Renowned historian Daniel J. Boorstin was onto something when he mused that “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge”.
Boorstin’s words are a not-so-subtle reminder to continually question what we know … or that which we think we know. In fact, now presents as a worthy time to ponder what proportion of what we’ve learned is in need of some urgent ‘unlearning’.
- we believed that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building will kill you. (Truth – terminal velocity for a penny is 80kmh. Enough to give you a bit of a bump).
- we believed that goldfish have a seven second memory. (Truth – they have several month’s worth).
- we believed that we shouldn’t swim for 30 minutes after eating. (Truth – it’ll just make you uncomfortable and crampy … but you won’t drown. Drinking alcohol – that’s another matter!).
There are dozens of assumptions about learning too that need jetisoning from our training rooms. For starters:
- that having participants put their hand up (and only the most confident one answering) is somehow a sign that the group has grasped a concept completely.
- that attendance at event-based workshops and presentations are a satisfactory default for building capacity.
- that a ‘feedback form’ reveals the quality of teaching and educative process deployed. (Spoiler – it mostly reveals satisfaction with room temperature and snack quality).
What do you know that, frankly, you shouldn’t? And when will unlearning these unhelpful assumptions become a bigger priority than learning something new?