What will you learn today.

How to save money and accelerate your learning

PlatoEducation has come a long way since Plato founded the very first Academy in 387BC. When I compare my children's schooling with my own experience, way back in the last century, things have moved on dramatically. But there are two premises embedded in our education system, that are still creating life-long problems for us all.

The first is the premise that there are right and wrong answers, and that merit is measured by the ability to give the right one. At school it’s important to be right. It’s not good to be wrong.

Unfortunately in real life there’s hardly ever one right answer, and that learned “need to be right” insinuates a very real fear of failure. That little voice that says “what if I’m wrong?” prevents a wealth of experiment, experience and learning in later life. Look around your team. How many enjoy being proved wrong? That fear of being wrong, of being seen to be wrong, stifles creativity, constrains innovation and kills peoples’ willingness to take responsibility, to put their heads above the parapet in case they get shot down.

The second is the premise that knowledge is external, and can be given to us, neatly packaged and ready to put into practice. This is why we spend so much on training that delivers marginal impact on the business. Most people return from most courses energised and inspired to put what they’ve learned into practice, but three months later, when asked, struggle to point to the difference it made.

There are lots of reasons for this – structural, cultural, inter-personal – but the fact remains, translating learned knowledge into live situations is a not a big part of our education. It can be though. For example when I deliver sales training, barely 10% of the time is spent on the techniques and frameworks of selling. Most of the time is spent with people practicing, and failing, and later, building their learning through live situations.

The way we do that is simple. It’s something you and your team can do, it doesn’t cost a penny, and it’s a learning process that Plato and his buddies would have recognised immediately. It has three parts: observation (Aristotle), reflection (Plato) and discussion (Socrates). Here’s how it works.

At the end of each day we each write down three things: what worked and what didn’t; what learning we’d draw from that; and what we plan to do as a result. It takes five minutes. Every week or two we get back together and discuss what we wrote. We comment on each other’s observations, challenge the learning, and suggest other actions. We encourage each other to try new things and to put our heads above the parapet. And by doing this, we learn new and valuable lessons, every single day, and every single day we come to fear failure less and less. Try it for yourself.

So... what did you learn today?