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VanderPalette

facilitator / designer

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human skills

Lifelong social learning

It’s time to question our assumptions about “lifelong learning.” What does the term mean? What could it mean?

Assorted doses of training over a 50+/- year career will not be enough to thrive in the future. Rather than default to a vision of instructor-led courses aimed at fixing every gap in what we need to know, we can pursue a sustainable diet that feeds our daily development as a whole person.

Lifelong learners should also be aware that “Top 10 People Skills for 2024” lists are misleading. Complex humans should see themselves as holistic beings, not an assembly of parts and specifications. Our social skills are integrated and inseparable; we are not fleshy robots.

For instance, negotiation skills require every one of the skills typically found on Top 10 lists. And why is “problem solving” on these lists, but not “problem preventing”? What year will “wise reasoning” suddenly appear as a hot skill? Hopefully before it’s too late to save ourselves.

In real life, ego development and cultivating the habit of extracting more learning from everyday experience is what matters. It’s about lifelong growth as a person, not skills checklists.      

Social learning clubs (or circles) are a model for self-reliant, lifelong development. They offer a supportive, inclusive home base where anyone can practice mining for nuggets of wisdom from their own everyday interactions. In contrast to doses of instructor-led training, social learning clubs foster a spirit of curiosity and caring about how other people see things. In other words, they are an antidote for the wide range of self-esteem issues–the ego-centric, ego-maniac and the weak ego-driven sources of havoc–that waste our time and starve our brain cells.  

Above quote: David Brooks, The New York Times, “This is How Scandinavia Got Great: The power of educating the whole person” (paywall) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/opinion/scandinavia-education.html

and re-posted here.

A timeless way to hone human skills

Peer learning conversations encourage caring, curiosity, creativity, confidence and contribution.

We see a steady stream of reports on the future of work that call for human skills development. Unlike technical skills, human skills are difficult to teach. Skills that involve social interaction and thinking evolve over a lifetime, from the playground to the workplace and beyond.

How can this natural learning process be accelerated? Some futurists see training simulations and online courses as a preferred path to developing greater empathy, imagination and resilience: “No need to wrestle with messy, real life situations—you can learn to negotiate with avatars!”

Peer learning is radically human and timeless

Before we place too much faith in simulations, let’s examine the benefits of more integrated, lifelong, human-to-human approaches. What if we learned human skills from interacting with real people? What if we learned how to extract more wisdom from our everyday work experiences?

And what if everyone had equal access to human skills development? Rather than depend primarily on costly, exclusive training models, we can draw from timeless ways of absorbing life’s deeper lessons.

Indigenous learning circles, for example, respect everyone who gathers to talk through their real life experiences. In contrast to isolated training events, these ongoing conversations enrich participants’ understanding of diverse viewpoints. They encourage caring, curiosity, creativity, confidence and contribution.

What if we build on the concept of these traditional learning circles combined with the Japanese notion of Ba, (shared space for enriching relationships and knowledge)? Should we be looking to age-old, face-to-face ways of interacting? How radically human!

Instead of relying on artificial training situations to change our lifelong habits of interaction, why not learn by reflecting on our real, messy, everyday experiences? How radically timeless!

Big learning from micro-situations

cerithwynevans

How can we gain more life experience from our everyday encounters?

Learning how to learn in action is an essential meta-skill for the future.

Mind the Say–Do Gap

Knowing what we ought to do in difficult situations isn’t enough to change what we actually do. Defaulting to old habits is normal. Finding ourselves in these predicaments, it’s not unusual for there to be a Say–Do Gap between good intentions and our actions.

Best practices and theories about people skills might make us smarter, but that’s not enough to change ingrained patterns of behaviour. If we want to continuously develop our communication and collaboration capabilities, we’ll need more than knowledge. We need to regroove our neural pathways.

REGROOVE_1_vanderpalette

As Jerry Sternin has observed, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

Stepping back to observe how we wrestle with slice-of-life situations gives us a fresh view of how we make hundreds of day-to-day decisions. Noticing more details and possibilities for moving forward, we become more empathetic, and confident in our judgment. We make real progress in narrowing our Say–Do Gap.

When thinking about social learning clubs, it’s helpful to understand the benefits of learning in action by wrestling with micro-situations.

-Sharon VanderKaay

 

 

 

Why social learning clubs?

The Alternative UK @AlterUK21 is a platform for imagining what civil society can be. We share a belief in the need for lifelong learning models that advance this purpose on a day-to-day basis. Read their recent editorial on the potential for Social Learning Clubs here.

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Social learning clubs in 3 bites

Below are links to three short stories on how to prepare for the future of work:

A Simple Path to Upgrade Human Skills

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The Problem with Problem-solving

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The World Needs More Detectives

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