14 Jan 2021

The power of intentional learning


2020 taught us a lot about the way we live and work and for many, the changes made will remain because they have made us realise the benefits; like not having to commute every day if you work in an office, it's okay to wait a few days for a delivery - did we really need it the same day? And asking for help when we need it most.

But some of the process changes would never have happened, or taken many years, if it wasn't for the pandemic.

My sister is a GP and within a couple of weeks of Lockdown 1.0, the majority of appointments were virtual, they ran on time and prescriptions could be organised and picked up without even visiting the surgery. Suddenly, the customer experience improved for many. This would not have happened pre-pandemic because we all thought we needed to see our doctor's face to face all the time - it's just how things were.

Thinking there is no other way and not exploring other options is often labelled as having a Fixed Mindset; where we find all the reasons we can for not changing. The opposite is having a Growth Mindset where intentional learning and curiosity are at play.

If someone has a fixed mindset you might hear them saying "I will never be any good at presenting". If someone has a growth mindset, you might hear "How can I get more experience to improve my presenting skills?". This is intentional learning carried out by the individual who will be curious to find the best way that works for them. It might involve gaining some foundation skills in a workshop, watching how others present and picking out the bits that resonate or putting their hand up first every time there is an opportunity to present.

We have been forced to learn in 2020 - how does Zoom or Teams work? What's the best way to help people feel safe at work? How can we make sure our customers get a great experience even though half of my team are isolating?

Some of us will have been brilliant at it and some of us might need an extra bit of help to develop intentional learning and curiosity and keep it going.

There are five steps to nurturing a growth mindset:

  1. Set small, clear outcomes - I would suggest ditching the 3 or 5 year plan for now. Who knows what will happen next week let alone next month. What needs to happen by the end if this month? What would you like to be better at?
  2. Remove distractions - difficult when the whole family is working/staying at home but if you can find a quiet space even for ten minutes, it'll help hugely with the next step
  3. Practice regular reflection - whether it is reflecting on the outcome of a huge project or thinking about whether a conversation could have gone better, reflection is the best route to intentional learning along with step 4
  4. Actively seek actionable feedback - ask people what they saw, heard and felt and follow up with what could I have done differently
  5. And finally, practice, practice, practice - it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become really great at something, so practice deliberately to be better

Last year was tough in so many ways for all of us and the break over Christmas and New Year was much needed...if you are thinking "I can't cope with the uncertainty anymore", maybe reframe to "what do I need in order to make it through the day/week/month?"

Be curious and learn with intention.

Kate Stranks
BeanStalk Learning Ltd