“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – start thinking about learning as a continuous cycle rather than one off interventions to power ongoing development.”

Fosway Group


“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Peter F. Drucker


Google “how to change someone’s mind” and you will get more hits faster than any brain can ever absorb. In talking about teaching people to learn something today I will leave you with any of those articles to show you a path <albeit you will be confused> and forge ahead in a direction – teaching people to want to learn, not to teach them something new.

How would you enable and encourage to do so?

Business people talking about “learning organizations” all the time and education people talk all about “constant learners” and I imagine if you asked most people, they would suggest they like to learn. So why the heck isn’t it happening?

There is no simple answer but let’s begin with framing. Learning isn’t about being smart or being stupid, it is just about learning. Period.


     “Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.”

Melanie Joy


I don’t give a fuck what you read or what you learn. There are as many lessons in a well-crafted comic book as there is in a novel. Most business books are trash and you can learn more about business thinking through reading a great detective book. You get my point. Learning isn’t linear or about parallels, but rather analogous. Circling back to my main point, what you read or learn is not an indicator of smart or stupid, in fact, its an indicator that you are a learner. Period.

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”

Alec Bourne, A Doctor’s Creed

Which leads me to learning what you like.

As I have pointed out ad nausea learning is not about creating some ‘well rounded person’, but rather exploring what interests you. This means you learn unevenly. Learning advocates need to get their heads out of their asses and stop worrying over ‘rounded’ and encourage ‘uneven.’ This is a twist on curiosity in that I am suggesting teaching following what you are curious about not encouraging people to be curious. My belief is grounded in the fact people are encouraged to do what is positive, not negative. If I can feed into the learning dopamine part of the brain, I am more likely to get people learning than if I bludgeon them with less-than-satisfying learning experiences.

Here is the less-than-popular thought – this means not encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones, but actually encourage them to foster their learning comfort zones. Yeah. I think if we can teach people that learning is grounded in becoming better at what they are currently good at, simply by expanding current knowledge/skills/whatever, in any size/pace/whatever, they feel comfortable with. This actually means learning resides in our grasp and belief of what learning is, and how it feels to us, rather than what someone else suggests learning is. Maybe more importantly this suggests learning isn’t focused on what we do not know well or do poorly <and certainly not what someone suggests to us we do poorly or know poorly> but instead cultivate the good thinking we have done to date. This, in my mind, cultivates some version of ‘flow’, at least in a learning sense, which inevitably opens the mind up to possibilities, imagination and even productivity. I have said for years that learning isn’t about changing; its about opening. If we can teach people that opening up their minds to explore, even on some very focused topic, is good and fun and engaging, it increases the likelihood at some point in time they will explore something unexpected <without anyone telling them they should explore it>.

As to that last point. Let me be clear. Nudging learning is not a bad thing. Just as Amazon prompts people “if you liked this, you may like this”, I probably send “oh, you may like this” notes probably a dozen times a week via social media and in almost every conversation I have. That is my version of ‘teaching people to learn’ not by telling but maybe nudging them into a different learning space.

In the end.

Maybe what I am saying is we don’t need to teach people how to learn, but rather remove the obstacles to learning. Learning is a positive thing. I do not know one person in the entire world who does not like to learn something new. This means we don’t need to teach people to learn, and it certainly means we should stop telling people what they need to learn <implying they are stupid or learned the wrong thing>, but rather get out of their way and tell them to learn what they want .. and maybe give a little nudge on occasion to expand the learning space. Oh. Oh shit. As I reread that last sentence that would mean we, as in you & I, will have to have learned enough to offer up an analogous nudge rather than some simplistic parallel nudge. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … maybe the key to teaching people how to learn begins within ourselves. Ponder.


“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.”

Anatole France


“… congratulated the staff for churning out so many A-star grades, but I told them to get in touch when the kids were about 50 and tell me which institutions they were inmates of. If you train people to push for the sake of pushing, they’ll live their lives chasing the golden rabbit and ultimately find no satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we all need a little stress to get us going. But if we keep our foot on the gas pedal all our lives we can kiss bye bye to our sanity.

If I were queen for a day, I’d teach kids that sanity exams are the ones to pass.”

Ruby Wax

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce