It seems like information is always changing. One day chocolate is good for you, the next day it is one of the most sinful fats.
From the personal to the large scale, our knowledge of everyday issues continues to evolve, and that pace of change is only picking up. What ‘everyone knows’ today could be obsolete tomorrow.
That’s why it’s so important to be a learner – not just a knower. Learners are open to new ideas and research, knowers are convinced they already know it all.
So, what does being a learner really look like? Here are some quick mind hacks to keep you learning and growing so you don’t fall behind.
1. Try Something New
Research shows that new experiences can enhance memory and learning. In fact, novelty can even motivate us to seek out new rewards. The thing is, you have to make a conscious effort to seek out new things because our brains are so trained to stick to the things we already know.
The good news is, there are countless ways you can inject some novelty into your routines, like:
- Changing up your office layout.
- Rearranging the furniture in your meeting rooms.
- Visiting places off your beaten path – like new cafes!
- Reading new websites and embracing opinions you’d typically ignore.
- Mixing up your “go-to” problem-solving methods.
Choosing behaviours that open you up to a world of fresh sights, sounds and ideas equip you with the seeds of learning.
2. Pretend You Know Nothing
Thinking like a beginner allows you to empty your brain of answers and open it up to new solutions. The single biggest impediment to new learning is what you already know. To learn you need to quiet your brain or else it will create interference.
By approaching situations with a clean slate, your focus will be on seeking the facts, without the mental baggage of prior experience. This neutral starting point will help shift your thinking away from your natural bias while preparing you to expect new information.
3. Drop The Assumptions
We all know what happens when we assume. And whether we’re aware of it or not, we head into most situations with a set of assumptions in mind.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you know what your assumptions are, and then try flipping them around. Ask yourself: What if the opposite were true? How would that impact what you’re trying to do?
You might naturally resist this line of thinking at first but give it a chance and you might just be surprised at what you find. For more specific tips on challenging what you know, check out this two-part video on flipping assumptions: Part 1 and Part 2.
4. Act Like An Investigator
Or a reporter, or a scientist – whatever encourages you to ask lots of questions and approach situations with extreme curiosity.
A lot of the time, it’s much more important to have the right questions than the right answers. So before making a decision or solving a problem, ask at least 10 open-ended questions that will help you see more pieces of the puzzle. Start with any question that takes your thinking to a deeper level.
Knowers look for what they already know, and then they’ll focus their time and energy on filling the gaps in their knowledge. Learners, on the other hand, are willing to spend their time and energy on curiosity because it moves them beyond that singular path. More often than not, that’s where the more effective and complete answer is and it all starts with asking more questions.
5. Make Time for Thinking Reflection
Here’s a 10-minute program for learning something every day. Start by shutting the door to your office and turning off all electronic devices. Then ask yourself:
- How successful was I at getting things done?
- Did I get into trouble with my interactions with other people?
- Did I hit a wall in coming up with ideas or getting results?
- What will I do differently tomorrow?
In 10 minutes, you’ve just set the stage for more learning and better results tomorrow.
It’s no longer enough to be the smartest person in the room. Today’s most effective leaders and employees realise they don’t have all the answers, and they have the self-confidence to admit it.
Be a learner and seize those opportunities to bring in more brains, listen for what you don’t know and keep growing.