Entrepreneur: this year, learn new ways of learning faster

The new mantra of the tech world is that the world is changing fast, and that most of us are not prepared. Although this is clearly true, saying it doesn’t really help.

When you watch a presentation, read an article or a book on the dramatic changes brought about by technology, there always seems to be an element of magic.  Someone has created a Facebook group, a youtube video or a blog post that has somehow miraculously garnered millions of views, toppled a government (Egypt) launched a global star (psy) or annoyed a large company (Gizmodo).  In the face of this constant barrage of anecdotes we are left to wonder what we can really do about it.

As anyone who ever tried knows, creating a viral video is nearly impossible, at least if it implies replicating the success of Kony 2012 or Gangnamstyle. These gravity defying stories simply don’t seem to have a rational explanation.

But in the face of such unpredictable change and surprises, there are two things that we can know for certain;

  1. We don’t know much.
  2. We need to start learning – fast and furious.

The acknowledgement that we know very little about the changes that are taking place enable us to embrace a more humble attitude than our hyperspecialzied world and education system has led us to.  If we recognise that there is a great deal we do not know, then we can open our mind to learning, and to being wrong more often than not.

Learning, revisited

Second, by this ‘ground zero’ approach, we can revisit how we need to learn.  And some things become clear: our education system didn’t prepare us for the world we live and work in today.  Most universities are barely starting to change to respond to an entirely new learning paradigm.  And for good reasons: the role of the institutions that deliver knowledge is being put into question. We simply don’t know how learning will evolve over the coming decade. But we know that it will change. And we can also assume that it will change around the individual.

With this in mind we can already start, not waiting for our school system to catch up with the internet, to challenge and reshape our learning habits.  This is what I have called ‘hyperlearning’ in my recent book where I develop an overall concept to adapt to the age of networks called hyperthinking.

Hyperlearning is the new learning model I believe we are heading towards.  And it boils down to some simple principles:

  1. We need to become self-learners
  2. We need to master new tools and a new self-discipline
  3. We need to form new habits
  4. This is going to be fun

And we need to learn creativity as a core skill. Now let us take a a look at what it means to become a self-learner.

I remember shortly after I graduated from Oxford University – this was last century! – starting to work in a radio station I had just launched.  We had regular meetings and as with every self-respecting start-up, too much to do in too little time.

Although I had always been a learning junkie after a few months I realised that I had almost stopped reading – let alone learning, anything that wasn’t directly connected to my work.  My mind was slowly moving into a tunnel vision of the world and gradually closing off the wonderful but seemingly useless questions that I used to reflect upon (given my studies in philosophy this is hardly surprising).  So I decided to consciously make time for learning and ensure learning would continue as a regular habit – as an end in itself.

This has served me well as I moved into the communication and web business as learning is key to staying on top of constant change.

But as I entered more into this world I realised that the tunnel vision – or hard paradigms – of some of my clients was stopping me and them from progressing and exploring new ways of doing things.

So I invented a model, or at least a set of habits, that can facilitate this process of on-going self-learning. But I discovered that new tools had emerged that made it incredibly easy to do this – youtube, the web , kindle etc. So let me take you through a couple of these.

1. Dip in: TED

TED.com is one of my favourite.  You can pick an 18 minute video, watch it during a treadmill session or when you cannot focus on something else.  If it is interesting, you can tweet it and share it with the world.  But if you stumble on a concept you find interesting, you can immediately ‘google it’ and find out about the speaker.  They often have a site, and a book.  Once you decided this is ground worth covering you can then download the book (kindle version) and if you want to maximise the return on learning of your car trip to work you can also by the audiobook.

2. Learn more with books and “whispersync”

In fact Amazon recently launched a fantastic service called whispersync for voice – which allows you to read a kindle book and pick up where you left the book on an audible audiobook.

This means you can read a few pages over breakfast, then continue in the car.  I simply love this experience especially for big fat books, which I will often struggle to finish.  I just went through three of Walter Isaacson’s books in this way (Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin) and this made me positively enjoy traffic jams…

With this method you can use your free time to explore new concepts and investigate new ideas.  You can of course, easily combine this with podcasts and other downloadable formats.

3. Dig deeper and reach out

The second step, after having read and enjoyed a new idea is to further investigate the topic.  Wikipedia is always a good place to get an overview, but often you find that authors have blogs that you can comment on or you can tweet with them.  Although they might not always respond to your enlighten comments I find the mere process of asking a question is always therapeutic and leads you to think deeper about the question.

When I finished reading the Black Swan some years ago, I found that Tom Peters had made a comment about him on it on his blog.  So I posted a response and felt very excited when Tom Peters wrote back that he agreed (although not entirely) with some of my points.  What is interesting about this is that it demonstrate how incredible the reach we can have is.  Any question we might have for any one in the world might be within reach.

However you do it, make sure you introduce some ‘R&D’ learning into your daily routine.  And by R&D I mean not reading a work related report or file, but something that is outside your direct focus.  This is how we stay hungry, foolish and curious.  Something we all need to be in age of permanent crisis change and chaos.

Photo: Vincent Desjardins, Flickr

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About the author

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss, Founder, Chairman and Chief Hyperthinker of ZN, studied at the University of Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In his last year he founded and ran Oxford Student Radio, making him the youngest MD of commercial Independent Local Radio in the UK. For this he was awarded the Young Achievers Award from HM the Queen. He came to Brussels in 1998 and set up ZN, looking at how to adapt business and communication strategies to the Internet age. Since then he has worked with leading companies and communication agencies, exploring the challenges and opportunities they and their clients face on the internet and how best to take advantage of the possibilities it creates. He developed the concept of 'Hyperthinking as a tool to help his team and clients adapt their thinking to the web and wrote a recently published book by the same title (more info on "Hyperthinking" ). Connect to Philip on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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