A new age of learning

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<p>Pat McLagan</p>

Pat McLagan


How Learning 4.0 is helping people become lifelong learners

What do neuroscience, software, and mindset have to do with learning? Are we stuck in an age of inertia, unable to move past our primitive learning habits? These are the questions that Pat McLagan, a training and development expert, has been studying. McLagan believes that she has the answer to lifelong learning, and compares our current learning methods to outdated computer software.

McLagan explains how to upgrade your learning software in her new book, ‘Unstoppable You: Adopt the New learning 4.0 mindset and change your life’. She insists on an update and says all of us are born with some basic programming; but then we evolve, make our way through the education system, slowly self-managing and integrating our experiences while mastering learning skills. This upgrades our software and enables us to accomplish our goals.

This is not McLagan’s first foray into self-development. She has written several books, most notably Change Is Everybody’s Business, and On the Level: Performance Communication at Work, both of which sold over 100,000 copies each.

Pat’s life work is about creating processes and developing leaders to guide the valuable use of power in authority by people and at work by everyone. With that said, we sat down with Pat to learn more about her revolutionary training and learning ideas.

Tell us a little about Pat McLagan

When I was a child, I had a foot deformity that kids made fun of. I resolved that I would be rise above the hurt, determined to be the smartest person I could be and to follow my interests wherever they would lead. I became a student of learning, working hard in school, and later creating an interdisciplinary Master’s program for myself focused on adult learning. Then I started on a path that included teaching accelerated learning skills, working with companies to improve the learning capabilities of their professionals and managers, and developing a variety of programs focused on “learning to learn.”

This inside-out perspective on learning led me into the training and development field where I founded a little company that helped organizations like NASA, GE, banks, telecoms and others to develop learning programs and cultures that were more participative and focused on getting results.

My evolving learning and change expertise led to invitations to speak globally, launching my work into companies and quasi-government agencies in South Africa in the days before, during and after the end of apartheid. The whole country was on an accelerated learning path! I moved to South Africa, living there for most of the 90’s, and devoting myself to a variety of large-scale organization change and training and development initiatives.

Back in the US, I continued to work on change and learning initiatives, and to research and write on these topics. My books On the Level: Performance Communication at Work and, Change Is Everybody’s Business have sold over 100,000 copies each.

My life’s purpose is to bring new life to people and organizations. I now want to bring it to more people and society by helping uplift learning capabilities everywhere to match the needs and opportunities of our times.

What is your passion? Why is learning a driving force in your life?

I love to learn. On a personal level, learning is the process that makes my life an adventure, that helps me move past fears and barriers, that keeps me engaged with and open to what is going on around me, that enables me to remain relevant in and participating in my chosen field of work. Learning is my vehicle for living a life that matters and for doing things that stretch me (like scuba diving, taking walking safaris in Africa, speaking in public, keeping a healthy body, being a well-informed citizen and keeping up on world affairs).

And I love to see people learn and organizations change. I love to see people’s faces light up when they have an insight, feel a new source of power in their lives – when the proverbial nickel drops, Pandora’ box opens, and people’s view of the world shifts.It is immensely rewarding to me when people say with a sense of new power, “I am thinking about this differently…” And it is very fulfilling to know that work I and my colleagues do in organizations makes them better and better places to work and learn.

What is the key concept behind your book, the ‘Unstoppable You’?

Unstoppable You is a guide to lifelong learning – adult learning -- in the 21st Century – learning that happens along, with others, and when helping others. Learning that enables us to survive and thrive at work and in our lives, and that enables us to participate in a conscious, informed and confident way as citizens.

Current mindsets and skills for learning are not up to the task: personal and social problems have become more complex and the number of big dislocating changes people face in a lifetime is rapidly increasing (my Dad had one career where he moved logically up a defined career ladder – “the good ole days!?”). Information is exploding around us, making it difficult to prioritize what we need and to focus and take charge of our learning. Of course, there are powerful forces that like it that way: advertisers, politicians and others who want to influence (often manipulate)people’s thoughts and actions. We fall prey to manipulation because we haven’t activated the bias detection part of our learning apparatus. “Fake news” works because people don’t understand how their brain can be manipulated and don’t realize that their information processing and learning capabilities are deficient.

When people’s learning capabilities don’t match the times, it is tempting to be fearful, uncertain, disempowered, and to look for saviors who will slow things down. These reactions are occurring because people are not equipped to deal with the evolving world. They are not confident in their ability to learn and change.

I want to do something about this by helping people upgrade their learning to what I call Learning 4.0. Think of learning as your internal programming for dealing with changes in and around you –a kind of internal software. You were born with Version 1.0 (Search)- you learned by trial and error and imitation. Then in school, you upgraded to 2.0 (Social) – you were molded to society’s norms and ways of dealing with the world. Once on your own as an adult, you reprogrammed yourself with Learning 3.0 (self-directed). You figured out ways to deal with family, work, and other issues: you became an unconscious but a more complex problem solver.

For most people, learning today is a combination of these. But for most people, learning, like breathing, is something they take for granted. So, they continue to rely on obsolete learning mindsets and skills. They don’t see learning as the key to the door of the 21st Century. I’m introducing Learning 4.0 as the key to opening that door.

Learning 4.0 – Tell us about it.

Learning 4.0 is the fourth version, or upgrade, of a kind of internalized learning “software.” It is learning that helps us to consciously, confidently, competently – and, hopefully, with the sense of the wonder we had as a child – to take on the full power and responsibility for our learning, no matter where we are or who we are with.

