Meta-learning / Meta-aprendizaje


After listening to an interesting TED Talk from Ray Dalio,  this question stuck with me: how do I know I’m right? As arrogant as it can sound, I’m usually right in assessing situations, which makes it easier taking decisions. And yet, I never questioned myself how I do know. This kind of meta-learning is far more relevant than being more or less right about things. It makes the different if, as Dalio says, someone wants to really go a step further in automatizing their knowledge and take advantage of it.

Meta-learning is defined by Donald B. Maudsley “as the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly are in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized”. It’s clear that, if we make efforts to truly understand the process beneath the surface of our results, and discover the magic behind the curtain, we can learn, apply and fill the gaps faster.

For managers, this is especially relevant.

Being better learners

We can’t rely on the capabilities or the learnings we’ve developed in the past anymore. The pace of changes compels us to be flexible, and adaptive. Therefore, our best ability to come to grips to the reality of our context is being open to cultivate new capabilities, mindsets, and behaviors.

Hence, understanding how our internal process works has some advantages, so we can help us in creating the best conditions for our learning. In the present conditions, developing this meta-learning skill is like having a superpower because it allows us to acquire other skills.

Being a better learner starts by raising the level of consciousness. We need to have a look at how our brain is wired and what was the process. An open-minded is also required, in the sense that we need to question ourselves: ideas, perspectives, and believes. And finally, we need to experiment with the reality. The more open we are to try and fail, the easier it will be to develop this beginner mindset of a never-stop learner.

How do I know?

I now want to go back to my first question; how do we know what we know?

There are different sources of knowledge: informal observation, selective observation, overgeneralization, authority, and research.

Informal observation occurs when we make observations without any systematic process; thus, we’re not looking for accuracy. Selective observation happens when we are searching for patterns, even when our observations are limited. Taking this to the next step, we can overgeneralize, assuming that even having limited observations, broad patterns exist.

Authority is a socially defined source of knowledge, since it might shape our beliefs about what is true or false. And finally, research is about being organized and logical in searching knowledge about the world.

Asking how I know what I know matters, independent of being right or wrong. It raises our level of consciousness, unfold our biases, and allows us to find the flaws in our thinking. And as a great collateral effect, it gives us clues to learn faster.

We can foresee what the future us problems will be, and what capacities will be needed. Nevertheless, we can work on developing our meta-learning skill.