Wednesday, October 10, 2007


So today I propose a challenge: What have you learned today?

I try to ask my self that everyday. I’m not always successful, especially when I am busy, but I try to remember. On some days it is an easy question, I have learned many things – I might have seen multiple new materials, or new ways of building something, multiple insights might have came my way, or some other event transpired that triggered a massive amount of thought or inspiration. Those are great days – often fun and interesting, and exciting. Unfortunately, mass assaults also sometimes leave you unable to fully absorb everything new I have seen despite my attempts to document like crazy.

Yet, I remember when I was little I was often asked when I got home from school what I had learned in school that day, and the question frustrated me. Nothing was usually my ornery reply. The issue was, and still is some days, is that it hard to quantify learning. On one hand, you really can’t live without somehow learning new things all the time. Every book or magazine article (even fiction in some ways) departs more information, new insights, and at least the foundation for new knowledge. But at the same time, learning can happen very slowly – so slowly that you barely feel like you are learning at all. Then suddenly something happens and you realize that you know.

I was thinking of this because I was having a hard time thinking about what I have learned today for myself. When I first started my job here I went through lots of periods of mass learning, and have been trying to sort out the details. I hear of a new material – is learning when I hear about it, when I read more about it or when I use it or see it being used in the shop? Then again, there is more learning when that same product is realized to be useful in multiple processes. How significant does learning have to be? An insight into the process of the organization? An insight someone mentioned casually while talking about other topics? I think the problem is that I sometimes forget that learning something is a process and sometimes a slow process. A fact doesn’t have to turn your life around to constitute learning, it just has to be heard and understood. It can be added to the file cabinet in the back of your head so when that particular file grows it can be reexamined and connected into more meaningful insights.

So I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to ask “what have you learned today?” And, feel free to let me know what you learned – it may lead to me learning a bit more as well!

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