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‘Towers of Stones’ Learning in the Towers of Industry?

November 9, 2017

The way we learn is evolving as we discover new and better ways to gain knowledge and apply new skills. One could argue that the Forgetting Curve, coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 1800s, was the start of our understanding of how people learn. Since that time our understanding of the human brain’s capacity for learning has continued to evolve; more recent research into the principle of 10,000 hours to world-class status is widely understood and accepted.


What we hear from delegates on our training programmes and their managers, however, is it’s too big to grip or really take in. Take a manager new to the role; to suggest that he/she is going to have to practise the skills of management for 10,000 hours (that’s five years full time), you can see the person visibly shut down. It’s too big a mountain to scale; ‘not applicable to me’.


Fortunately, in his book Micromastery, Robert Twigger comes to our aid and applies some common sense to the situation. To explain the core principle, here is one example from the book. Have you ever tried to build a tower of stones where you place one on top of the other to see how high you can get? Perhaps not, but for those of us who have tried, three or four stones is about as good as it gets. Then you see a tower with fifteen stones on the beach and you think, ‘how did they do that? That must have taken all day!’


What most of us don't realise is that for any given skill, there is a key or shortcut that can unlock the competence, capability, even dexterity identified by others who have had to spend many hours and practice finding out how to do it. This key or shortcut can then unlock your potential to master the skill quickly.


What about our stone tower building skill? Well it’s this: on any stone, no matter how smooth, there will be three little bumps that can form a tripod, to give the stone stability when placed on top of another smooth stone. Voila, we have a tower in the making.


Take this principle and apply it to the role of a manager, for example. Here’s how it works. The role of manager can be broken down into a number of small, often discrete but interconnecting parts, each of which has a key to unlock the manager’s potential skills in that small part. By identifying all the parts and their keys, the rookie manager can now tap into the principle of ‘marginal gains’ made famous by the British Cycling Team.


By identifying the specific skills a new manager needs to be able to do his/her job well, one can focus on these and ensure they are developed as a priority. At Management Learning & Coaching we spend time identifying the key specific skills with our delegates and their managers, and are now working with our clients to massively improve the outcome of the learning initiatives and training, thereby significantly shortening the learning curve and rapidly increasing ROI on training budgets. Delegates are leaving the training events confident about what they should be working on now, and how to continue to improve over time.


The Aggregation of Marginal Gains means ‘The 1% margin of improvement in everything you do that adds up to remarkable improvement’ – David Brailsford, Head of British Cycling.


Why not explore how you can significantly shorten the Learning Curve and flatten the Forgetting Curve, with a demonstration of how to apply Micromastery within your management skills training? Please contact us to discuss the towers of stones just waiting to be built in your organisation.


E: Paula.Tasker@management-Learning.co.uk


T: 020 7183 0081

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