Category Archives: Learning

How we learn best


Perhaps it is the hedonist in me, but I believe that gatherings designed to achieve useful results can only be fully effective when the participants are having fun. The issues on the table, and the implications of the outcome, may all be deadly serious, but creative interchange, to say nothing of innovative results, seems to disappear quickly when a dark cloud of solemnity hangs over everything.

– Harrison Owen in Expanding our now.

Book review: Turning to one another

Margaret Wheatley has written another beautiful book, and this time the topic is conversation. Meg (as she’s known) believes strongly in the power of conversation and dialogue to bring people together and to promote individual and shared development.

She starts the book by explaining her reasons for writing it, and by explaining her view on conversation.
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Book review: Inner skiing

“Inner Skiing” is an excellent account of how learning occurs, but this time it’s not at work, it’s out on the ski slopes.

As every skier knows, skiing can be a wonderful experience, when you’re in flow, your skis obey your every command and you zoom down the mountainside. And every skier knows the flip side: When your skis won’t do anything you ask them to, every other skier on the mountain seems to deliberately get in your way, and you spend more time falling than skiing.

What determines the experience you will get? How do you you move from one to the other?
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Getting it wrong

If you’re not having a fair degree of failures, you’re not exposing yourself to the upside of getting it dramatically right on dark horses. If you don’t like going home at night with a feeling of uncertainty, then you’re not cut out for it. If you try too hard to improve your failure rate, you become afraid of your inbox, terrified by the proposals made by authors and their agents. You end up having either no output or a book that is so bland that no one will want to read it. Discovering J.K. Rowling has reminded me of the sheer fun of knowing long before anyone else that you have something that will change the world.
– Nigel Newton, CEO of Bloomsbury, the publishing company who “discovered” Harry Potter

This underlines the importance of getting it wrong once in a while, and the utter stupidity of the old “Get it right the first time” maxim. From an article in Fast Company.


I remember the Vietnamese spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, right after 9/11, speaking in New York City. Somebody asked him what would he do if he was able to meet with Osama bin Laden. He said, “If he had his choice, he would sit down and listen to what Osama bin Laden had to say, so that he could hear his perspective and his motivation.” That’s a profound response.

It is this kind of dialogue that’s so important in this new world we occupy. Democracy is rooted in conversation. It’s rooted in the exchange of ideas. It’s rooted in multiple voices. It’s rooted in diversity. It’s rooted in hearing all the different perspectives. That’s what democracy is about. It’s not about one view, or one solitary approach. It’s not about the, “America right, wrong and always” form of patriotism. It’s not about that. It’s about something much deeper, much more precious, even mysterious.

– Michael Toms in an article in


Few of us can understand any longer the enthusiasm of Caliph Ali ben Ali, who wrote: “A subtle conversation, that is the Garden of Eden.” This is a pity, because it could be argued that the main function of conversation is not to get things accomplished, but to improve the quality of experience.
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow

Free to learn

I recently attended some very different training. I?m used to going to highly technical Java training, to portal seminars and to IT seminars, but over the last couple of years I?ve tried some different stuff.

And it has been great. Not only have I learned stuff that?s way different from what I normally learned, but I?ve also learned something new about learning itself.

How different was this training? Well, I started out with a week-long leadership course. Then a 3-day course in general consulting skills, and a 2-day course in conflict management. Then it got really weird. Over the last 6 months I?ve been to :
* A one-week course in modern dance (yes, the stuff where you roll around on the floor a lot)
* A 1-day course in painting (I painted a still life of a book, a boot and a banana)
* Evening classes in creative writing (I?ve written a great short story)

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Exercise: Being and becoming

We define ourselves by what we are. This goes for individuals as well as groups of people.

But life is change and learning. Everything is always in flux, is always developing. So shouldn’t you define yourself at least as much by what you’re becoming? I think, that if you derive your identity solely from what you are right now, you’re missing something crucial.

Basing your identity only on what you are right now, may narrow the way you think about the future. In the future you will be changed. You won’t be exactly as you are right now. So if your thinking about yourself is limited to what you are now, it may be difficult to see all the potential the future holds. This might lead to anxiety about the future and change in general.

I’ve come up with an exercise that can shed light on this issue.

Continue reading Exercise: Being and becoming