Talent Tips: What I Learned From My iPhone

Leaving us to our own devices often can help us discover principles of real learning.

By Roy Saunderson,Chief Learning Officer, Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute

Please remember I am a Baby Boomer. I am only partially immersed in technology, which sometimes my children have to help me wade through.

I remember getting my first iPhone more than a year ago, and I kept looking through the packing box for the instruction manual. There was just a small piece of paper simply telling me how to turn it on and plug it in to charge it up. That was about it.

And so the learning began.

I found out learning is not quite as intuitive as it interfaces to be. Yet I did discover some exciting principles along the way that hopefully can refresh us all to be more aware of what it takes to learn.

Eagerness to Learn

First off was the fact I had progressed into the future in now owning a smart phone that integrated not just telephony but also the Internet and applications to make life and work much easier. My own children were stunned to hear their “old” Dad had an iPhone, and I think it felt pretty “cool” to be able to show it off to them.

It is always exciting to be in the “new toy” stage. I was ready to learn—which is how we want all learners to come to be. Perhaps the novelty of new electronics and the aura promoted through media and other users enhances the desire to practice and master any new device.

Learning Point #1: It’s important to do a more thorough job of communicating the big deal behind any learning initiative—knowledge or skills based—and set the stage for learners to become excited to put skills and knowledge into action.

Be Willing to Experiment

Memory tells me why I hate reading gobbledygook instruction manuals that frustrate any reader, but not having one at all was a little scary at first. We have to be open to exploring new devices and any new material and be willing to learn from this discovery phase experience. Perhaps learning, then, comes from diving right in and experimenting, testing hypotheses, and just plain doing things and trying over and over again.

I was amazed how quickly I was mastering the use of my iPhone and the applications that allowed me to interface with other systems. In many ways, the act of exploring opened up opportunities to be more efficient and effective.

Learning Point #2: We must expect and create better opportunities for hands-on application of new learning, and not complete a program without proof of experimentation and learning. It is in the doing that we learn, practice, and retain skills and knowledge.

We Learn What We Want to

Now I have this new device without an instruction manual, and I am all alone. But it’s amazing how harsh reality can motivate learning. People are not born instantaneously knowing how to use a computer. As writer Mark Wilson recently said, “Pinch-to-zoom is only intuitive after the fact.” Similarly, when someone showed me the feature of zooming in and out on Google Maps and most other applications, I was good to go.

I have downloaded a few applications that I rarely use, so it was easy to just delete them. And creating folders allows you to organize applications to make the device easy to navigate and know where to find things. It causes you to stop and think about other skills and knowledge you have and question whether you really need them anymore or whether you should just delete them.

Learning Point #3: We need to capitalize on learners’ desires and interests so we can capture what it is they want to learn. Imagine them coming back to work and being expected to share what they’ve learned and to brainstorm new applications across the organization.

Learning Becomes a Shared Experience

There is no doubt the proliferation of smart phones has made everyone a teacher of some feature or another. The so-called “intuitive learning” is more often passing along the wisdom and experience gained from others. It took me quite a while to discover the “search iPhone” feature, but with the visible keyboard underneath, it became self-evident how to use it.

I also learned when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I asked friends and colleagues how to do an unknown task, and they showed me. I found myself needing to be more vulnerable and ask for assistance. The result was learning. And have you discovered how double-clicking on the external home button and holding down one of the displayed icons below generates minus signs on the icons so you can delete the function and minimize battery usage? I learned this from a friend while out at a business dinner. I think I need to share other types of learning with my colleagues, no matter where we are.

Learning Point #4: Learning is gained informally from others at all times of the day and in all places. We need to foster a greater collaborative community of learners who are willing to cooperate and share information with each other.

It is amazing what you can learn from an iPhone. There is no restriction on the learning timetable or the demographics of learners or teachers. The classroom is always open so long as the student is willing to learn. We need to get excited about learning again and be willing to risk failing to really learn. And why not find out what our people want and need to learn and share the discoveries we make?

Perhaps the best learning doesn’t come with an instruction manual after all.   

Roy Saundersonis author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.Rideau.com.

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