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Unlock Your Brain’s Ability to Learn

This article was based on episode 192 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get Collin’s 7-part video series titled “Unlock your 3 Brain States” to help you discover the 3 critical brain states and unlock hyperfocus and endless creative potential when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.

Learning isn’t like filling an empty vessel. We can’t pour ideas into people, or ourselves, and expect them to automatically be absorbed. Rather, learning is all about fanning the curiosity flame. We are born learners. From our very first moment, we hunger to learn and grow.

So how do we then turn into adults (and teams) who struggle to learn anything new? Collin Jewett joins me to explain how managers can deploy new approaches to learning that will revolutionize their ability to process and retain information more effectively. Collin is an industrial engineer, author, and coach. Here, Collin explains how curiosity and memory interact to create optimal learning environments.

THE PRECONDITIONS TO EFFECTIVE LEARNING

Ask Questions

Curiosity lays the foundation to learning. Put simply, Collin views curiosity as the drive to ask questions. We are born with this natural wonder and desire to understand the world. This tension pushes us to seek answers. Without that drive, that authentic curiosity, learning feels difficult or even painful. Intentional learning must begin with curiosity. If you’re not asking questions, you’re not going to come up with answers.

Know Why It Matters

Learning without knowing how the knowledge or skill will be used can feel forced or uninspiring. If the material feels disconnected and irrelevant to your life, chances are it’s going to go in one ear and out the other. To create better learning environments for yourself and your team, put things in context. How will this information be helpful? How will this skill be needed later? Clarity on the benefits adds motivation to not only learn but also retain and deploy.

STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE LEARNING

Pair Something Old with Something New

Learning is all about connecting new information to old information. For something new to stick, your brain needs to connect with what you already know. The associative nature of new/old memory is deeply ingrained in us from birth. As we explore the world as infants, we encounter something new and intuitively ask, ‘how is this the same or different from other things I’ve experienced?’ We can use that same approach by pausing during the learning process to ask ourselves, ‘how is this information similar or different from what I’ve learned in the past?’

Use Metaphors to Boost Memory

Analogies and metaphors are so powerful in the learning process because they follow the same old/new pattern. Both analogies and metaphors take a new concept and put it in an old, familiar context. Our brain loves that. We can adopt this strategy by reflecting during the learning process to find a metaphor or analogy that accurately aligns with what we’re learning.

Observe and Imagine

While it might seem like the only way to learn something physical, like dancing, is to actually move your body, both observing and imagining dancing supports the learning process. Mirror neurons fire in our brain while watching someone do something, which stimulates the learning center. Likewise, if we imagine ourselves in an experience that we haven’t yet had, our brains will start to become familiar with that activity. Because our brains love familiarity, even just visualizing ourselves doing an activity in our mind can speed the learning process.

Don’t Worry About Learning Style

Collin cautions about taking the VARK (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic) learning model too seriously. While we do have preferences for how we like to learn, research shows that people’s preferences don’t actually impact their retention of knowledge. Instead, it’s the combination of multiple learning modalities that matters. The more you incorporate different forms of learning, like listening while viewing slides or taking notes, the more it will stick.

Learning is a personal journey of discovery. We are born with the desire to understand the world and ourselves, and the desire to act on and embody that knowledge. Encourage your team’s natural curiosity to ask questions. Connect their lives with the knowledge they are integrating. And remember the power of imagination. Having a sense of growth is crucial for teams. When we understand how to use our curiosity, memory, and motivation better, learning becomes the new normal. And so much fun.

KEEP UP WITH COLLIN

Get Collin’s 7-part video series titled “Unlock your 3 Brain States” to help you discover the 3 critical brain states and unlock hyperfocus and endless creative potential when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.

This article was based onepisode 192 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify,iHeart Radio,Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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