Lessons from Learning2020: Motivations and Distractions

23 Nov

“What is your motivation to learn?”

What is going to distract you from learning what you want to learn?”

On day three of Learning2020 Lisa Christensen and Mat Smith of McKinsey & Company gave an excellent presentation on Intentional Learning.  If you attended the virtual conference and have access to the recording (which are available through Dec 31), the session title is 322: Intentional Learning: The Most Fundamental Skill.  It’s worth a listen.  It drives home the reality that while a facilitator can teach, it is incumbent on the learner to learn.

It got us talking about our own experiences with intentional learning in both classroom and online formats and how the two most vital things to understand about learning are motivation and distractions.

Two Key Learner Questions

Have you ever been to an in-person training program where one of the first questions posed by the facilitator is “what do you want to get out of this training?”  You probably assume this question is raised so that the facilitator can adapt their presentation to meet the needs of the audience.  While this is true, it’s only half of the reason.  The second, and more important reason, is to adapt your thinking to your own learning goals.

Identifying what you want to learn is vital to participating in any learning experience.  Identifying what you want to learn provides you with a “growth mindset” which is one of the most critical components to learning because it suggests you can grow in any area while feeding—even cultivating—your curiosity about a topic.

Either closely before or after the “what do you want to learn” questions comes the Orientation Info.  This is when the facilitator tells you what your schedule is, when and how long breaks are, where the bathrooms are, when lunch is, how to submit reimbursement paperwork, etc.  While this is obviously important information, it also addresses the second big question of intentional learning—“What is going to distract you from learning what you want to learn?”  In a classroom setting, these are the things that are going to distract you.  By addressing them upfront, the facilitator removes distractions that will get in the way of you reaching your learning goal.

Online Distractions

In an online learning setting, the distractions grow—leaf blowers, barking dogs, kids, emails, cellphone—can all distract you from reaching your learning goal. Address them before the learning experience begins.  We won’t try to tell you how to mitigate the distractions at your remote location; you are best qualified for that.  But we do want to drive home the point that there is little more damaging to the online learning experience than being distracted just when what you want to learn is being discussed.  And that is completely within your control and your responsibility.

Dwight Johnson