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Discovering the Gold Mine of Lifelong Learning

May 12, 2022 |
Discovering the Gold Mine of Lifelong Learning

If anyone attempted to feed themselves heavily from birth until the completion of their formal education and then resolved to never eat again, survival would be impossible.  Just as the body needs carbs, protein, and other nutrients, the mind feeds on (and grows) via new information and exciting experiences.  

Companies have long favored applicants with advanced degrees.  While these degrees do not generally have lifelong learning elements, they are still valuable since they express that the individual has unique knowledge that other applicants may not possess.

Rather than expecting years of education to enable success after those formative years have reached a conclusion, it is crucial to understand that our intellect requires continuous learning for survival in the business landscape.  

In this post, we explore this notion of lifelong learning and provide a collection of tips at the end so that team leaders can practice lifelong learning themselves and so that they can likewise help their teams practice it.  

 

What is Lifelong Learning?

When explaining lifelong learning, it is important to distinguish it from the formal education that most of us undergo, often toward the beginning of our life journeys.  While schools feature experts in various domains ranging from history to language arts to physical education and beyond, lifelong learning in this article is something that takes place more or less continuously and not necessarily in traditional classrooms.

The formal academic learning that is compulsory in many countries involves skills such as adding, subtracting, essay compilation, and titrating acids and bases (perhaps in a chemistry course).  Someone who considers themself to be a lifelong learner could indeed acquire these skills outside of the classroom.

Some individuals are naturally more curious than others.  When thinking of the people who are always researching some new tidbit of information on Google to satisfy their interest, the term “lifelong learner” or “continuous learner” might come to mind.

 

Learning as a Journey

The global volume of information available to us at present could never be learned in a single lifetime.  There is too much material to cover even if we spent the rest of our lives focusing on just a single realm (e.g., math, physics, or psychology).

Instead of allowing this reality to deter us from continued learning, we can employ non-dualistic thinking by acknowledging that we don’t have to choose between learning nothing and learning everything.  There is an immense range between those two extremes–learning “enough” is a sufficient benchmark.    

We can all probably remember attending a lecture on a topic that was fascinating to us, and it is very likely the case that we did not retain the content in its entirety.  When the details are crucial for job performance, an outcome like this is more adverse.  

The true, transformative development process is inherently an activity requiring intentional effort where we work on cultivating a new skill or habit.

When the material is related to how we carry ourselves (or how we interact with others), there is a progression from understanding to doing and then from doing to being.  “Being” here conveys that the “doing” has been practiced long enough that conscious thought is no longer necessary for enacting any particular information you have learned and the “doing” has become a habit.

Taking and reviewing notes, talking about key findings with friends and coworkers, and striving to apply the main points in daily practice can be helpful for more profound comprehension.  There is remarkable power in talking about findings and learning in communities–both strategies firmly fix the content in our minds and can enable us to obtain insights from those around us.

When you learn new information, it is important to be intentional about practicing it.  While some of the times your efforts will not be successful, you can learn from what you did wrong.  The next time you make the attempt to apply or practice a particular learning, you will have more experience which will in turn make the next attempt that much better.

Spacing learning is another worthwhile strategy.  When we cram information (even if we remember it in the short term) there probably isn’t going to be long-term retention.  Without retention, it’s impossible to “do” and even harder to “be”.  Once we reach the point of “being” we are new people.

 

Creating a Culture of Learning

Team leaders have many responsibilities, but none might be as important as helping their teams continuously acquire new knowledge, skills, and other abilities.  If they can master the art of designing learning programs that focus on development over time, their work groups will benefit significantly.

Effective team leaders go beyond simply asking about progress and current endeavors by inquiring about specifics related to the process each team member utilized while they worked towards their goal(s) and about any important lessons learned along the way.

When failure occurs, it is key for team leaders to encourage reflection.  In so doing, they promote context-specific learning.  This process is most effective when it is a loop characterized by frequent reflection–reflection on failure but also, importantly, a reflection on success.  

 

Facilitating Knowledge Retention

There is little value in spending ten hours reading a book as part of a lifelong learning endeavor only to immediately forget the content when you reach the end of the piece.  To help avoid such an outcome, we will first list (and then briefly cover) four attributes characterizing valuable learning posited by a research article.  With these, you can take steps to make the most of your team members’ learning efforts.  The four are:

  1. Motivation
  2. Reinforcement
  3. Retention
  4. Transference

 

1.) Motivation

The notion of motivation affecting learning is fairly straightforward.  Someone who has been in the information technology industry for years as a computer programmer and has no interest in acquiring management skills is unlikely to exert effort to first learn about the art of management but then to also have the drive to figure out how to remember the content months (or years) later.    

