Oct 10, 2018 IN Game Dev Talks
Learning Mindset: Why did we stop learning?
Learning has been on my mind a lot over the last few years. Why do we or don’t we want to learn new things? When we are little, we are thrown into the water and we need to learn how to swim. Of course, we have support systems of parents, family, teachers, friends to guide us through it but that doesn’t make it much easier. There are so many things we do not understand that we try to figure out, so many rules, systems we need to follow and to decipher. There comes one day, however, when we gain confidence, when we start feeling on top of it all, when we start feeling we know just enough to get by. We feel we do not need to learn anymore. We know how to outsmart the system - it was created by someone anyway. We find tools, hacks, processes, structures. They make things easier for us. But figuring out and finding flaws in the system should not be the goal here. We should strive for growth, constant improvement, further understanding of the world that’s becoming more and more complex. Why don’t we care more? Why do we get stuck?
My hypothesis is that we become lazy, comfortable. Systems we create are flawed, they are not able to cover all the possible scenarios. Our shortcomings are tolerated and we always find just information to confirm and rationalize our perspective. There is no sufficient pressure on us and therefore we do not put more pressure on people whose mindset we can influence. Well, it is not dead serious anyway, right? Others are getting by just the same, right? ...
Learning hurts. Before we learn a new skill or a tool, it takes time. It took as close to half a year to learn how to eat, one year to walk, almost two years to talk. Understanding human interactions is a task for years. The same goes for cycling, skiing, mastering foreign languages and let us not go into emotions, understanding that is a lifelong task. Learning is not smooth, it is a process of falling, awkward moments of not being 100% sure, pains and errors. There is no instant success, there are rare rewards and no clear metrics of success. Would anyone with a sane mind go into this?
And why should we care? Why do we keep on hearing that we need to learn? Because every time we wake up in the morning, the world is a different place. Thanks to technological and scientific advancement, the world is changing with accelerated speed. Changes are constant, exponential. Yet we are stuck in linear thinking, we make decisions about the future based on past. Learning at all times and attempting to understand the ever evolving context should be on autopilot.
How to do that? My approach and approach we have taken up in our company could be organized into few easy rules:
1. Start with the end in mind, set a clear objective and understand that learning takes time. As soon as I have a clear understanding what I need to know, where gaining a new skill or learning how to use a new tool may take me, setting milestones or road map is a piece of cake. For example, I want to be able to build 3D ships in Seaport, therefore I need to learn 3D Max. I can learn online, use books, study with mentors. Then I will use the program and apply the knowledge, test my skill, push myself until I build an amazing cruiser!
2. Understand how you learn the best. There are so many resources - books, audio books, videos, endless online resources, mentors, meetups, knowledge sharing, workshops, labs, test groups, you name it. Everyone needs to take up a slightly different approach, everyone needs a different pace. Understand what works for you and create space for it in your calendar.
3. Sometimes you need to unlearn to be able to learn. Maybe the things we do don't work the best way but it all somehow works, so why change it! :) When you make a decision to learn something - new principle, framework, system or tool, we need to set the old one aside, change it, or stop using it completely. Last year I was at Stanford Executive Education training and at the end my head was exploding with ideas what to add to the way we already do things. To my surprise, we were not asked to say what we were going to implement out of all the amazing stuff we learned but what we would stop doing.
4. Create an environment that supports growth. Learning can happen anywhere, it does not have to be provided by an accredited educational organisation. Set conditions that support learning and growth. We have set learning as one of our key values in the company. We have created a system where people find learning activities easily and we nudge people to participate. The company needs to grow and therefore we need our people to grow. Finding the right resources and the right buddy that will challenge us is one of the keys to success.
5. Concentrate on the progress rather than the distant end result. Often when learning something new, we are very far from a visible result. Focusing on the result may even be discouraging. Concentrate on fulfilling the milestones which help you see the difference between now and before. I have set an objective to learn to draw better, so I signed up for a challenge with White Crow where, if I fundraised a certain amount, I would publish one drawing a day for the duration of 60 days. I had hard times with the first pictures. Slowly, however, I was getting better and that encouraged me to draw more and get even better. Of course I am miles away from becoming an artist but the progress itself was a great reward.
6. It is all in your hands. Not in the hands of schools, teachers, bosses or mentors. If we do not care about our own growth, we will not move anywhere. I love spending time with my kids. They reconnect me with my curious self. :) Not that long ago they asked me how an eye works. A thought ran through my head - well, it looks and sees just like a camera, that is easy. But what does it actually mean? How does it see? How does it work inside of our brains? One question started appearing after another. So, instead of cutting the discussion short with my lame know-it-all-but-actually-not-knowing-it-all approach, we started reading a book, watching videos, we started a discussion. This is a small, rather infantile example, but there are myriads of questions everywhere. There is a growing demand on us to understand more context and connections between things in order to be more efficient. The resources are everywhere, so use them. :)
I always have a few learning objectives - bigger, smaller, personal, business. I want to learn Finish, I would like to kite surf, I want to get better at coaching and facilitation. Just to name a few.
Chief Learning Officer