Learning something new / Aprender algo nuevo

Learning something new

Right on the new year’s edge, it’s maybe the time to think of learning something new. The process of learning brings along many other things than knowing about a topic. It comes with the possibility of improving your self-knowledge. If you’re a leader, understanding how you learn in the first place makes it easy developing others.

Stages of learning

You probably know about the four stages of learning or as it’s named more technically the “four stages of competence”. We go through them each time we’re learning something new.

If you can drive, remember your thoughts before your first driving lesson. Your feeling could have been, “driving can’t be difficult; everyone can do it”; but sitting in front of the wheel for the first time, looking at all the stuff you might have to manage at once, you might feel different. At that moment, you know you don’t know.

With practice, time and the appropriate directions, you got the knowledge. But it still wasn’t neither easy nor natural for you; you needed to pay all your attention. And with more time and practice, one day you felt you master the task, and you could drive while having a conversation.

These are the four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, where most of us start learning something new. Conscious incompetence, as the holly time we realize we don’t know, so the learning can start happening. Conscious competence, in which we deliver with effort. And unconscious competence with the skill almost automatized.

Leadership is also about supporting the learning process

Understanding that every learning is a process and being aware of how you face it, managing someone else’s process should be easy. You can’t expect they learn everything at once, so they’ll fail eventually. Your role when developing people is to support their learning process, which by the way it’s iterative, meaning that before mastering something we all need to go back and forth between the second and third stages.

This back and forth period can be discouraging, depending on how much time we spend on it. And many times, it’s the reason we give up on learning something.

Have you ever thought why some changes fail even engaging people? Many theories about change tell engaging people from the very beginning.

At times, it doesn’t work, though. Why?

Change implies a learning process: we need to make things different, think different, behave different. And this is an effort. If the effort is bigger than the presumable pay-off, we quit. We’ll quit, if we get discouraged. If we stay so long in the conscious incompetence without noticing any improvement, we’d probably go back to what we use to do, think or behave.

Knowing how your people face their learning process is key to take them through it. Not everyone learns in the same way; some of us need to understand and then go practice. Some of us need to know the potential results before going into understanding. Maybe we first need to watch how it’s done and just model the behaviour; others just need to experiment first-hand to see what works and what doesn’t.

Understanding diversity also in learning may help you develop your people and going through process of change.

So, what would you learn next year?

Happy learning year.