Learning Echoes

What goes around comes around.
I kind of do experience that.
The stuff I don’t deal with well first time returns to me until it is properly sorted – the life equivalent of faulty goods being returned until they are replaced with something fit-for-purpose that will last.
I’ve realised of late it is the same with my learning – something I didn’t understand or grasp first time it was seen, read, heard, experienced somehow pops back into my sightline at a random point and the lightbulb flickers on: “ohhhh… it’s thaaaaat..”   Learning I have run screaming from because “it’s just too hard” is precisely what is required to be successful in an interaction, a decision, an outcome …. Go figure.

Last week I spent 2 joyous days with Sarah Boyd (@SarahBoydH)  as we started to pull together a “thing” we are mulling on (we’re not being coy… it is in it’s absolutely infancy, unformed and developing, there are notions and intentions, points we’d like to get to – but as yet it is a “thing”). One of the thoughts that struck me on Saturday, after Sarah had left Edinburgh and I was trying to sense-make 2 days of conversation, was that I never do this….I have no equivalent of a fuchsiablue away day, where I kick back in a room and talk/ listen/ plan/ ask/ draw/ share the stuff I know without any massive agenda or client need. It was an extraordinary experience.
The learning was on an epic scale – I’m still trying to digest all we covered and considered. Without going into it in any great detail, part of what emerged for me was the absolute importance of sharing my thinking and knowledge; and then being open to and curious about someone else sharing theirs. And how nerve-wracking sharing can actually be….
I think the tension in this will to co-create and share vs “what will you think of this/ is this of value?” is rather neatly illustrated in this Pecha Kucha from the Working Out Loud school of thinking. Jonathan Anthony’s experiment illustrates the discomfort you can experience when you share your thinking or work … is it good enough? Is anyone actually interested or listening? (#MadDrunkUncleAtAWedding kind of tickled me). Anthony held some of his own discomfort by asking himself : How will this help my Network?  It means the impact of sharing goes beyond your own ego or fears.
Ultimately, though, even in the discomfort, I believe that to share is a generous and worthwhile act.
[As an aside…I rather hope #WOL doesn’t fall victim to people appropriating its subtle and generous intent; I hope we don’t see too much of people persistently promoting their firmly held views under the guise of #WOL. That is not working out loud or sharing. That is broadcasting with no intent to change or create.
Might as well shut yourself in a room & talk to yourself. In fact… if you are just going to broadcast unthinkingly.. perhaps that is for the best.]
Anyway – back to Learning Echoes.
Of course what comes up, when you share and re-tell your world view/ learning/ experience/training is the opportunity to review what you now think. And so it was that I found myself re-visiting old favourite theories and models; resources like TED talks or pictures – things I regularly share and point people toward – the basis of my practice, in many ways…. and seeing these with a fresh perspective.
And here is the echo:
Last year around this time I submitted my MSc Dissertation for the Ashridge Organisational Change programme. Ostensibly it is about Voice in Organisations – what enables and disables folk speaking up and out organisationally – the research is grounded in my own struggle to hear myself well and to voice myself with clarity and purpose. I handed it in in September. I have not read it since. I shared it with my peer group at the time and a couple of others have read it, but other than that, I’ve steered well clear of my research. In November last year, there was an academic Viva process to discuss the Dissertation. I voicerecorded the session for future reflection – only I have not listened to it since.
But over the course of two days of sharing with Sarah, themes, learning, insights and theories from the Masters process kept coming back. Of course they did. How could it be any other way?
And I realised I needed to share my research and thinking and learning. I realised I thought what I’d done wasn’t up to scratch.
I recognised I needed to get over myself….. Bugger… this is going to be a kicker.
And so I found myself, tucked up in a chair on a rainy Saturday morning, with a large cup of tea, listening to feedback from 9 months ago and realising how little of the feedback, the learning, I had actually taken on. How very different the feedback on the tape was from the feedback I believe I got. How I thought I had done a terrible job and had barely passed. How that is a warped version of what I heard…
And as I listened more openly and carefully, months on, having graduated and with the benefit of distance; knowing that, having collaborated with Sarah, she would be interested, maybe even excited, about some of the stuff in there – I started to feel able to re-read my dissertation and start to pull out what I learned, what might be useful to share, what I wanted to share after all this time.
What arises from this for me is how goddamn uncomfortable sharing can be… especially your own stuff – the bits that you have written or created, drawn, sung, made, knitted, forged…..
So whilst I believe: collaborate, share, Work Out Loud where you can, be bold, say what you need to say… I also acknowledge these acts might take it out of you, you might need someone to cheer you on, that you might have a distorted view of how you are doing with it all – you might not be the best judge of your own stuff.
It also strikes me that you can only take on so much learning in any one go. I had to go back to that voicerecording and I may need to go back there a few times to really pull out the stuff I missed. I had to listen to the echoes. So deep learning, the type where you experiment with a new behaviour or way of being in the world – can only be done bit by bit, I think.
And ultimately, I guess it is also this:
What goes around comes around.
I kind of do experience that.
The stuff I don’t deal with well first time returns to me until it is properly sorted – the life equivalent of faulty goods being returned until they are replaced with something fit-for-purpose that will last.
NB: part of the two-day collaboration involved Sarah and I talking about collaboration with Bev Holden as part of the Collaborate Live Series that Clear Thinking are running in the UK.
You can see the Hangout for this here:

For a further insight into the dissertation on voice, See blog post “Say

4 thoughts on “Learning Echoes

  1. Hey Jools. It’s good to have you back and to see a wonderful post like this one. It makes me nervous about my MSc research project for next year and excited too. The more dominant thought though is about the learners I work with and how this may be for them. We know that memory is fallible, that emotions can blur and blind memory and that what we hear is often different to what is said or meant. With that in mind, how do I help those that learn with me hear the echoes of their learning. Often, I have and do use one or maybe two or maybe three day events and then people leave. Without your viva recording you would have not been able to go back and listen to those echoes again. So for those that leave these events, how do they listen back. At the moment, only through their memories, which may be less helpful. Not looking for an answer, just sharing my thoughts. Thanks for sharing and please keep doing so.

  2. Hiya

    I’ve started using voice recording more and more – in my coaching practice and in supervision etc – it captures the words and sometimes I’m absorbed in my head with new thoughts – so I don’t wholly connect to what is being said….
    so what you are saying make sense – it just struck me how incongruous it was – what was said… what what absorbed…

    Longer conversation…

  3. Pingback: Best Blogs 15 August 2014 | ChristopherinHR

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