Continuous Learning: Patiently connect the dots
If all you do is execute all day—go from one thing to the next to get everything done—you may miss one of the best learning opportunities that humans can experience: reflection.
As I understand it, our brains, through dreams, are made to reflect and organize, hone and emphasize our experiences. That is a passive experience. I think it is important for people to take the time in areas they want to explore, in areas where they want to learn, and think about and trace out the relationships between the different aspects of the concept. Are there gaps? How are these things similar? How are they connected? Is there some causal relationship? Or even—do some of the ideas not fit at all, and if not, why did I think they fit in the first place?
When you watch police shows that put the detective in-front of a wall covered with pictures and notes, an image where long-lengths of string connect faces to fact, what you are seeing is a very visceral, physical way of connecting ideas. That kind of organization can be used for anything you want to explore or solve. But it doesn’t have to be physical; many tools—from electronic cork boards to mind maps—can help you think about ideas more inclusively and holistically.
You do, however, have to make time to do this kind of analysis.
In my current job I keep Fridays open for meeting people who don’t regularly work with me or for me. I use the time when I’m not meeting new people to brainstorm and to think about how things are related.
I come from a Latin culture, where not all meetings and situations are planned. In my current job I keep Fridays open for meeting people who don’t regularly work with me or for me. I use the time when I’m not meeting new people to brainstorm and to think about how things are related. I think of this as an aspect of diversity. Diversity in people by getting outside of those I know really well — and diversity of time by allowing myself to do something very different one day a week. I find that being perceived as a connector is also very positive for managers and learners, as it helps create a circle of trust and credibility that creates even more new dots to connect — even more opportunities to learn.