2009: Year of Questions
Christmas is over, holiday is almost over, and it’s the end of the year. Have you taken some time to reflect on what is year 2009 to you?
If 2007 is a year of change, 2008 is a year of learning, 2009 is a year of questions for me. The surface shows decline and there are seemingly a lot of wrong decisions. It was tempting to resent them and it takes faith to believe that something deeper is at work, even through failures, and they can work together for good.
In year 2008 I learned a lot about myself, partly through the program The Courage to Create from ECI. Together with many books I read and blog articles I have written, it has impacted me to learn and question a lot of what happens in my life, the choices I have made, and the environments I was in.
That could be the biggest suspect of why year 2009 was such as year of questions, and in the surface, decline. Sometimes I was wondering whether it is the side effect of learning. I was wondering if it is better if I stop reading book for a while. Maybe that is the reason why King Solomon at some point of his life decided that everything on earth is nothing, wisdom is nothing, in his book, Ecclesiastes. Was there really something great about learning?
Here is what I learn about learning and why it is by itself is not enough…
1) Learning takes practice
I’m now reading a book on the subject of knowledge assets, preparing for my second semester in Knowledge Management. It is the book written by Max H. Boisot titled Knowledge Assets: Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Economy, proposing a new model of production function that describes the exchange between data and the physical factor required (such as time, space, and energy). We can reduce the amount of physical resource required by making optimum utilization of the data (and knowledge) we have, and that requires both insight and experience. One without another will not be enough, learning could represent insight but it is not enough without practice and experience. It’s not a one-time event, but a cycle that repeats again and again between insight and experience.
2) Learning takes reflection
Knowledge comes from experience. However, it is not just raw experience. It comes from experience that we have reflected on, made sense of, tested against other’s experience. It is experience that is informed by theory, facts, and understanding. It is experience we make sense of in relationship to a field or discipline.
Will you stop for a while to reflect on what you learn? Knowledge comes from both insight and experience, but it also takes reflection to internalize what you have learned. Writing is an exercise that I found useful to reflect on what I have learned, relating what I learn to other insights and experience I have. It involves finding similarities and connections, contradictions if they exist, and whether or not they can collaborate to form bigger perspective on the insights and experience.
3) Learning takes context to apply
Maybe one big mistake I made this year was in blindly forcing to apply what I learn to my working place. I really like the idea behind strength-based and performance-based work that I am looking forward (hastily) to apply. It was not for selfish reasons, but for a way how I could deliver the most to the organization that is hiring me. Despite of the noble motive, it takes skills to communicate, courage to influence, and patience to wait and adapt in making the changes. It takes wisdom, and without that, people will mistake you as irresponsible and selfish. I was hoping to deliver the best I could from my understanding, but the message was not clear. Some people are opposed to the changes with their own reasons and perspectives. Inkpen and Dinur, in their knowledge transfer model, call for the analysis of context before transferring knowledge. Ignorance to do so will result in “viability-dissenting direction”; one that we can avoid if only we consider the context similarity before applying what we learned.
4) Learning takes focus
I’m starting at the year 2009 with a goal to make habits, but along the way I missed that out. Instead of taking more habits, I’m dropping more and more habits. Some lose its value, some are difficult to continue. More and more things get my attention away from the habit I’m building. I believe that learning takes practice and persistence, but learning also needs focus. It’s way easier to persist on one thing rather than too many things.
What will year 2010 be?
I was thinking for a number of days to write this article. It’s easy to write the mistakes I made in year 2009, but what should I do differently in year 2010? Should I make some other goals? Some other habits maybe? It seems that the answer is not that, at least from what I see right now.
Having no full-time jobs at the moment gives me lesson to find a cause or work that I can believe in, the focus or direction for which I can put much effort. I want it to be “more others, less self”. If more of the past years I’ve been focusing on self and what I want to learn, I really hope to find a place where I can contribute with all of who I am, my best and my strength, and not focusing on learning this and that.
In overall, I believe that year 2009 is not a waste. It is part of growth and life curriculum I need to take. In fact, decline is really part of growth. You may have known about the sigmoid curve, a repetitive curve of incline and decline in our life, but in fact, you are growing to a new level. Internalizing what you learn requires you to be exploratory and making errors. What we see as decline is indeed a part of the learning cycle we all have to go through.
Whether it is successes or failures, I hope we can close year 2009 with our heads up high and be prepared to enter greater successes and learning growth in the New Year. Closing this article, I want to wish you Happy New Year 2010.
Cheers for a greater year,
- Max H. Boisot, 1998. Knowledge Assets: Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Economy.
- Michael Miles, 2008. The Lesson of the Sigmoid Curve.
- Robert A. Henru, 2008. Do you make these mistakes in Learning?