This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.
Aristotle once compared human memory to a wax tablet, which starts out hot and flexible, but eventually becomes cold and difficult to shape. This has long been the prevailing view of our ability to learn. That is, when we are young our brain is in a great learning state, but as we age it becomes more and more difficult for us to acquire new skills. In simple terms, you can't teach an old dog new tricks … can you?
Recent research has challenged this belief, showing that other factors, such as older people's confidence in their ability to learn, also play a role. So if we stop thinking that our brain agility is decreasing by the minute, we may actually be able to learn something. In today's knowledge-based economy, where the ability to quickly acquire new skills is more valuable than ever, this is great news for entrepreneurs looking to make themselves and their teams more competitive.
As CEO, I read industry articles and blogs as well as at least one non-fiction book every day. I hire top-notch consultants to keep our people updated on the latest tools and strategies, and we've made great strides in areas where we need to reinforce our competencies, such as our website SEO.
However, commitment to learning is only the first step. Metacognitive activities such as reflecting on your own thinking through reflection, planning, and monitoring can also make learning much easier. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some personal and science-based techniques that will help you become a better student for life.
1. Start with a spatial repetition
Whether you are learning the saxophone or studying a foreign language, reviewing scales or checking vocabulary is the only way to master it. Practice or repetition makes perfect. There is a scientific explanation for why this works. Repetition increases the myelin, or the layer of fat, around the axioms that connect the neurons in our brain. The more myelin, the faster our neurons work and the better we learn something.
It turns out that it is even more effective to distribute the playback rather than group them into a single session. Gabriel Wyner, author of In Fluent Forever: How to Learn a Language and Never Forget It, writes:
“In a four month period of 30 minutes a day of practice, you can expect to learn and retain 3,600 cards with 90 to 95 percent accuracy. These cards can teach you an alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, and even pronunciation. And they can do it without getting bored because they are always challenging enough to stay interesting and have fun. ""
In this way, we not only increase our bond, but also avoid the pitfalls of dwindling enthusiasm, also known as boredom.
To use this learning technique, first create a clear study plan. Then I would recommend choosing a method of storing and organizing the information. That used to mean using cards, but today we have useful software options like Evernote and SuperMemo. And don't forget to test yourself regularly. Tracking your progress will increase your motivation to continue.
2. Take the time to think
Reflection can be invaluable in learning and improving job performance. Harvard professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues found that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day thinking about what they learned learned 23 percent better after 10 days than those who didn't.
Reflection not only consolidates what we have already learned, but also helps to generate new ideas. I've had some of my best product ideas when I'm not at work. During my morning exercise or on the walk after lunch, I will find the perfect solution to a problem that has preoccupied me for weeks.
As psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explains, “Our most creative ideas usually don't come when we are consciously focused on the problem. Good ideas come from interacting with people, gaining experience, and letting the mind make connections. In fact, Kaufman found that 72 percent of people have new ideas … where else? The shower. These 'shower ideas' are the result of deliberation as our brains make connections between the information we've already consumed, Why I mean Encourage employees to take advantage of their vacation days, and after some real free time, they come back to the office more energetic and often with a new vision.
3. You have to take it down
I'm sure teachers will agree that the best way to learn something is to explain it to someone else. So the first step in Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman's learning formula is: Teach a child. Or at least track how you would explain something to a child. As Feynman once said, "If you can't explain it in simple words, you won't understand."
If you try to break down a concept in its simplest terms, you will quickly find out if you really understand it or if you have knowledge gaps. And when we find those gaps, Feynman's technique suggests going back to the source material and relearning what's missing.
When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I decided to take three months of (mostly) uninterrupted parental leave. To do this, I would have to delegate a large part of my responsibility to my employees. Months earlier, I started guiding my colleagues through each task step by step. I quickly realized that teaching my job was strengthening my own skills and recognizing the areas where I needed to brush up.
4. Transfer What You Learn
I think we can all agree that Elon Musk has an exceptional ability to learn. From software and energy to transportation and aerospace, the rocket company's CEO is a true polymath or expert in various fields. But Musk's broad range of knowledge is actually an integral part of his ability to learn, because applying what we study in one context to another allows us to deepen our understanding of both. It's a technique known as learning transfer, and it uses a two-step process, according to Musk's interviews. First, it deconstructs knowledge in its basic principles. Then he builds it up again in a new field. Suppose you are learning Italian but you also want to become a better cook. You can just take a cooking class in Italian. The latter will most likely strengthen your understanding of the language and teach you how to make a half-Bolognese spaghetti, for example. Another benefit of being a polymath is that he can innovate. For example, a thorn in a dog's fur became the design inspiration for Velcro.
Entrepreneurs and their organizations can benefit a lot from continuous learning, but on a personal level I think this approach enriches the daily experience as well. Just trust yourself and you will see: you can teach every dog a new trick.