Learning to Learn


Cultural Change and Independent Thought

It's not a play on words, it's a necessity.

I've often said that learning is as important than teaching, if not more. In fact, the ability to learn efficiently and quickly is today's competitive advantage.

My first love is the love of learning, so I'm fortunate in that respect. The reason why I'm spending less time chatting online is that I am dedicating a greater slice of time to learning by doing. Being embedded in a company that builds digital products makes it a must.

It's not just about the technology itself — it's about how technology changes the way people relate to the world, how they get everything else done. New technologies change the way we engage with culture, in addition to accelerating the pace at which we need to assimilate new information.

The Brain Grows by Use

Working in the field of neurological development and being exposed to how the environment shapes who we become as adults early in my career gave me a distinctive advantage in connecting the dots between human capacity to develop capabilities.

It is our ability to make connections that creates the advantage: In Scientific American, Northwestern
psychologist Paul Reber explains it like this:

The human brain consists
of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections
to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections. If each
neuron could only help store a single memory, running out of space
would be a problem. You might have only a few gigabytes of storage
space, similar to the space in an iPod or a USB flash drive. Yet neurons
combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time,
exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to
something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes)
.

Learning Advantage

The truth is, if I could give one gift and one gift only, to every single child on earth, I would give them the ability to learn. Increasingly, the key gateway and driver of that competence is reading.

While I do believe in the power of the arts and the art of conversation to negotiate meaning and progress in understanding, in dexterity and manual training to open the door to creating and doing, physical mobility to interact with the world and measure ourselves with its wonders, reading with full comprehension lights up a very powerful ally: our creativity and imagination.

Being able to size up situations and respond with contextually appropriate moves flows from critical thinking. Effective reasoning is a combination of both taking in data and facts efficiently and processing the information effectively — in other words, learning to learn well.

It is my hope our age of maximum change doesn't suppress and kill independent thinking. We are richer for it and it helps pave the way for evolution. As there is no greater wealth than to be able to think for yourself.

And that means looking to both prove and disprove the product of our biases and assumptions — individually, and collectively.

 

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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.