Monday, February 2, 2015

Being learning Agile: Shall you learn from your own experience or others

Being learning agile means to learn from different channels, and transcend information (other person’s knowledge) to your own knowledge, to capture insight and ultimate wisdom for individual maturity.

We live in the age of information explosion and knowledge abundance, but the knowledge life cycle has been significantly shortened; so what’s the best way to learn, de-learn or re-learn? Shall you learn from your own experience or others?


Both are useful for learning important lessons. But one's own experience teaches more as it generates emotions, good and bad, that can serve as effective mental markers for association. It becomes easier to recall the lessons gained compared to if it was learned from another person's experience. For bad experiences though, the toll/price can be a bit costly but cost-benefit wise, it can prove to be a worthy investment later on. However, while the conventional wisdom is to allow people to "learn from their own experiences", the learning curve is actually much shorter - and also much cheaper - to learn from others, in the business sense from prior experience. Learning from another person's experience helps surpass one's own limits. We cannot experience everything. We are limited by time and space. But through someone else' experience, we can gain a lot without much price/loss to ourselves.


Humans naturally learn from others as children; although many children explore on their own learning away from the structured approaches and most children learn somethings through personal experience. But when children become of a certain age, usually teenage, they reject all learning from others and only depend on their own experience. That phase has been variously explained as 'asserting independence', 'natural rebellion', 'spreading wings' or perhaps, seeing adults as not perfect anymore (they make mistakes) and rejecting everything an adult tells them. Most people seem to grow out of this phase and return to learning from others. Many don't.


Be open minded to learn from others; critical thinking and independent thinking are always important to gain insight from static knowledge. Based on these cocktails of information, the problem is centered in human needs for recognition. The teenager breaks away because he/she has to find an identity different from the child - and if the parents/teachers recognize that this is what is going on and give the young person autonomy in areas where not too many things can go wrong, the phase ends sooner than if every little decision is a power struggle. It signals that "I see that you are becoming an adult". For members of an organization, this recognition need hasn't gone away. But they often forget to communicate that we have actually seen and heard the colleague or employee and thus they stimulate the "rebellion". Learning from others show good attitude to learn and be open minded for catching new perspectives. Still, learning from others doesn’t mean to accept others’ viewpoint completely, one’s knowledge is the other person’s information only. Critical thinking and independent thinking are always important to gain insight from static knowledge.

The operative word is to "learn" rather than just repeat the experience. It's the core of experimental learning, a tenet that organically builds on experiences, the expense of proper experiential learning can be justified against the cost of workplace disruption, corporate amnesia, firefighting, etc. There are ROI discussions/ calculations around this but there’s way of number crunching. There is also an assumption that the only knowledge worth sharing resides with very senior individuals in an organization. In truth, there is valuable knowledge to be had in every department, discipline and even with lower ranking individuals. Western rationalism is based on the theory that knowledge comes through deductive reasoning while Eastern empiricism reasons that erudition is derived inductively through actual experience. As experiential confirm, managers in Western economies generally focus on technically-orientated, mainly explicit information encompassing rules, processes and the professional/vocational information codified in manuals and texts,which also inevitably affects the quality of one’s decision-making.


Perhaps the question can be simplified by assuming that the phenomenon under examination is of a subjective-relative and not absolute nature. Would it not be the case that the difference in utility between one’s own experience of it and the experience of another is nothing more or less than the difference between the credibility of direct observation coupled with one's own interpretation of it, and the credibility of a reported observation coupled with multiple interpretations that arise from a multicephalous examination of the observation? Or, more succinctly, the epistemological difference between the observer's interpretation of a directly observed phenomenon and the observer's interpretation of a report. Being learning agile means to learn from different channels, and transcend information (other person’s knowledge) to your own knowledge, to capture insight and ultimate wisdom for individual maturity.



1 comments:

Good article, Pearl. I only wish that "agile" were not also being used for a formal Project Managmenemnt Methodology. I think learning Agile could easliy be misunderstood as learning the methodology called Agile. Some will miss your very cogent point becuase of lack of interest in Agile.

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