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The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

Do you have difficulty comprehending a new concept after you read? Do you refuse to even attempt to improve your math skills? If this sounds like you, stop worrying because there is a simple approach you can use to improve. The trick is to simply apply what you are learning.

    Without any additional application, we will only retain 10% of what we read. 10%! Yet, if we attempt to teach others a new concept, we find that we are able to retain 90% of the information. Even simply discussing the concept with others will help us retain 50% of the information. Essentially, reading or learning a new concept will provide us no practical good without practice.[1]

    So, let’s look at what it actually means to apply what we learn and how we can use some powerful techniques to improve.

    Learning = Download + Process + Apply

    Think of the application of knowledge through this analogy: You have two islands separated by a river. One island represents knowing, the other island represents understanding. The application of new knowledge is like building a bridge between the two; hence, applying new knowledge bridges the gap between knowing and understanding.

    We should strive to create a habit of always considering ways to immediately implement what we are reading or learning into our daily lives. Let me show you why this is important by looking at a formula for learning called The Learning Formula (TLR).

    With TLR, we start by learning something new, followed by actively processing new knowledge, then applying it as soon as possible; thus, demonstrating that learning updates in our brain by using the following formula: Learning = Download + Process + Apply.[2]

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    Let’s briefly breakdown each component of the TLR.

    Download

    Similar to how a computer downloads information, we must first download knowledge. We can do this through the following ways: reading a book, listening to an audiobook, watching a video online, or listening to a lecture.

    The first thing we should do after downloading new information is to deconstruct it. Elon Musk has mastered this concept and found that knowledge has a logical structure. Drake Baer writes, “Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle said that a first principle is the first basis from which a thing is known and that pursuing first principles is the key to doing any sort of systemic inquiry.”[3]

    Process

    We process new knowledge when we connect the dots between new and old ideas. Essentially, we are connecting new chunks of information with something we already know. Here are two great ideas to use when processing new information.

    • Analogies. An analogy is simply a comparison between two concepts for the purpose of explanation. Here is a brilliant (and a favorite of mine) example of an analogy (could also be a metaphor) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol.

    When Carol’s expedition into whimsical absurdity opens, a young girl (Alice) is strolling through a meadow, when a rabbit suddenly appears. She thinks nothing of it at first, until the rabbit pulls out a watch and looks at it. She realizes this is not an ordinary rabbit. This represents the new and unexplored or a burning curiosity. Alice runs after the rabbit like chasing a new idea. She decides to follow the rabbit down a rabbit hole, never considering how she would get out. This represents following through with a new idea for the excitement of discovery is like chasing the rabbit or idea down the rabbit hole. Alice is unsure where this chasing will take her, yet she is excited to pursue the idea without question. [4]

    • Diagrams. A diagram is a drawing that represents the appearance or structure of something in graphic form. This could be anything from a simple sketch to a detailed outline of the universe. For example, let’s look at a diagram to help us understand how objects interact in the classic book Flatland.

      Apply

      Let me ask you a simple question. What good does it do you to read or learn new information if you are not going to use it? Unless you are reading something for pure enjoyment (think Harry Potter), you must have the mindset of using the new knowledge to improve yourself.

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      By applying what we learn, we are able to secure it in long-term memory. One of the best ways to apply our knowledge is to teach it. Teaching forces us to dive into the concept and really start to understand it. However, the best way is to start applying it in your line of work and immediately use it. Once you gain practical experience with this new concept, try to explain the technical information to someone. For example, write a blog about it. It’s amazing what this can do for you retention of new knowledge!

      Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of applying new knowledge.

      • Improved Problem Solving. By applying what we learn, we become better problem solvers. The more we read and learn, the more information and knowledge we come across. If we apply it in our daily life, we will start to notice we use this new knowledge daily.
      • Improved Memory. The more we apply new knowledge, the better it will stick in our memory.

