learning fast and slow

At the moment the book on my bedside table is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. While there are many useful learnings in this excellent book the title alone was enough to send my thoughts off in another direction.

There’s a bit of talk around the appropriate length and effective transfer of learning. Quick fix courses are losing their appeal as many realise the usefulness of this type of learning delivery is limited as a stand-alone solution. From my perspective I think we can make most learning formats work – as long as we approach them in the right way. Read on for a few of my key tips.

Fast and not so good

Under this category I’d put things like webinars, one day (or less) training sessions, presentations over breakfast or lunch, etc. They may be presented in a range of formats from online to face-to-face. On their own, as stand-alone learning instances, these events are unlikely to provide ongoing behavioural change and improved performance. The danger is that these events are seen as a quick fix for learners without sustained change or improvement. Of course, they may be interesting, insightful and have great eggs – but what’s the bigger picture really?

My tips for improving the long-term benefit from these types of learning opportunities include:

  1. Know why you are attending/taking part and what you hope to get out of the event or course.
  2. Do a little research on the topic before you attend. Even if it’s simply a consideration of your current reality and challenges in relation to the topic.
  3. Take notes. To follow up later but also to help embed concepts more fully by engaging a different part of your brain.
  4. Talk to others about the content as a way to reinforce the key points.
  5. Reflect upon the learnings.
  6. Make and follow an action plan for implementation.

Fast and better

Fast learning becomes more useful when used in combination, and with application to real situations. Building on the tips above, we can better embed learning when we immediately apply the new skill or concept to our daily lives.

Also, combining fast or micro-learning can enhance the learning through repetition of ideas and improved reflection. For instance, attending a breakfast event on a topic, followed by reviewing related TED talks or podcasts on the same subject. Or even undergoing an online webinar, then spending a lunchtime session with a guest speaker approaching the topic from another perspective.

Look to maximise the benefits of fast learning by combining elements, revisiting topics and spending time reflecting and putting into practice concepts.

Slow and best

My belief is that the most beneficial learning is that which is done over time. This allows for better immersion into concepts and on the job, real-life application of newly learnt skills and behaviours. Behavioural change takes time. If we are hoping to achieve sustainable outcomes and real benefit from our learning and development, it’s important to allow the time and reinforcement required.

We learn in different ways, so providing exposure to concepts in a variety of forms will enhance learning for all. Combining micro-learning and other delivery methods with ongoing exposure to ideas and reflection upon those ideas is the ideal situation.

This is the way I prefer to deliver leadership development programs with organisations for maximum behavioural change over time.

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