This new learning “software” incorporates insights from neuroscience and psychology. It assumes that we are living creatures– not machines. It recognizes that quirks related to our personal history and to how our unconscious works influence what we attend to, process and believe, and ultimately learn and do. Learning 4.0 helps us learn better in daily experiences and team situations, and to thrive under conditions of information overload and manipulation. It is learning that helps us learn more effectively from daily experiences – chance encounters, reading, meetings, working, playing. And it equips us to confidently use the increasing number of learning tools around us – mobile, print- and online information, courses resources, and courses, games, simulations.

Learning 4.0 provides a set of seven practices to help people learn. But more importantly, learning 4.0 is about transforming what learning is and how to approach it in our lives. The practices just provide a bit of structure to guide and enhance the much more interesting and pervasive learning process that is always happening in us.

Learning 4.0 incorporates 10 qualities that distinguish it from previous learning versions. For example, Learning 4.0 is highly imaginative. Imagination is what drives innovation and gives us hope. The 4.0 learner relishes, develops and uses this important human capability. Learning 4.0 is also a whole brain/body experience. It isn’t just or even mostly mental. The whole body and brain, conscious and unconscious participate. The 4.0 learner knows how to optimize this magnificent organism that is us. Learning 4.0 is self-transforming. Our evolution through our lives requires many small changes as we walk down life’s path. But there are also times we need to make major adjustments in how we think about ourselves and approach life. Beliefs and attitudes need to change in these times. That’s a difficult identity challenge, a 4.0 challenge.

A fifth quality I’ll emphasize here is a smart use of information. In this era where information is power, it is imperative that we sort out fact from fiction – that we seek truth and detect bias and manipulation. We also need to co-evolve with technology. Yes, Artificial Intelligence is here and expanding. But it just means we need to get smarter so we can guide and use it.

Finally, as 4.0 learners we are change agents—able to change habits and influence the world around us. We are resource versatile – can learn from any situation. And 4.0 equips us for shared learning – open to learning with others. With 4.0 we learn anywhere, anytime. And we engage in deep learning, looking for hidden patterns and more subtle causes and connections. We see, for example, that health care costs are due to a web of factors – including our behavior and beliefs about social responsibility.

Is this the future of learning? Or are we already in it?

We are living a time that cries out for Learning 4.0. So, as the seed of an idea and emerging solution to today’s problems, it is here. But most people, unfortunately, continue to rely on previous learning versions: trial and error (1.0), school-ish approaches that are primarily intellectual and rely on study-type approaches (2.0), or self-generated techniques we developed on our own to help us survive day to day. While there are many aspects of these previous learning approaches that are still useful, many need to be strengthened, and some rejected as we upgrade to Learning 4.0.

Upgrading to Learning 4.0 will help us all better cope with and hopefully thrive in this rapidly changing world of ours. The need is here, we know more about our brains, we have the tools. Now it is up to us to reprogram our mental software for the amazing learning journeys that lie ahead, from this moment onward.

What are some common stumbling blocks that keep people from becoming unstoppable?

The main block is our mindset. We take learning for granted. We think about it in 1.0 and 2.0 ways: as something that happens by trial and error, as something for “school.” We feel overloaded with information and disempowered as things change rapidly around us. We look to people in authority to fix the world and don’t realize that we have all the raw material for us to achieve and make a difference. When we are in a course or meeting or even trying to learn something on our own, we multi-task and hold others accountable to entertain us.

We let the more primitive parts of our brain react before we think – we defend before we understand, we believe what comes to us in social media, from our favorite politicians, cable news without probing for motivations or rationale. We buy into a culture of action before thought, and we make decisions that optimize today without understanding the longer-term effects (our children can handle them!?) We take learning, like breathing for granted. Some form of learning is a byproduct of many things we do, so we think that is enough. It’s not.

Of course, there are external barriers, too. People and the environment around us often don’t support us when we try to use a new method or bring a new way of thinking that we’ve learned. Competitive practices and power dynamics in the workplace and elsewhere make it difficult to take the risks that learning often requires. People who try to help us learn sometimes interfere with the process, create unnecessary anxiety and pressure – talk when they should listen, and vice-versa. It’s still hard to find the answers to our questions or the best learning resources from the vast array that are out there. And, of course, there is manipulation: there are external forces that prefer us to be compliant and pliable – the opposite of learning.

But the 21st Century – with its new technologies, infinite and immediate social connections and information access, new opportunities, and disruptions of our lives – has momentum and will continue. We need to be ready for it. More than that, we can thrive in it. That’s why we need to upgrade ourselves to Learning 4.0.

How much time and effort does it take someone to accept and implement these new philosophies into their life?

Anyone can start now – doing small things every day that brings new knowledge, skills, attitudes or insights into life now. For example, when you feel defensive and want to argue about something, you can take a deep breath, step back, and – out of real curiosity and not as a “gotcha” – ask the person to say more about her thinking. Doing something that you consciously label “learning” every day increases awareness and strengthens learning muscle. In June, I’m launching a free app called Brighter Every Day to suggest simple things people can do – a day at a time.

But it will take more than step by step action. Learning 4.0 is an upgrade – a new version of learning. It’s important to step back and discover what it is and the mindset it contains, and to become skilled in Learning 4.0 practices. That’s where the book, Unstoppable You comes in. It provides the framework and some support tools for upgrading learning capability.

Learning is a lifelong process. The more we understand it and try to channel it, the more we learn about it and how it works in our lives. We need to be lifelong learners about learning, too. I’m going to devote my future to support this in every way I can.

Where can we find Unstoppable You?

Unstoppable You is available on Amazon. People who buy the book will have access to additional free tools that will build on what they learn in the book. Also, with or without the book, everybody can get daily learning tips by subscribing to the Brighter Every Day App in the iTunes store. And there will be a steady stream of additional support for 4.0 learning.

Pat McLagan is an award-winning researcher, consultant, and author, who is working to transform how people and organizations learn and develop.

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