Do (some) people truly want to learn?

//Do (some) people truly want to learn?

I was recently discussing the intent and impact of learning (building the capability of people to think and act more productively) with a prospective client.  They were reluctant to move away from traditional learning approaches for fear of “failure”.  My experience is that failure to learn is far more prevalent in traditional teaching practice than in alternative creative approaches.  I then challenged myself and the client with  these reflections…

Creativity is too often underestimated by (left brain dominated) detailed/logical business people (I was there too myself in my distant past, before evolving through learning).  My recent research (very applied not theoretical) and that of others shows creativity, conversations and humour were significant stimulators of learning outcomes. People who want to learn “facts”, actually don’t learn (and often don’t remember facts later, or worse, they facts become obsolete).  A key to true learning is to being exposed to content in creative, left field ways and then applying the concepts in out of pattern approaches.  This ensures their right brain is engaged in a creative way which allows the new patterns to enter rather than be rejected (because logically they “don’t fit the known pattern”).

That is, we hear what we want to hear and reject the rest when “thinking”. However, we are susceptible to new ideas when having fun (like being involved in a creative activity that is unpredictable and emergent).  Such activities engage both sides of the brain simultaneously and have us both thinking and feeling, whilst out of our comfort zone.  When introduced to new clients, I find people who “know exactly what they want” are unlikely to get the value without considering why they want it and what way it is likely be be achieved (see conversations that matter).  If they are not prepared to have a divergent conversation first before converging on an approach, they limit in their thinking  as they do not know what else is out there.  Unknowingly (unless they are just “ticking the box” to pay lip service to appease), they limit their own performance and potential achievements because of a closed mind to alternative ideas (although this is often subconscious).  If one truly wants to change and build capability, one must be open to trying new ideas (absolutes are rarely true, but this one comes very close!).  Whilst some experiments may not work, they still lead to cultivating an open mind and learning outcomes.  There is plenty of research that shows we learn more from errors than we do from getting things right (mainly because when things go right, we don’t reflect on whether it could have been so much better – something intelligent people do when they make have a “learning experience” stimulated by mistakes).

One assumes potential clients seek expertise to help them learn what they don’t already know, otherwise why bother to pay for something you already have?  Putting tight constraints (time, formats and areas of content) around what they want is very limiting for (and by) them and also limits what we can achieve for/with them.  You can’t truly learn if you control the limits so you remain within your comfort zone!  This will just reinforce what you already “know”.

Life is not a formula (or at least an enjoyable and fulfilling one isn’t).  Giving away a little control allows you get greater ROI and learn so much more.
Let go! You may even have some fun in the process whilst you build greater relationships, confidence and trust among your team members.


  • Dear Arthur,
    Thank you for this article and sharing your thoughts. I completely agree with you and believe that since childhood we have been trained to un-learn how to let go. It is going against the grain of ‘adult’ life and especially business success and organisational efficiency in the mind of those who do matter. The CEOs, general managers and so on. I congratulate you on both, possessing the ability to recognize this opportunity to improve our life and having the courage to stand up and declare what you believe in.
    Keep it up Arthur,

    Tibor Novak 03.02.2012
  • I have to giggle Arthur, that would be client really got your goat (note use of animal metaphor.)
    I have met with the same potential client many times over, in many different organisations and empathise fullly. You’ve gotta love those Triceratops in HR (not!)

    Frank Connolly 03.02.2012
  • Wow, that would-be-client really “got your goat” Arthur! Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with the same person in a number of different organisations and relate fully. When the organisation’s gate-keepers see their function as keeping the gate closed to anything they don’t understand, everyone suffers. Like sheep though, I’m sure however they’ll keep spending squillions on MBTI’s and LSI’s and all sorts of safe things that everyone else is doing with little regard to impact or ROI beyond putting a tick in some box. You’ve got to love those Triceratops in HR (Not!)

    Frank Connolly 03.02.2012
  • Arthur –

    Excellent points. Thinking back over those “brainstorming” meetings I’ve been to that started with convergent thinking, it’s fairly obvious why we didn’t get any brilliant new ideas!

    – Keith.

    Keith De La Rue 04.02.2012

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...