Learning - Part One
Jan 6, 2016 News Archive
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset and professor of Psychology at Stanford University, tells us that people’s attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. “With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change.” People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. Failure is information – we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.” In some ways, this seems to indicate that we are set in the way we are and there isn’t much we can do about it. However; she provides steps to change this. Because I am always looking to improve 3dent’s understanding and implementation, this idea of fostering learning and creativity for innovation is one of my primary concerns for 3DENT, as I am always looking to improve our understanding and implementation so we can excel at it.
A search on Wikipedia reveals many types of learning, including Non-associative and Associative learning, Play, Enculturation, Episodic learning, Multimedia, E-learning and augmented learning, Rote learning, Meaningful learning, Formal and Nonformal learning and combined approaches, Tangential learning, Dialogic learning and Incidental learning. They also mention Active learning (though it is not listed as a “type” of learning). Of these, play and active learning are the most interesting to me. The Wikipedia page goes on to state that “active learning occurs when a person takes control of [his/her] learning experience… and encourages learners to have an internal dialogue in which they are verbalizing their understandings… and this learning is usually at a stronger level.”
Play is of particular interest to me because most people would agree that our highest rate of learning takes place during childhood, and that a lot of the learning children do happens through play. I’d imagine that many engineers got their start by playing with Legos or Lincoln Blocks. However, as we grow older, we seem to discard play as a means for learning. I know that I used to associate “play” with “childish” behavior and attached a negative connotation to it. I now associate “play” and “child-like” with a positive connotation of being open to new ideas.
So, why is it that we don’t do or encourage “play” in the work place? I believe that as consultants, we are expected to portray a degree of expertise and unfortunately, we associate expertise with “knowing” not “learning.” This self-imposed rigidity ends up killing innovation. As Frank Lloyd Wright put it, “an expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’”
The role of play and open-mindedness in innovation is not news. It was aptly described by John W. Gardner in his 1964 article Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society, which says that “when organizations and societies are young, they are flexible, fluid, not yet paralyzed by rigid specialization and willing to try anything once. As the organization or society ages, vitality diminishes, flexibility gives way to rigidity, creativity fades and there is a loss of capacity to meet challenges from unexpected directions.”
One of my favorite authors and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman, once stated that he didn’t believe in honors and that instead, “the prize is the pleasure of finding a thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it — those are the real things.”
Going back to the idea that it is easier to learn while young than later in life, a recent study by a UCLA postdoctoral student, Kuhlman and her colleagues suggest that “When [we are] young [we] haven’t experienced much, so [our] brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information… As adults we’ve already learned a great number of things, so our brains don’t necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently.”
I close this initial segment on learning by providing selected quotes about the importance of play.
- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. Plato
- Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good. Lucia Capocchione
- In our play we reveal what kind of people we are. Ovid
- Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning. Diane Ackerman
- Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. Abraham Maslow
- Whoever wants to understand much must play much. Gottfried Benn
- Play fosters belonging and encourages cooperation. Stuart Brown, M.D.
- People tend to forget that play is serious. David Hockney
- Play is training for the unexpected. Marc Bekoff
- It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. D.W. Winnicott
- Play is the beginning of knowledge. Anonymous
- It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood. Tina Bruce
- Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that our future needs. James L. Hymes Jr.
- The main characteristic of play – whether of child or adult – is not its content but its mode. Play is an approach to action, not a form of activity. Jerome Bruner
- Play is the highest form of research. Albert Einstein