Category Archives: Learning & Development

Reading for more than Pleasure

As part of my intention to become a ‘maker’ more than a ‘consumer’ of information and stories, I appreciate James Clear’s advice today on How to Read Better.

The article suggests that if we want to become better readers we need firstly, to find a way to make our thoughts visible – by making notes – and then searchable.  I agree that the best tool is Evernote and I am intrigued to find out more about Clippings for Kindle.  I also make a note of the author and the concept, in the header section of my written journal so I can track down comments, though it’s still a manual process to flip through the pages. One day I will explore how to scan my journals.

Secondly, Clear suggests we need to connect the dots between the various ideas that we read. I do a lot of this already – asking myself “hmmm what does this remind me of?” and I can always improve by asking this question. E.g. applying my recent reading from BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits, I wonder how I can set a tiny habit to capture one idea after each article / book / podcast?

Thirdly, summarise the main idea/s in a paragraph.  In Clear’s article the main ideas are to practice making your reading memorable via searchable notes and by connecting the ideas with other things you’ve written. Then look for one thing you can apply immediately, even if application is writing a summary and sending it to someone who will benefit.

And I will add a fourth – appreciation for the author – so thanks James for your article and your ongoing improvement endeavours.  You are a good role model.


Can personality be changed?

Today, I was asked by a colleague whether I believe that personality can be changed.

The question coincided with my explorations into how neuroscience and the theory of neuoplasticity is changing psychological theories, especially theories of personality.

To find out what the “traditional” view of personality is, I looked to the American Psychological Society.  On its website it states: “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.”

My view is that personality is a stable pattern of thinking and behaviour (built over many years of thinking and behaving in ways that reinforce the pattern) and there are some things that have a genetic basis. But the research into neuroplasticity and the Rob Kelly Thrive program have shown me that any pattern can be changed with effort, belief, skills and resources.

So yes, I do believe that personality can be changed.

Do you?

Gallup Strengths Center opens its doors to the world

gallup_PotentialA couple of years ago I contacted Gallup about getting support to use their strengths-based materials with organisations and was politely told that Gallup only supported internal consultants. Finally they have realised that they can support a much bigger group of people by opening up and boy have they opened up.

The Galllup Strengths Center has great support materials and the support team are fantastic as well.


How / can we learn from our creative mistakes?

We all know the supposed benefits of learning from our mistakes.  However, movie producer Nora Ephron – producer of chick flicks such as Sleapless in Seattle and When Harry met Sally – questions whether we can learn any lessons from the duds.  In an article by Gerald Wright in the SMH, Ephron’s argument is: if, after a movie she realises that an actor was miscast, she can’t say she’ll never miscast again, because at the time she thought she was casting well.  Similarly, as a a writer she cannot learn not to write bad scripts in the future, because at the time she didn’t think she’d written a bad script.

Ephron’s quotes raises some important issues about evaluating the business outputs of the creative process and raises implications for managing performance when creative outputs are not delivering the desired outcomes.

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Working with the Paradox of Brain Plasticity

I recently listened to author Norman Doidge at the Sydney Writers Festival and promptly bought and read his book The Brain that Changes Itself. What I most liked was the discussion on the paradox of plasticity.  It answered the question: “If our brains have plasticity, why do so many of us have habits that are hard to change?”

The answer relates to the title of one of my other favourite authors – Robert Fritz – and his book The Path of Least Resistance (for Managers).

Doidge quotes the metaphor of medical director Alvaro Pascual Leone, who says that our plastic brain is “like a snowy hill in winter” and our genes represent the features of the hill.  When we first snowboard down a hill we can take any path we like within the constraints of the hill, but the second and third time we will tend to take a path similar to the first path and thus “the path of least resistance is born”. By the end of the afternoon, we will have created a preferred path and for some, this will be the only path we use because it is fast, efficient and we can snowboard down without thinking too much.  Hence a neural path is born and that path is mirrored in our body’s musculature following the same path.

Others who crave variety may wish to try new paths, but they will have to actively focus on looking for and setting new routes – which requires more effort.

So what does this mean for changing existing habits?

Doidge quotes researchers Taub and Pascual – Leone, who found that when it comes to learning new physical skills – you have to block or constrain the commonly used pathway (the competitor for mental energy).  E.g. when they want a stroke victim to learn to re-use the non-functioning hand, it happens more quickly if the good hand is bandaged and not available for use.   They talk about setting up roadblocks to help change direction and they also talk about “massed practice” giving a person lots of practice in the first few months to develop the new skill.

So this got me thinking about overused mental habits of thinking or feeling – what then?  What is the equivalent of bandaging up our strongest thinking and feeling processes so that we can’t use them, thus allowing other areas to develop?

I don’t have firm answers yet, but the question helps explain why it is hard to learn new habits in these areas, unless we engage in some sort of “massed practice” – intensive development opportunities – where we immerse ourselves in the new learning,  we encourage our colleagues, friends and family to support us in making the changes and we  limit ourselves as much as possible from using our habitual responses.

My challenge this month is to stay appreciative – not critical – of every opportunity.  It will be fun I’m sure!!!

Talking about it versus showing it

Just skimming through Steve Denning’s latest eNewsletter and I clicked on a supposedly helpful link (not from Steve): “50 Writing Tools”.  Hmmm – “50 Writing concepts and not an example in sight” would be a more descriptive title.

I tried another link: “Having your listeners get the point without preachiness” and Steve gave three simple examples of phrases that we can all use after a story to help people get the point subtly.

I hope I’m not breaching copyright here, but here’s one example from his article:

“Just imagine” you started an article or a presentation with three guiding principles and then gave an example of each.  How much better is that than than three orphan concepts with no sibling examples?

[Note to self: good start, needs more practice to improve the subtlety!]

In the meantime, check out Steve Denning‘s excellent website and articles for a master of the art of business storytelling.