Did you know that we only learn the ideas we create for ourselves after we have personalized it? This means that we don’t form permanent memories from others' ideas; instead, we form permanent memories from our own ideas! This may sound a bit self-serving and counter-intuitive. You might even be thinking right now, "That's crazy! Of course I learn from others' ideas!"  

So let's go deeper into what this means. 

We are not saying that you don't learn from others' ideas (and their experiences, teachings, and examples). What we are saying is that you don't form permanent memories from them alone. We form permanent memories from our own personalized ideas that stem from the learning and sharing of those other ideas. And for learning to be deep and long lasting, you need those permanent memories! 

There is a temporal nature to learning and training. The more we use it, teach it to others, and develop our own ideas (the personalization), the deeper our understanding will grow. If we don’t, we lose it. What this also means is that you cannot expect mastery or a permanent memory to result from a one-time learning experience.  

The process of creating our own ideas is an active process. There are numerous approaches used to create ideas, and one thing they all share is that they allow the learner to put the content into their own words. Teaching and self-explanation are great examples of this.

Teaching is a powerful learning experience. To figure out how best to explain something to someone else you first have to explain it to yourself, which is the self-explanation part. Through self-explanation learners take newly presented material and assimilate it into their existing knowledge structures (schema).

From a training perspective, this translates into a simple truth: the more we think about the content, teach it to others, retrieve it from our long-term memory, and develop our own ideas and language around it, the deeper our understanding will grow and the closer to mastering the content we will be. 

What to do next:

If you're looking to improve enterprise performance, you may recognize the inadequacies of traditional training methods (while at the same time, still using them).

But there are steps you can take to improve the way you deliver training and increase the likelihood that learners will remember and successfully apply new skills.

You can start by downloading sageCrowd's whitepaper The Brain's Natural Learning Cycles: Implications for Skill Development.

(Psst: If you're not a training professional and simply an individual looking to improve, all these steps apply to your own learning process, too!)

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