Learning is like breathing.
Something we do because we are alive. Something we usually take for granted. But should we?
We were primed for learning in the womb – every hour our brains added 250,000 neurons so that we could process the world when we arrived.
Then, as a child, our default programming (let’s call it Learning 1.0) shaped the basic structure and wiring of our brains as we learned through trial and error and imitation.
We upgraded our learning capability again when, through experiences in school we upgraded to Learning 2.0 – internalizing society’s knowledge and more structured learning approaches (e.g., how to study). Once on our own, we cobbled together our own way of dealing with life’s challenges at work, at home, as a citizen.
We crafted a personalized approach – enter the next version of our internal learning software — Learning 3.0.
But Learning 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 are not good enough today.
This world is changing very rapidly and presenting us with many complex conditions and challenges that require a new learning paradigm.Of course, there is an increasing array of support we can access – in apps, online courses, blogs, or by cruising Google, Cable TV, social media (caveat: beware of biases!), and more.
We truly live in an accelerating and often confusing knowledge era. And it will only get more complex and diverse as information expands and technology provides new tools for learning, outsourcing our memories, and connecting with others in novel ways.
It’s a new learning landscape, and we need a new way of thinking about and approaching learning. I call this new way, Learning 4.0.
It’s 21st Century learning that you do on your own and with others. It’s a framework to use when you help others learn – your children, people you lead, people who want you to share your expertise for any reason.
And, Learning 4.0 is a framework to guide your learning in the moment (out of curiosity or opportunism), extracting learning from past experience (think of the learning locked up in those experiences you regret or remember with pride), and when you have a learning goal that may take some time to reach.
Learning 4.0 builds on the strengths of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. But there is a lot more. Think about yourself as a 4.0 Learner. For example, with Learning 4.0 you use and expand your imaginative capabilities – your ability to dream, create a virtual reality future, and then to draw on the energy of that imagined reality to help you move into a desirable future (Here’s a simple tip: before you dive into any learning experience do a 3-minute trip into your future. See and feel yourself with a new competency in a situation that matters to you. Make this vision as visceral – physical and mental – as you can. It will then act like a magnet, pulling you toward the future you desire).
Learning 4.0 also engages your whole brain/body – reflecting new insights from neuroscience, enlisting your conscious and unconscious learning processes, and tuning your body to support you with positive learning chemicals, brain waves, and optimal neural activity as you learn.
A third way Learning 4.0 works is by equipping you for the increasingly manipulative information world. Everybody wants your attention, information and money. But with Learning 4.0, you approach information in a smart way – detecting bias and manipulation and deciding what to accept and reject or ignore.
Another quality that defines you as a 4.0 learner is resource versatility.
As a 4.0 learner, you aren’t fazed by the variety of resource and learning formats out there. You know how to get the information you need from reading, listening, online apps and courses, meetings and conversations, even games and simulations… and more.
There are other important qualities in 4.0 Learning. And learners can tap into these super-learning qualities by developing skills in seven important 4.0 Learning practice areas:
- Hear the Call. 4.0 learners detect learning opportunities long before others. They are tuned to learn, so they hear calls to learn from the world around and inside them before these calls become crises and problems.
- Create Future Pull. 4.0 learners imagine compelling futures that then pull them in the direction of their goals. Think about it: when you have an image of where you want to be, it seems the world is filled with help to get there. Some call this the law of attraction, others call it serendipity. It is actually imagination and your unconscious learning processes at work.
- Search Far and Wide. You can’t deal with the crowded information world alone. You need help in the form of search engines and other scanners to find what you need. 4.0 learners know how to access services and people who can help find what they need.
- Connect the Dots. It may not be possible to develop fixed learning plans, but 4.0 learners know how to chart a learning path and equip themselves for the journey — balancing a commitment to the vision with new insights that might alter the course.
- Mine for Gold. 4.0 learners find the gold in any learning resource – knowing that learning is a partnership with the learning tools they use and that, as the learner in charge, they determine what to pay attention to and ultimately use.\
- Learn to Last. 4.0 learners know how to turn ideas and short term memories into lasting knowledge, skills, new ways of thinking, and even creative ideas.
- Transfer to Life. 4.0 learners take powerful steps to change their own habits (i.e., they go beyond New Year’s resolutions) and to influence the environment around them so that they can bring learning to life at home and at work.
It’s time for a new consciousness about learning – for a new mindset and practices. 21st Century challenges demand and invite us into a new learning framework. Fortunately, new knowledge about how we learn — plus a plethora of new tools to help us learn – make it possible to launch a new version of our internal learning software: to upgrade to Learning 4.0.
Learning is no longer a process to take for granted.
Pat McLagan is a global leader in the learning and development field with top awards from major adult learning associations. Her new book, Unstoppable You: Adopt the New Learning 4.0 Mindset and Change Your Life is available on Amazon. You can test your 4.0 capabilities at www.learning40.com/assess. And you can build your 4.0 capabilities little by little every day with the iTunes app, Brighter Every Day.