Learning to Learn by Erika Andersen


This “Remarkable Resource” is taken from the Feb 2020 #happyacademic newsletter.

Anderson E (2019) Learning to Learn. In: How to Learn Faster and Better. Harvard Business Review. HBR Winter Special Issue.

We got very excited in late 2019 when Harvard Business Review produced a whole special edition on “How to Learn Faster and Better” bringing together over 30 articles from their archives on aspects of how individuals and organizations can focus on learning the right things in the right ways.

With so many great articles, picking one to share here was very difficult – but we settled on Erika Anderson’s account of learning how to learn – because if you can’t or don’t want to do this, everything suffers.

Key Messages

  • Changing yet enduringly high demands exist across many workplaces. Learning fast and learning well are vital to success in this challenging world.
  • Learning doesn’t just refer to armchair learning, or even learning in classrooms— but on the job learning to address your biases and own resistance, prioritizing the right opportunities for learning, and to truly expand what you are good at.
  • Some people are better at learning than others, and while some of this is down to predilection or personality, developing aspects of yourself can improve your learning capabilities.
    These factors are :

    • Aspiration
    • Self-awareness
    • Curiosity
    • Vulnerability

Key Applications

  • Into 2020, as the weeks move towards normality from the New Year enthusiasm, can you develop your own capacity to learn? Consider which areas you most need to learn in taking account of the full scope of learning, your learning-half life, and the value of difficult learning.
  • Consider around Anderson’s four priority areas:
    • Aspiration: Do you really want to get better? Are you willing to do the hard emotional and physical work entailed?
    • Self-awareness: What mechanisms do you have to be and stay self aware of your own learning needs? Are you open to hearing the things you least want to hear?
    • Curiosity: Can you be and stay in a place of openness and questioning instead of being threatened by your own weaknesses?
    • Vulnerability: Do you have the courage to truly recognize when and how you have failed or risk doing so in future? Can you try to learn, recognizing that getting better takes time, stumbles, and colossal levels of self candor?

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