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My 5 step learning process
Great questions lead to great insight
To be able to ask more interesting questions replied my MBA tutor when I asked what was the purpose of learning. I believe those who achieve great success do so by practicing habits of effective thinking, including asking insightful questions. A few basic steps, that we can all learn, lead to breakthrough understanding and creativity. I draw upon the ideas shared in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird.
Elements of effective thinking
Learning how to learn is the most important skill to acquire. - Robert Greene
The elements of effective thinking are:
🌍 Deeply understand. Know the basics well and identify gaps.
🔥 Make mistakes. Fail deliberately.
💨 Raise questions. Enliven curiosity.
💦 Follow the flow of ideas. New ideas from old.
🌱 Change. Open to embrace change.
🌍 Deeply understand
I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas. - Albert Einstein
Trying to understand complex matters can be daunting. Our starting point is to understand the subject basics. Iteratively, document what you do know then, through research, expose and fill the gaps.
I was inspired to develop my own iPhone apps, having observed someone doing similar on TV. Google searches revealed that I needed an Apple Mac, the Xcode development environment and some programming skills in Objective-C. Once I had my first Hello World program working, I was on my way. Inside My AppDev Toolbox provides more details.
🔥 Make mistakes
Try things out. Deliberately make mistakes then learn how to fix them. This is a great way to understand how something really works. Opportunities are brought to light, gaps in our understanding are revealed and our curiosity is sparked.
I found the best way to learn how to develop apps is through hands on practice. Coding is about starting with something basic that works then, incrementally, adjusting it.
💨 Raise questions
Greater understanding comes from asking ourselves questions. Addressing the right questions helps us see connections. Answers lead to more interesting questions. Adopting a beginner mindset will help us test our assumptions. I try to imagine the world through the eye’s of a first time user of my apps. What do they see and would I understand what to do next if I were them?
💦 Follow the flow of ideas
It is useful to put ideas in the context their evolution then look forward to see where they could go next. As discussed in Steal Like An Artist, nothing is totally original and ideas build on what has come before. An idea represents new possibilities. Small ideas, that differentiate us, can lead to large benefits. My blog posts, including this one, start with a core idea which I hone via research and a series of redrafts.
Change is the only constant in life. - Heraclitus
The first four thinking elements, above, won’t help much if we are not open to change. We can always improve, grow and prosper as life long learners with the right mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University, espouses the importance of having a Growth Mindset for success and happiness. Such individuals typically have a clear vision of the future they wish to create, are highly resourceful and grow through life long learning and adaptation. This is discussed further in Our Unfair Advantages.
➕ Other resources
Six Thinking Hats book by Edward De Bono
How to Find Counter-Intuitive Solutions post by Phil Martin
Razors I Use to Simplify Decisions post by Phil Martin
I consider myself a life long learner and applying a structured approach helps. Until next Sunday, consider the following analogy. The contents of a sphere represents our current knowledge and its surface area the questions we can ask.