LEARNING is an integral part of life. In any profession, learning skills can be a priceless asset. It can lead to improved productivity and profits for any organisation.
The importance of learning in this information age is best summarised by American writer Alvin Toffler in his famous quotation: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
In the corporate world, “learning agility” is the latest buzzword.
Here are some specific ways to improve your learning ability:
1. Have the right mindset
Many people believe that learning is a tedious activity. They equate learning with pressure.
Starting with such a mindset will increase the difficulty of learning and produce poor results. Eventually these people conveniently choose to stay away from newer learning opportunities.
How do you change this mindset?
Simple. Ask: “What’s in it for me?”
Think about how the information you are about to learn can benefit you in your work or personal life.
The more benefits you can think of, the easier it will be to learn. Then you will enter into a magical state where you will be looking forward to learning rather than staying away from it.
2. Pay attention
It is said that the true secret of memory (and learning) is the art of attention.
If you can pay 100 per cent attention, you can learn anything faster and more easily.
One easy way to pay attention is to try visualising the information you want to learn.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so if you are learning about leadership principles, for example, visualise yourself employing these principles with your team.
If you are learning about a sales process, visualise yourself employing the various stages of the process.
If you are learning about your company’s values, visualise yourself living those values.
You will then find that you are paying more attention and the whole learning process becomes fun and easy.
Mr William James, a Harvard psychologist, called the human mind “an associating machine”.
Association is the mental glue that helps you “stick” the information in your brain.
In the context of learning, association means linking “what you want to learn” with “something you have already learnt”.
Use the Internet or talk to your colleagues to find illustrations, examples, anecdotes and case studies that are related to what you are learning.
This will help you to make new connections in your brain.
You might have heard that the best way to learn something is to try to teach it to someone else.
You may not really want to teach it, but just imagine that one of the objectives of learning that information is to be able to teach it to your colleagues or team members later on.
You will find that the quality of learning increases substantially. Later on, you can choose to teach it, share it or discuss it with others to reinforce the information.
Research indicates that we forget as much as 80 per cent of what we learn within the first 24 hours of learning it. What a waste of time, effort and mental energy!
To be able to learn and retain the information for a long time, you have to revise the information a minimum of two times. The first revision should take place on the same day of learning and the second revision on the next day.
Knowledge is power only when you apply it. Don’t be an info junkie who is always on the lookout for the latest technique or the latest mantra in your field of study or interest.
While it does help to keep up to date with the latest information, there is no point in learning new information unless you apply it in your life.
It is better to learn one principle and apply it immediately than to learn 101 principles and just feel good about it.
As Confucius said: “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand.”
When you apply what you learn, you will understand the concepts well.