After graduating from college, I worked at a learning & development consulting company called Mind Gym. The goal of Mind Gym is to promote lifelong learning in the workplace, and to teach people to think differently. One of Mind Gym’s beliefs suggests that people choose how they think – and with a little exercise of the mind, we can choose to think up some pretty awesome, positive things. Consequently, our life at work and at home can change drastically, allowing us to be more productive in all aspects. But for the most part, people think in rigid, repetitive ways. Go to work, go home, eat, go to sleep, do it all again. For a lot of people, maybe the actual work they do is repetitive, and they see no point to changing how they think. Mind Gym, and this week’s readings, would totally disagree – and so do I!
While the readings for this week focus mainly on education in the form of schooling, so much of it can be applied to work settings. My belief, and Mind Gym’s, is that learning should not end when “formal” education ends. We can’t just graduate from college and stop learning. You got a job that suits you perfectly? Great. Does that mean you’ve peaked? I hope not! And for those who don’t want or don’t have the opportunity to graduate from any formalized educational system, how are we making sure they’re still learning? At Mind Gym, most of the learning centers around people. The learning Mind Gym promotes isn’t math or writing or languages (though it certainly helps to stay on top of those things). Instead, the focus is on how we interact with people at work and how we reflect on ourselves. Are we kind, inclusive, and understanding of others? And are we thinking about our own needs and developmental goals? Without this mindset, we’re more likely to fall back in to routine ways of thinking, back to that “go to work, go home, eat, go to sleep, do it all again” mindset.
I could go on and on about my thoughts on mindful learning, lifelong learning, out-of-classroom learning, etc. . But my biggest take away from working at Mind Gym is simple and concise, and something that Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown mention in “A New Culture of Learning”. It’s also something I try to remember as I work towards a degree in higher education. Learning isn’t the new idea you came up with, or the formula you’ve memorized, or the paper you got an A+ on. Learning is a type of citizenship. It’s how you engage with other people and how you strive for personal development that allows you to contribute something to society, no matter how small. “A New Culture of Learning” tells the story of a young boy named Sam who is a talented programmer. To Sam, the most important part of being a programmer isn’t creating new games, it’s being kind to others in his programming community, and providing them with helpful feedback. If we think about formal education in a similar way, as well as learning beyond a formal education, I think people will be more passionate about topics, more likely to remember and utilize things they’ve learned, and they’ll be happier.
So take a minute to exercise your mind – why are you learning the things you’re currently learning? Because you want that A+, or that promotion, or because you know it will benefit you in a meaningful way?