I tell my students that when I go to a workshop or conference, I feel my time was well spent and the session was successful if I learn at least one new thing. I urge them to see each class period in the same vein. Kevin Eikenberry, author of Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time, advocates these four tips to learning even when you think there is nothing new being presented. These include:
Use the time to review and focus. So you don’t want to be there, or feel that you already know the material. So what? You are there. So be there...Use the time as an opportunity to do some thinking. Reflect on your experiences with these concepts.
Think of ways you can improve on what you already know. You may become a valuable resource to other learners, or you may learn something new through your reflection. The time is there, use it wisely. Even if what you learn is different than what others learn, you will have made good use of your time, improved your mood and outlook, and taken something valuable from your time spent.
Look for the nugget. Everyone can learn something new. Maybe you do know much of the material being covered. If that is the case, be a detective. Look for and uncover at least one nugget that you had forgotten, that you have stopped applying, or one twist on something you already know well. Often one well applied nugget will “pay” for your time invested many times over. And without sleuthing, it is value you would never have received.
Be a beginner. Remember what it is like when you first learn something new? You are excited, interested and having fun. Once we think we know it all, we stop looking for any evidence to prove ourselves wrong. One of the best ways to remove all of these barriers is to come to any learning situation as a beginner, by asking yourself, “What can I learn?” The Zen saying states it well, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” Give yourself more options. View the world from a possibility perspective. Come to the learning table as a beginner.
As Kevin notes, "Once you realize that in the end you and you alone are responsible for your learning, it will change your life." You can read his entire blogpost here.
For an interview with Kevin Eikenberry on Intentional Learning, Leadership Strategies, and How to be Successful, click here.