More learning about learning

September 4, 2013

In this blog, I continually comment about learning and about analysis. That is because they are both critical elements in becoming an analyst as well as maintaining your analytical ability, whether for competitive intelligence or for any other subject matter.

Let me give you a couple of other examples about learning and analysis.

The first is a recent blog by Professor Kirsten Wheaton. In there, Professor Wheaton pointed out that his life may well have been saved by the fact that he had taken a course about early Christian and Byzantine art. His point was that you can never tell where your learning will turn up to help you.

I think the point actually goes deeper. Professor Wheaton obviously learned the subject, in this case art, so well that he could recall at least a little of it at a point in time when he really needed it. How did he do that? He obviously had learned how to learn, because learning includes not only taking in data but retaining and reusing it.

An additional perspective comes from a recent encounter. I had occasion to talk with a man about the American educational system. He had found many problems with it. Specifically, he found that he was very mechanically gifted, but the education he was provided on mechanical subjects was wholly inadequate.

The traditional way mechanical subjects are taught is by referencing the principles, then looking at diagrams, and then, and only then, working in hands-on manner. That did not work for him. Fortunately, he found out on his own after leaving school that he learned best when working directly hands on, and then, after being familiar with the engine, or whatever, turning to diagrams and other aids. As he put it “If I relied on the way I was taught, I would never have learned anything. I had to learn to teach myself.”

The third was my own experiences in law school. One of my friends, who did very well in law school ,was awe-inspiring for the tremendous amount of time and effort that he put into studying every day and every evening. He never seemed unprepared and always seem to have mastered the subject matter every day. When it came to final exams, he took some time to review the coursework, but always made time to read books completely unassociated with law. In other words, he also relaxed. His grades improved every year during law school.

Another student found his own way was entirely different. He did a little basic preparation work on a daily basis, but for a number of reasons, including other activities, he did put in the preparation time the first individual did. He was legendary for his habits during the exam weeks. He literally disappeared; he put all of his course books and other materials, including notes, on one side of a chair and then read through each and every text, workbook, hand-out, note, and previous exam, until there was nothing left on the side of the chair. He did nothing else (okay, he did sleep and eat). He did equally as well.

The point is that we all learn differently. You have to figure out how you learn best

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