We examine the present in light of the past
so as to better understand the future.
John Maynard Keynes

* With apologies to Karl von Clausewitz

Your best source of learning is you

In my last post I talked about management gurus and ‘masters’ and what one can learn from them. One important after-thought: these should not be the only sources of learning. Human history is full of examples of people trying to succeed by copying what ‘great’ women and men did before them, and usually falling flat on their face. History also shows us that in order to succeed, we need to learn from a wide variety of sources.

Learning from others, whether by reading their books or listening to them talk, is of course a vital part of learning. Collecting the experiences and knowledge of other people and interpreting these in a way that is useful to us is absolutely vital. But the most important source of learning, one that is often overlooked, is ourselves.

How often have you read something or heard something important and meaningful to yourselves or your work and thought, ‘actually, I already knew that?’ To many of us, this is a fairly frequent occurrence. Maybe we have heard something long ago and forgotten it until a verbal cue dredged it up from our memory. Or else we have experienced something and never really thought of it as meaningful, until a long time after when something else happens that puts that first event into context.

‘Sense-making’ may sound like the latest fashionable buzzword, and giving the consulting industry that is growing up around it, one can be forgiven for a certain amount of scepticism. But actually, the concept is both simple and valuable. Sense-making means stopping to think about the things that happen to us, analyse them and make sense of them, rather than letting them simply drift past. If we think hard about the world around us and our reaction to it, our thought processes become faster and more agile. We understand the world, and we understand ourselves.

Pseudo-mystical rubbish? Try it for day. Keep a diary of everything that happens to you, and your thoughts about it. Then sit down in the evening and go through it and examined what happened and re-think your reactions. I suspect, at the end, that you will come to understand a little more about how powerful your own mind is and how many really important things you already know.

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Adi Gaskell commented on
Management Consultancy

Pradee commented on
Oh, no, not another book on management!

Laurie commented on
Another one bites the dust - reflecting on my new book on management failures