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Ordinary People Taking Action
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“Human knowledge is not like data stored in a computer’s memory bank. A computer doesn’t get better at remembering things the more data that is stored on it. Human knowledge, on the other hand, is hungry and alive. People with knowledge about a topic become faster and better at acquiring more knowledge and remembering what they learn.”
This is a quote from The Social Animal, by David Brooks, a book I have found highly valuable for almost seven years now. I first came across this book in an airport. I was traveling to New York from Seattle, so I knew I would need something to read. At the time, working as a full-time facilitator for Insights, I was fascinated by books that addressed leadership, engagement and achievement. The Social Animal covered those three topics as well as love, character and student learning. It proved to be the perfect read for me.
This morning, I spent an hour looking through bookshelves, trying to find a specific book about change management for my husband. As the search went on, I came to the realization that I have far too many books and that I need a better organization system for storing them. The good news is that not only did I find the missing change management book, I also came across my well-used copy of The Social Animal, its pages full of highlighted sentences and notes.
I used to think it was somehow wrong to mark up a book, as though it bordered on vandalism. But through the years, I have noticed a trend. Whether they’re for work or pleasure, it’s the books I really love that get marked up the most. I don’t see it as a disrespect to the author, I see it as a sign that this book taught me a great deal. Maybe this book is beat up in the eyes of many, but in my experience, it’s the dog-eared pages that often represent the most learning.
“Start with the core knowledge in a field, then venture out and learn something new. Then come back and reintegrate the new into what you already know. Then venture out again. Then Return. Back and forth. Again and again.”
As I flipped through the pages of the book, the above highlighted passage really resonated with me. I give this advice to people all the time; I am living this advice currently as I build my own practice. I made a mental note to remember the source of this wise advice to pass along to others in the future.
A few other statistics were highlighted:
· A person should feel they have 75% of the needed information before they sit down to do something. There should be time allowed for a long period of gestation, ensuring the ability to look at material differently and in different moods. Allow time to connect things in different ways and allow for insights to pop into your head.
· When a person is interrupted, the task takes 50% longer to complete and they make 50% more errors. The brain doesn’t multitask well.
· Research shows that sleep improved memory by at least 15%.
I am a person who loves statistics, data and information. It shouldn’t surprise me that these statistics were highlighted in my book. However, what does surprise me is that while I know these things, I have forgotten these things. In the last several months, I have sat down to do something without having anywhere close to 75% of the information I need – I find myself spinning and unable to complete the task at hand. It’s the culmination of a lack of data, trying to multitask too much and depriving myself of proper sleep. It’s no wonder things have been a little tough. I make a mental note to change these three things in my own life – and again, to share these statistics with others as a reminder to us all.
I read a couple more highlighted sentences and have changed the words slightly for the ending of this post.
Schools – and organizations – are structured on the presupposition that people are empty crates to be filled with information – forgetting that time, repetition and application is key to retaining knowledge. People forget 90% of what they learn – whether they learn it in school, at work or somewhere else. The point of being a teacher is to do more than impart facts; it’s to shape the way learners perceive the world, to help a learner absorb the information being taught. A teacher who does this, is the teacher who is remembered.
My goal as a consultant is to work with my clients as a teacher. When this is achieved, the impact is remarkable. I view my role as a teaching consultant to be one in which I help my clients learn, so that they can sustain the changes we implement. When a learner learns, they can then become a teacher, allowing their teacher to go on to help others.