Why Learning is as Important as Teaching

In a recent TED Talk, Bill Gates shares this compelling statistic: “Until recently 98% of teachers got one word of feedback: satisfactory.” 

We all need feedback. With no feedback, says Gates, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve. Learning is as important as teaching, if not more. As he says in the talk, even great teachers can get better with smart

Teaching doesn't happen only in the classroom

Mentors, coaches, and peers who are willing to provide constructive feedback enrich our opportunities to learn more about what works. In the absence of deliberate feedback, I recommend signing up and volunteering to work with people and teams you look up to.

For example, on the agency side, one of the main ways in which you can learn what works and what can be improved is by working on pitches. In a short period of time, you will gain feedback both from the rest of the team, and the prospect.

The key is to observe, take note, and be available to incorporating what we learn.

Learning does not have an expiration date

It is a continuous process of seeking both quantitative and qualitative input to get better. Getting and giving feedback is not easy, yet it pays dividends in the long run. Taken and given through the lens of learning blunts the emotional sting.

There is a difference between the abstract of how we see ourselves and our practice and the pragmatic and actual output we provide, how it works in real life.

Whenever I am invited to keynote a conference, or to moderate a panel, in addition to preparing visuals and an abstract of key take aways, I use a Flip camera to tape myself giving the talk.

This accomplishes three main goals:

  1. shows me where to improve — by getting to see how you do vs. how you think you do
  2. highlights gaps in thinking — usually that's where you get stuck
  3. acts as dispassionate feedback mechanism — no emotion involved

It's the best method to do a dry run I've found. In many instances, it's enough to be aware of something to improve it.


[hat tip Shane Parrish]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.