rightly or wrongly, often a relative and relatively difficult judgment.

Sometimes, despite the (occasionally gratuitous) advice from others, the right thing to do is not staring right at you.  It has to be disentangled from the clutter somehow and you will gradually learn how to do this in principle and through practice (but it remains something that is ‘fine’ in principle but much more awkward in practice!).

Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)? The answer to this question can now be revealed, and the answer is ‘Yes’.  Research has shown that the simple act of closing your eyes can assist with moral decision making – ‘so close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s all right’:

It’s reasonable to think that this might be another reflection of the value of distance (as these excerpts from previous posts show):

Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey.

Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

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

It’s worth a try – closing your eyes – when you’re tussling with a ‘Should I’ question.  Create some distance, retreat momentarily inside your head and away from the clamour by closing your eyes.  You don’t always need to look when finding your own way.

When Easy Seems Hard

June 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

Choices are choices but decisions reflect skill.

You make choices but you learn to decide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Them Off

June 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Step Outside’, ‘tis nobler asked:

How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

And then noted:

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

But, and it’s a very important ‘but’, this is much easier said than done for there is a lot of evidence that supports the view that we are generally inaccurate in our assessments of our own behaviour and that such assessments are positively skewed.  Wrong and too rosy is a difficult combination to overcome, in part because being accurate and honest can be confronting.

‘Know Thyself’ may be one of the more common philosophical principles and yet may be the one that is most difficult to achieve.  You might find it difficult to know others for what they do tells you more about the situation than it does about who they are.

And you will always find it difficult to know your own behaviour if you persist in wearing rose coloured glasses.  As Kelly Rowland sings:

Everything is beautiful when you’re looking through rose coloured glasses,

Everything seems amazing when you see the view through rose coloured glasses,

Take them off.

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.  If the lenses have a rosy tint, there’s just one thing you must do.

Take them off.

Never Natural

May 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Ill-defined

April 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This is what the dictionary says about ‘faultless’:

“Without fault, flaw or defect; perfect”

In experiential learning and behavioural change, it is better to adopt a literal definition – fault less – rather than confuse faultless with fault-free.

Performance is not about absolutes but, rather, all of the shades that exist between unlikely, polar extremes (utterly hopeless, utterly perfect).  The same extremes, and their irrelevance to performance, apply to consciousness,  The dictionary defines ‘conscious’ as:

“Aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc”

And yet one fundamental aim of experiential learning is to remove ‘conscious’ from the performance equation, to operate below the conscious level.  But this should never be taken to mean that you can also remove awareness and attention from the equation.

There is no such thing as a human autopilot, performance that is free from human (self) intervention.  When operating below conscious level, you may not be aware that you’re aware, but you are aware.  When operating below conscious level, you may attend to your attention but you are attending.  One implication of operating like this after much practice is the inability to describe what you’re actually doing when you’re doing the ‘acting’ for the ‘why’ is being handled subconsciously.  It is possible to describe the ‘how’ but, in the scheme of things, the ‘how’ is relatively unimportant.

But even highly automated behaviours carry the risk of error, for this risk is never set to zero.  It is possible for even the most experienced performers to slip from subconscious to ‘unconscious’ performance.  Not literally, of course, unless they faint but the chance of slipping below minimum levels of (subconscious) awareness is ever-present.  We’ve all heard people say – “What was I thinking?  I’ve done this a million times before.” – as though practice, competence or expertise should provide  immunity from mistakes.  But “it can happen to anyone of us …. cos I made a stupid mistake’:

Faultless isn’t.  Tomorrow, when you’re leaving for school or work, please double-check that you’re wearing trousers!

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?

Almost … Probably Not … Certain

February 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The legendary literary sleuth, Sherlock Holmes described his problem solving technique thus:

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

‘tis nobler has previously talked about probabilities (see, for example, Probably) but this post looks at it from a different angle, the semantic rather than the statistical.  What do you actually mean when you talk about ‘almost’, ‘probably not’ or ‘certain’.

Perhaps, for many experiential learners, these words and phrases sound different but feel the same:

Attempts have been made to align the semantic and statistical meanings of estimators such as ‘almost’, ‘probably not’ or ‘certain’.  They are denoted as words of estimative probability; the following table is from Wikipedia: 

Certain

100%   Give or take 0%
Almost Certain 93%   Give or take about 6%
Probable 75%   Give or take about 12%
Chances About Even 50%   Give or take about 10%
Probably Not 30%   Give or take about 10%
Almost Certainly Not 7%   Give or take about 5%
Impossible 0

  Give or take 0%

 How do these estimates compare to the way you use these words?  Whether it’s learning or behavioural change, when you say something is impossible, what do you actually mean?  And, if you don’t mean that it is literally impossible (and you rarely will), what are you actually talking about and why are you talking about it this way?  ‘tis nobler is ‘almost certain’ that you are ‘almost certainly not’ talking about your chances of success!

When things sound different but feel the same, what are the influences that lead to different descriptions of the same, or similar, experiences?  Then again, when things sound the same and feel the same but are actually different, what are you missing?

Of course, using these sorts of words overlooks the many subtle variations that are lumped together within these broad categories.  And it is invariably the subtleties that add learning value and support or hinder behavioural change.

‘tis nobler is certain about that – what about you?

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.

Are You My Mirror?

January 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

According to Wikipedia, mirrors are commonly used for personal grooming or for admiring yourself.  Of course, all ‘mirrors’ require a reflective surface.  Or do they?

It’s good to take a long, hard look at yourself.  Not literally, of course, for admiring your reflection in the mirror – pleasing as it may be – is often frowned upon by others, where ‘others’, of course, denotes those of a jealous disposition.  Looking at yourself, figuratively more than literally, is an important component of self assessment, self management and experiential learning.

When you could, and should, be your own mirror – reflecting on, and then acting on, your learning experiences – it is more common to use others as your ‘mirror’.  As the video demonstrated, some are fortunate enough to see themselves (or the closest approximation possible) in another.  Yet, most of us will look at anyone else in order to see ourselves.  In their eyes, in their faces, in the tone of their voice and in the words they use, we extract our own value:

I know what you think of me, or at least I think I do.  I can see it in your eyes whenever we meet.  I can see it in the ways you behave towards me.  I’m not blind, you know, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.  Unless I’m mistaken, and I’m not, it’s a nose that is screwed up in disgust.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop at our self assessment of your ‘me-assessment’.  We use this information in ways that shape our own behaviour.  For a moment, a minute or a month and beyond, I become what you expect me to be.  Rather than using these expectations as one means, they become the only means.  And this means (no pun intended) that the end is different to that which it otherwise might be.

The effect of external expectations on a learning journey can make a useful contribution or distort it beyond recognition.  And this gives rise to some important questions.

Are you my mirror?  When I look at you looking at me, does what I see tell me anything about me or just something about you?