      Let your mind go wild and go down the rabbit hole

      If you find that you are the type of person who consistently goes down rabbit holes when learning or discussing a new concept… embrace it! Yes, embrace it! Here is why.

      I recently created a new theory for learning. I call it the Deep Rabbit Hole (DRH) Learning Theory[5]. I constructed the theory on the following premises.

      Premise #1. Learning a new concept takes us down a rabbit hole.

      Premise #2. Inside the rabbit hole, we find new ideas are easily connected to old ideas.

      Conclusion. Therefore, learning a new concept is easier by allowing yourself to go down a rabbit hole.

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      The key to this approach is to allow yourself the freedom to freely fall down the rabbit hole. When you chase the rabbit down the hole without any hesitation, you will be amazed where you end up! Here is how I construct my DRH (with a brief example).

      Restate the question.

      Clearly define the purpose.

      Use a DRH. Similar to a semantic tree: deconstruct the concept, question, or idea.

      Clearly identify the parts of the rabbit hole you want to apply. Here, you are coloring or circling those components you would like to further apply or break down into their own DRH. This is important, because a DRH will lead to lots of new ideas to get lost in!

      This is going to sound completely crazy, but I used a DRH to conduct a thought experiment. This approach allowed me to create a new (and crazy) theory. The Color of the 4th Dimension. The image below is an example of this creation. [6]

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        Elon Musk’s brilliant approach

        In my opinion, there is no one doing more to move the world forward today than Elon Musk. Musk is an advocate for learning across multiple fields. If we embrace learning across multiple fields, we find that we possess an information advantage as most people are solely focused on just one field.[7]

        Learning Transfer

        Musk has a large thirst for knowledge. He regularly exposes himself to numerous subjects. He also practices a skill known as the Learning Transfer. Essentially, this is taking what we learn and applying it to something else. Think of learning something in physics class and using it in sociology. For this, Musk has a two-step process.

        • Contrasting Cases. This is where you deconstruct something and look for the deeper understanding of it. For example, suppose you wanted to find the deeper principle for what makes the letter A an A. See below.

          • Reconstruct the principles you learn into different fields. To effectively do this, we should ask ourselves the following questions: “What does this remind me of?” and “Why does it remind me of it?”

          Other powerful techniques

          Lastly, there are quite a few additional techniques and examples we can use; however, I have narrowed the list down to two powerful techniques.

          1. ADEPT. When trying to comprehend a difficult concept, try the following: Find an Analogy, use a Diagram, Experience it, explain it in Plain English, and describe the Technical Details. [8]
          2. Solo Taxonomy. Structure of Observed Learning Outcome. This is a model describing the levels of increased complexity. Here, you move from an abstract thought, to a clear image, then to a creative and better outcome.

          I encourage you all to embrace the application of new knowledge. To me, this is common sense. Unless we use it, we will lose it. Learning plus thinking equals creating! Lastly, remember this powerful advice from Marianne Williamson:

          “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”

          Reference

          More by this author

          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          Last Updated on January 6, 2021

          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

          Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

          In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

          For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

          For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

          Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

          Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

          Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

          How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

          1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

          Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

          For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

          2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

          Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

          Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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          Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

          3. Create a System

          Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

          This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

          You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

          Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

          4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

          We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

          If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

          Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

          Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

          5. Use a Ratings Scale

          Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

          Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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          It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

          6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

          This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

          You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

          You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

          7. Offer Feedback Forms

          Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

          First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

          Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

          You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

          8. Track Cost Effectiveness

          This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

          Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

          Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

          9. Use Self-Evaluations

          Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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          Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

          10. Monitor Time Management

          This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

          Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

            The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

            While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

            11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

            We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

            Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

            For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

            Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

            Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

            From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

            12. Utilize Peer Feedback

            This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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            Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

            Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

            It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

            13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

            When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

            Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

            Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

            14. Use an External Evaluator

            Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

            They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

            While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

            Final Thoughts

            These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

            The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

            The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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            Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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