We know a lot about how people learn. Instructional designers, trainers, speakers, and others work hard to provide content in ways that match that knowledge. But one thing must come before the content itself – before the approaches to the learning and all those details. Before we can build knowledge and skills, there must be an alignment of perspective. Why does a perspective for learning matter so much, and how do we create it?
We have all experienced it. Something is offered to us to learn, and we just aren’t interested. If we don’t see relevance or value, we don’t particularly care. While intellectually we might value in learning for learnings sake, that isn’t enough. Here is one example.
Learning a foreign language might not be at the top of our list. But if we book a trip to a country where the prevalent language isn’t our own? Suddenly that same learning has meaning and purpose to us, and we are far more likely to learn at least some words (and learn with far greater ease and effectiveness).
This highlights how important perspective is to the learning process. If you are offering learning to people in your organization, the more they see value and relevance, the more likely people will be interested and successful in learning those things.
What are the Other Perspectives?
Beyond the relevancy/value perspective already described, here are four general principles that create a perspective for learning. The more of these that exist, the more motivated and interested we are as learners. You can think about these for yourself or others. All apply to all of us.
- Confidence in our success. If our confidence in learning a skill is low enough, we won’t even try. Even if we have enough confidence to try, low confidence (or self-image) can be a serious impediment to learning a skill. A confidence (not a blind, ego-driven cockiness) that we can succeed is a critical component in both starting to learn and continuing as we stumble on our learning path.
- Immediacy of use. Know that we will need this “someday” isn’t very helpful. If your trip to Spain is in a year, the immediacy is different than if you are leaving next week. Teaching people how to use a new work process too far in advance of application will reduce interest, and retention too.
- Trust in accuracy of information. Even if we see the information and skills as needed and important, we must believe that we are learning the right or best way and must trust the sources of the learning. If you have decided to learn a skill but aren’t sure the person teaching you is skilled (or the process being taught is accurate), you will be tentative and may not be motivated to begin or engage.
- Connection to our big picture. Immediate use is important, but so are your long-term view and goals. You might realize this skill could help you tomorrow, but if you don’t see yourself needing it for a while, it will impact your motivation. Flipped around, when you see how getting better at this skill will serve you far into the future and help you reach your goals or aspirations, you’re all in.
The more of each of these we possess, the more willing and successful we will be in learning the skill being offered.
How Can We Create Them?
We can create this perspective for learning for ourselves by considering these factors and working to build those that are low or missing. If we “know” we “need” to learn something but don’t feel the motivation, look at the factors and see which might be in our way. If we shift our perspective for learning, we improve our motivation and effectiveness as a learner.
But what if you want to help others learn? Whether as a coach or a learning and development professional, we must consider perspective as a critical starting point for the learning process. Focus more on asking questions to help people shift their personal perspective than simply telling them why it is important. Too often the reasons given are externally focused rather than designed to help people discover their personal perspective for learning.
One way to change your perspective is by listening to top-quality podcasts. If you are looking for a new podcast for your playlist, consider The Remarkable Leadership Podcast. We feature (at least) weekly guest conversations with top leadership experts and thought leaders, and new short form content from me alone. With a rich archive and new content each week, The Remarkable Leadership Podcast will help you think differently and about new things with every episode. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or by listening and watching here.