Learning for a Changing World Series – 4 of 6

This is the fourth in a series of six posts that look more closely at the question of learning in a world of constant change.

Learning to be

“Learning to be” is about acquiring tacit knowledge. While explicit knowledge about some aspect of our world can be transferred to us from another source, tacit knowledge needs to be acquired through hands-on engagement with the world.

We acquire tacit knowledge through experimentation and experience. We can learn it, but no-one can teach it to us. As Thomas and Brown put it:

“…tacit knowledge happens not only in the brain but also in the body, through all our senses. It is an experiential process as well as a cognitive one. It is not about being taught knowledge; it is about absorbing it.”

Tacit knowledge is, in many ways, more valuable than explicit knowledge. The latter is for the most part abundant and cheaply available. However, what allows us to do the things that add value in our professional lives is tacit knowledge.

Regardless of what our speciality domain is – medicine, managing, marketing – the tacit knowledge required for success continues to evolve rapidly. So, we all need to be continuously upgrading our tacit knowledge – continuously learning to be.

Learning to be requires us to engage hands-on with the world, to find supportive contexts in which to experiment and inquire, and to interact with others who are highly skilled.

Learning to be in new ways requires that we be willing to do things we are as yet unskilled in. In short, it requires us to be dumb and clumsy as part of the learning process – just as when we started out on our learning journey as students years ago.

Learning to be also requires us to put in the hours of dedicated practice that will move us closer to mastery in our chosen domain.

  • In what areas are you currently actively learning to be by expanding your tacit knowledge? Where can you support your learning process by more hands-on engagement through experimentation?
  • Where in your environment are pockets of high levels of tacit knowledge that you can connect with?
  • How can you accelerate learning to be by letting go of needing to look good?
  • What have you put in place to support you in practicing towards mastery?

Last week: Learning about
Next week: Learning to become

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