Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Campaign for Slow Learning

This morning I attended a one-day workshop/conference/seminar (terms which seem increasingly interchangeable these days) co-hosted by Microsoft at their Campus in a leafy edge of Reading. It's interesting how Microsoft, purveyors of software programmes almost always labelled 'Office', use a different word to describe their own premises. Perhaps it's the proximity of Reading to Slough that makes them want to move away from the office mentality. Anyway, I have to confess that I lasted only about 90 minutes at the conference, which was about Knowledge Transfer between University and business.

My early departure was partly down to the evident inability of the academics lined-up to speak during the opening session to engage the audience on the topic of knowledge. Additional irony was provided not just by their reliance on Microsoft's (Office) PowerPoint to speak in our sleep, but by their juxtaposition with the speaker from Microsoft, who did not use slides in his address.

Another reason for hitting the road at the first break was the simple realisation that the topic of this conference, and the audience in tow, was going to add nothing to my journey, nor was I going to add anything back; I was at the wrong conference. So, I cut and ran and came in to the College to do some work.

However, there is opportunity for learning in everything, and a thought did occur to me during one of the opening slots, during which someone else from Microsoft was describing work trends. We do have an obsession for trends, don't we? We're always trying to predict where we're going, though it usually ends up being a view of what's next based simply on where we've been. What's more, trends are apparently outside our control, and we stand before them powerless in their majesty.

Nevertheless, as we heard about how busy we are all becoming, how fast everything is and how much, much, much information we have to deal with now (as well as making information just about the only thing we deal with now), I couldn't help feeling that we're missing something.

I have noticed (in hindsight, of course) that the trend in Management Education and Training is for things to be delivered in ever shorter times. Two-year MBAs become one-year. Five day trainings need to be done in two. It might tick the convenience box, but does anyone really enjoy anything lasting as a result?

The thing I like best about the Henley Distance Learning MBA is that it takes over three years to complete. For many people, grown up in the information age, when everything we do is a solution, and where every solution should be instant, this doesn't seem like a plus. However, if you take the mindset of the Slow Movement , and apply it to Adult Learning then a whole new facade is revealed. The process of learning at this mature level can have many unexpected benefits and really does taste better when left to mature. As distance learners you have the luxury of time; of applying, testing and reflecting on everything.

So, I would like to start the Campaign For Slow Learning. It will draw upon the same desire to slow down and enjoy life that many other sections of the slow movement profess. So take control and join me, but make sure you take your time...


Woz said...

We do live in something akin to an instant gratification society. But wasn't part of the fun the feeling of anticipation?

Even in the tech industry, where there is much talk about shrinking development times and the rapid growth of uptake in new technologies, the fact is that while people want their techie bits sooner, it still takes quite some time to develop a 'working' product (never buy v1.0). While people comment that Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMAX or UWB will be the next big thing, it actually takes a few years longer than any analyst predicts.

The classic text on high-tech project management, Fred Brooks' 'The Mythical Man Month' (c. 1975), offers the following quote:

'Good cooking takes time. If you are made to wait, it is to serve you better, and to please you'

Menu of Restaurant Antoine, New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Chris! Let's slow down a little...even our eagerness to be better educated, since being better educated doesn't mean you're better in general...while being enough patient and taking your time on the really important issues in life, definitely means something and makes difference!