It can be problematic if an employee needs to master a certain skill but they are disinterested in developing their abilities.  When this is the case, an aspect of the problem might involve intrinsic motivation.  Team leaders can work to make the acquisition of new abilities personally meaningful in such a scenario.

One way of instilling motivation is creating learning environments that require effort by learners while making sure that participants are not exposed to an overwhelming amount of content.

 

2.) Reinforcement

A second method that can yield positive learning outcomes is reinforcement.  If an instructor awards gift cards (or other similar incentives) to learners when they have mastered a difficult skill, the chances of pupils mastering the skill is likely going to increase.

Practice and repetition can also reinforce learning.  For example, if someone is preparing for an important presentation, audibly rehearsing the content while clicking through the slides until they can complete the presentation without a lot of pauses or interruptions can be valuable.

Reinforcement can be achieved by breaking learning sessions into smaller modules spaced out over the course of a month as opposed to having one or two lengthy classes in a short time period.

 

3.) Retention

If important information is soon forgotten, retention has not occurred, making personal development with that information hopeless.  While a tiny fraction of the population has a photographic memory, the vast majority of us need to exert effort if we are going to preserve what we have learned. 

A team member could make a presentation on any given learning to coworkers and in so doing will better understand the material as they prepare for questions that might come up from the audience.  Explaining information and effectively answering questions requires a deeper understanding.   

Interestingly, brain research has shown that there is a relationship between retention and the impact of instruction on brain activity.  Other neuroscience findings explain the importance of engagement (on the part of learners) for long-term retention.

Several actions that team leaders can take to facilitate team members’ retention include:

  1. Making sure that what has been taught is understood.
  2. Making sure that what has been taught is accurately interpreted and correctly applied.
  3. Devoting time during instruction for them to practice what they have been taught.

 

4.) Transference

In the context of instruction, transference has occurred when someone utilizes knowledge from training to perform in a setting external to the learning environment.  An example could be someone who learns how to troubleshoot an application for generating presentations at work and subsequently uses that knowledge to fix an error on a neighbor’s internet browser. 

Team leaders can accelerate transference by asking learners, as part of instruction, to identify an atypical situation in which they can apply their new knowledge.  For illustration purposes, if the topic is management skills, team members could explain how they could use the information to be more effective coaches while leading intramural sports teams.  

Ideally, though, team leaders should encourage learners to apply their learning in situations germane to the company.  This can be accomplished by integrating actual problems facing your team (or organization) into training so that effort during sessions is not being spent on hypothetical situations or contrived issues.  

How Tilt 365 Can Assist with Lifelong Learning

Aside from its battery of powerful assessments, Tilt 365 provides many opportunities for lifelong learning.  

While attaining a grasp of the material contained in the reports generated to those individuals who complete one (or more) Tilt assessments (e.g., the True Tilt Personality Profile or the Positive Influence Predictor 365) is itself learning, Tilt has created e-Learning modules that contain content that enables coaches to add meaningful knowledge to their coaching expertise over time.

 

The newly established Affiliate Partner Community is another example.  In addition to informing coaches about best practices while debriefing assessment results with clients, it provides many opportunities to interact with Tilt experts (and other coaches).  

An additional offering of the Affiliate Partner Community is an extensive Resource Library brimming with valuable content for self-exploration and for the development of coaching clients via their coaches.

 

Conclusion

For anyone seeking professional success in today’s business realm, lifelong learning can be a decidedly fruitful strategy.  All occupations require some degree of knowledge and abilities to complete tasks, so it is easily understood that those who possess the most knowledge are going to tend to be the better employees.

This is especially the case when there is habitual application of new learnings.  Over time, you develop your skills and abilities, becoming a more robust version of yourself.  When we sidestep the tendency to view learning as a single-step process, our knowledge and abilities deepen through reinforcement, application, and reflection.     

We at Tilt 365 want to be part of your journey towards a lifetime of knowledge acquisition, retention, and application.  To view some of our available courses, feel free to click here.  If you are interested in any of our certification programs, feel free to click here as well.  

 

 

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