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Accelerated Learning – Learning not to be an Expert!

By Kurt Ewald Lindley – Development Lead Officer (Coach Developer)

The catalyst for this blog came about when I asked myself the following questions.

  • should we strive to be experts?
  • how should we go about it?
  • do we need to be an expert to do something well or is good ‘good enough’?

In other words is being an expert the best aspiration to have? It may be better to be ‘functionally fluent’ in many areas than to be a master of one! Is being good, good enough?

How do we get good and get good quickly? An approach to accelerating learning.

  1. Why are people good at what they do? Find out why they are different, what do they do differently to be successful – what makes them an outlier? It is the questions you ask of them and yourself that are important.
  2. How can you use these differences? Consider these differences and look at how they can be mapped into what you are capable of (in terms of time, effort etc). Do not enforce their regime on you but consider which of it will make a difference to you. What is the minimum dose required to have the maximum impact. The Pareto Principle states that 80 per cent of results come from 20 per cent of actions (focus your time on the right 20 per cent)
  3. Frequency and repetition: The question of frequency or repetition is difficult to prescribe as all new tasks will have different challenges and these will depend on their nature (skill or knowledge). However repetition and recall are important. With regards to knowledge experiments have revealed a relationship between the forgetting of learned information and time:
  • Within 20 minutes 42 per cent of the memorised list were lost
  • Within 24 hours 67 per cent of what people learn has vanished
  • A month later 79 per cent has been forgotten with a meagre 21 per cent retention

Research has shown people who spend just 10 minutes reviewing information within 24 hours will retain almost 100 per cent. A week later, it only takes five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and by day 30, your brain will only need 2-4 minutes to give you the feedback, “Yes, I know that…”. How this translates into a physical skill is obviously different. However, the principle is the same – repetition and recall (recall of the movement, its feel and form).

      4. Balance of learning: The 70/20/10 Model of training states that learning is acquired in the following ratios:

  • 70 per cent from informal experience-based practice (on the job)
  • 20 per cent from supported coaching, mentoring and feedback
  • 10 per cent from formal learning such as structured courses and reading

Make the experience relevant to you. Make the support more focused on your needs and ensure the formal learning is active (mentally as much a physically).

      5. Commit to change: Take conscious steps to provoke behavioural change;

  • Tell people about what you are doing so that it becomes real and you have someone to report your progress to (strangely you will not want to let them down)
  • Create a habit for learning by repeating activities (5 times a week seems to be a good number - don’t ask me why?)
  • Trail this new approach, rather than forming a pact for long term change – it puts too much pressure on you (small achievable short term steps are much better)

So I tried this myself...

Having never run an ultra marathon and with no prior knowledge of training for this type of event I set out to follow these steps:

  1. I identified the outliers and considered why they could do it?
  2. I found the differences and focused on the 20 per cent that I could do!
  3. I repeated the training in relation to my capabilities
  4. I exposed myself to race demands as much as possible without running the distance
  5. I committed to doing this by pledging to run for charity

After three months of training the end result was completing the 56km 2 Oceans Ultra-Marathon in Cape Town South Africa in a time of 6 hours 14 minutes and some odd seconds (raising £2,500 in the process)!

See how I did it – Endurance running for the Busy Half Marathon Runner – the 3.5hrs you can count on:

My final point would be that the primary prerequisite of learning is to have confidence to learn – so build it in yourself and others (share, collaborate, learn)

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Take a look at these web-links for an insight into the under pinning principles for accelerated leaning: