Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 32;   August 11, 2010: Take Charge of Your Learning

Take Charge of Your Learning

by

Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
The Stevens Memorial Library in Ashburnham, Massachusetts

The Stevens Memorial Library in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. The population of the town of Ashburnham is only about 5,500, but it has supported a small library since the 1880s. Public libraries, large and small, can be delightful resources for those who want to take charge of their own learning. Their holdings include materials from fields you know well, and from fields you know nothing about. If you aren't familiar with your town's library, consider beginning to explore it. If you are already familiar with your town's library, are there not some corners you haven't explored? If not, consider exploring the library of a neighboring town. The disorientation caused by unfamiliarity usually leads to educational surprises. Photo courtesy the Stevens Memorial Library.

Have you ever seen an airplane-related disaster in an in-flight movie? I doubt you'll see Snakes on a Plane on your next flight to LA. The criteria the airlines use for selecting onboard film entertainment probably eliminate anything that might make passengers uneasy.

Relying on others to choose your onboard entertainment restricts your film choices to meet criteria set by others. The airlines' goal is not merely to entertain — they want to entertain without the risk of creating anxiety or fear in some passengers. Even if you personally wouldn't experience anxiety from watching Snakes on a Plane, on a plane, people who don't know you are making the choice for you. And even if they did know you, they would still be concerned about other passengers.

As it is with entertainments, so it is with learning. Most of us learn from the stream of knowledge that comes our way by happenstance. Unless you take charge of your own learning, what you learn might be determined by the biases and preferences of others. Here are some examples, with suggestions for taking charge.

Mass media
Broadcasting, film, newspapers, magazines, and books provide most of the curriculum of our own personal learning. Revenue goals certainly influence the content decisions of media organizations, and for most of these outlets, achieving balance in your own personal education is not a goal.
But with some effort, you can get balanced, provocative content from mass media. Avoid scandal sheets and exploiters of incendiary or titillating topics, because their primary focus is revenue. Do you seek unusual sources with clear records of achievement? Do your mass media sources regularly set exemplary educational standards?
Friends, relations, and acquaintances
In conversations with people in our immediate social circles, we exchange what we've learned elsewhere, occasionally delivering original thoughts. But few of us actually seek connection with people for their ability to present provocative ideas.
You can't Do you seek connection
with people who can set
your brain in motion?
do much about choosing your relatives, but you can choose friends and acquaintances. Do you seek connection with people who can set your brain in motion?
Employers and certification organizations
When employers and certification organizations consider what they would like you to learn, they tend to emphasize their own near term needs — this year's technologies, or the next couple of years at most. But your career lasts longer than that, and your own need for income and stimulation have a more distant time horizon.
When you use employer resources to fund your learning, and when you seek professional certifications, do you set objectives that produce lasting value? Neglecting your long-term goals can produce a storehouse of knowledge with relatively short shelf life.

To gain the learning advantages you want and need, select at least a few sources that nobody has screened for you, and that nobody has recommended. That can be scary. Be certain that you're scared enough. Go to top Top  Next issue: What Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: Part I  Next Issue

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Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present next-level problems, because techniques that work face-to-face are unavailable. Here are eight tactics for controlling virtual blowhards. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
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MasteChanging How We Change: The Essence of Agilityry of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:

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ConflConflict Resolution Skills for Leadersict is inherent in collaborative work. When conflict is constructive, it produces better outcomes. When it's destructive, it can be an insurmountable obstacle to success. In this program, we explore the connections between the outcomes of collaboration and conflict in both of its forms. And we emphasize the skills needed most by leaders. The leader's task is to manage conflict so as to ensure that the group achieves its objective with its capacity to collaborate intact, or even enhanced. Rick Brenner shows team leaders and team sponsors the techniques they need to manage team conflict for relationship safety and better outcomes. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Influencing Outcomes Without Authority
Your Influencing Outcomes Without Authorityability to influence others — whether upward, downward, laterally, or within a team — always depends on both the quality of your relationships with the people you influence, and on your perception and their perception of your personal power. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you the techniques for making things happen not by using formal organizational power, but by using informal, personal power. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Strategies for Leading Teams in Hard Times
When Strategies for Leading Teams in Hard Timesa project team is on task, the contributions of leaders are important, and little noticed. Sometimes the team encounters unexpected difficulty, or requirements change, or budgets are reduced, or any of a number of other things might happen. In these cases, the leader must make or facilitate decisions about how to respond or how to revise the plan. We get through it somehow. Hard times are something else altogether. Despondency, disillusionment, resource shortages, unexpected and severe failure of the plan, and toxic conflict can erode morale. How can leaders deal with such situations? Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Strategies for Technical Debt: A Workshop for Enterprise Leaders
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Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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