Are You an Extreme Learner?

Learning Flows_IFTF

While learning by example included my most recent thoughts on the topic, I have written about learning at this site extensively.

From learning to learn, not a play on words, to one of my older posts and still very much current topic of learning from customers and then recognizing customer learning curve and making it easy for them to complete tasks online.  

Learning on demand via John Seely Brown, getting in the learning zone vs. our comfort zone, to how marketers selective learning has become consumers selective hearing in an age of product and service abundance.

The importance of learning by doing and thinking together through creative collaboration, and why learning is as important as teaching. All dating pretty far back, too.

My intent with this blog has always been to do both.

Teaching does not happen only in the classroom. Learning happens everywhere.

In fact, in an information- and data-rich world for those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet and the world wide web even through an old PC the virtual bookshelf is limitless.

What do we do with this opportunity? How do we balance developing our experience by using what we already know, and yet remain available to learning in response to feedback and new information?

In an age when we seem to already know everything, is it possible to discover net new things?

Curiosity is the name of the game

While creativity is getting the lion share of c-letter attention, my work in early child development taught me that the one characteristic children consistently share with scientists and the people we hold as example of genius, is curiosity.

The energy of discovery is embedded in the word: a strong desire to know or learn something (synonyms: interest, spirit of inquiry, inquisitiveness). If you just type "curiosity" in Google search, the first site to come up is NASA's Mars Science Laboratory#.

Shifting from educational institutions to learning flows

Enter extreme learning#.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) has documented a new movement and developed a map to document its signals, the future stories, the dilemmas or tensions within the learning ecology that won't be easily solved, and the work skills required by this new environment.

Who are extreme learners? According to IFTF:

An extreme learner is a trailblazer of the new learning landscape. For them, it’s not about an exam score or degree—the process is the product.

Extreme learners are powered by technology. They harness a fast-expanding world of knowledge that is increasingly at their fingertips. They know that learning now can be done anywhere at anytime.

Extreme learners are renegades who take charge of their own education. They apply novel feedback mechanisms and optimize their learning experiences. They have learned how to learn. And you can, too.

Extreme learners defy traditional definitions of teacher and student. They design their own curricula from online courses, get their hands dirty at community laboratories and hackerspaces, and seek out mentors. They help others learn, participating in an active learning exchange. They are teachers as much as they are learners.

IFTF created a site to collect their stories to gain insight into extreme learners motivations, challenges, methodologies, and secrets to success.

Learning is also an acquired skill, because it involves more than an ability to add new information and knowledge, it includes an availability to unlearning as well; trading an obsolete or incomplete set of facts, figures, and stories, for an emerging one, for example.

Which is why curiosity is a welcome ingredient to spice up the love relationship.

Key shifts to watch

The image above is part of the Future of Learning map, which documents how a combination of drivers is breaking learning—and education overall—out of traditional institutional environments and embedding it in everyday settings and interactions.

Download it here#. From the map's themes:

The emergence of new environments is leading to a number of shifts that learners, educational institutions, accreditation agencies, and policymakers will need to navigate.

  • From episodic to continuous learning
  • From assigning to enticing with content
  • From content conveyors to content curators
  • From working at one scale to working up and down the scale
  • From degrees to reputation metrics
  • From grades to continuous feedback mechanisms
  • From lecture halls to collaborative spaces

Convergence is happening not just in our devices and lifestyles; it is also happening in our experiences, and in the very fabric of what defines human.

Are you an extreme learner?


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.