The Capacity to Recall vs. the Capacity to be Resourceful

In a post entitled Brain 2.0 : eLearning Technology, Tony Karrer discusses whether or not it is more important to be knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable. The basic premise is whether or not is more important to:

  • store a bunch of information in our minds that we can recall at any time (recall), or
  • know which information to access, where to find it and how to verify it’s accuracy (resourcefulness)

This reminds me of the research methods class I took a few years back. During one of the first lectures, we learned basic statistical formulas such as alpha coefficient and chi square. Now numbers and I aren’t always friends. I can work through formulas by following instructions but it takes all my concentration to do so and I often make mistakes. I have a tendency to inverse numbers a lot too. Anyhow…

I asked the professor when would it be appropriate to use chi square as opposed to alpha coefficient (I know now that they don’t do the same thing but I’m still not clear on what it is that they do). He answered that it depended on the data and when I would have my data, I’d need to listen to the data. For the exam, all I needed to do is memorize the formulas. Oh boy. That is perhaps when I decided I’d look for a thesis topic that would lend itself well to qualitative inquiry!

I need to learn things in context. If I know why I’m learning something or I have a set use for it, I’m more likely to remember it. So at this time, I can’t remember the formulas for either. But I know that they are available online. The thing is, that right now I have no idea when to use them, nor can I assess the validity of the resource. So I got a B in research methods, lowest grade during my whole MA, but I passed, but not without developing a total aversion to statistics. How absolutely unfortunate.

Tony Karrer refers to Brent Schlenker’s There is no Brain2.0…so why Learning2.0?, where Brent evaluates the pros and the cons of the e in eLearning, something I’ve addressed in another post. He argues that:

We must better understand the learning process in order to create better content and experiences. Its not just behavior that we need to understand. We MUST understand the human brain. (link from original post)

Absolutely, we need to understand how the brain works in order to design better content. If more people did, we’d have less of these page turning eLearning course with information recall assessments at the end of them. We’d create simulations and problem-based learning courses. And if we created these types of courses, perhaps “training” would give individual tools to make contextual decisions rather then be bounded to a set script.

Now I agree with Brent that technology is an important factor and that is where the “e” comes in. However, the technology can be used to store the tools and resources (formulas, language rules, procedures, etc) that we don’t use on a daily basis so that we can concentrate on thinking.


Getting All Things Done Means Getting the Balance Right

In one of her recent blog posts, Janet Clarey poses the question How hard is it for you to balance innovation and execution? She compares and contrasts taking time to think and innovate with working in “execution” mode. She explains that when returning from vacation, she was in execution mode, which was good because, according to Janet: “too much time spent on innovation means nothing gets done”.

Also, I’m sure Janet’s to-do list was overflowing, like would be most professionals when they come back from vacation, so execution mode is inevitable! But then Janet adds the flip side: “Of course too much time executing means lack of vision.”

And she poses the grand the question: “How do you balance all the innovative discoveries that present themselves with the need to execute?”

This got me thinking about my own time management strategies. I look on my bookshelf at the copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done which I purchased a year ago (I ordered it on online at, which makes me both efficient and Canadian!). I haven’t had time to read it yet. Blame it on the thesis once again? Actually, it’s because I don’t think I really need it. I’m naturally a good time manager. Ok, certain things slip through the cracks now and then, but I tend to amaze people in how I do everything that I do and still can sit on a terrace at happy hour on Thursdays and enjoy a martini, looking relaxed, the sun beaming on my face.

But then, there are the things I have a really hard time getting done. The big things that require more then just power over time. They require a whole other type of power: willpower. Enter thesis.

Then I notice Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles which actually was quite helpful. Here is the opening section of his book entitled “What I Do

I get up, take a shower, have breakfast. I read the paper, brush my teeth. If I have phone calls to make, I make them. I’ve got my coffee now. I put on my lucky work boots and stitch up the lucky laces that my niece Meredith gave me. I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for only eight bucks in francs, and my lucky LARGO name tag that came from a dream I once had. I put it on. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, that my dear mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. It’s about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired. That’s four hours or so. I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. I wrap for the day. Copy whatever I’ve done to disk and stash the disk in the glove compartment of my truck in case there’s a fire and I have to run for it. I power down. It’s three, three-thirty. The office is closed. How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

And he goes on about overcoming resistance in this inspiring gem of a book. I read this book about three years ago. It was a gift from a friend who saw me struggling with multiple levels of resistance. I decided to do much like Steven Pressfield and analyze how my average day happens. But because I’m more adept with graphs then words, I made a visual representation of how I try to achieve the balance Janet was referring too. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.

Mapping my Brain Cycles to Maximize my Efficiency Potential
Mapping my Brain Cycles to Maximize my Efficiency Potential

How does your average day look?


Over / Under Thinking and Perception

[or How I Finally Snuck my Love of Shopping into a Blog Post]

Yesterday, I went shopping with my neighbour who is 26, 10 years my junior. I followed her into a “young girl store”, the type of store with the high cut tops and the low cut pants and other garments that would ultimately reveal my penchant for “sitting” rather then “sit-ups”…

We wandered in. The sales girls (they weren’t women yet) smiled at me and addressed her. One even said to her “out shopping with your sister?” Ok, so we are both blue-eyed blondes, but still!

However, in that loud, colourful, flashy seemingly “way too young for me” store, I found the most perfect pair of Cargo Capris. It’s like they were made for me. It just goes to show that sometimes we need to venture into that place we avoid out of fear and see just what we can find.

In a recent post entitle How clear cut is cause and effect?, Karyn Romeis talks about jumping to conclusions.

One worrying consequence of the results-driven society in which we live is the perception that there must be a clear cut explanation for everything.

Karyn’s post was about “overthinking” to which I commented that sometimes, we underthink:

I think people look for and draw cause and effect conclusions much too rapidly. I also feel that it is at the source of much of the prejudice we see. […] I believe that people will stop looking for these black and white answers once they start learning to look at things with a broader and more critical perspective.

In Karyn’s response to me, she resumed the dichotomous issue quite accurately, in my opinion:

So, on the one hand we’re oversimplistic and on the other, we have a tendency to behave like ‘sheeple’ where it is not tolerated to have an opinion that differs from that of the masses? You’re probably right.

[Our exchange digressed into shopping, which makes me think Karyn & I share a weakness 😉 ]

In a recent blog post about Reframing Questions, Dave Pollard discusses false myths:

The problem with the false myths are that they can blind you to the truth if you accept them uncritically. They can constrain your imagination of other possibilities that are contrary to the false myth ‘conventional wisdom’. They can lead you to make very bad decisions.

He’s obviously arguing against the oversimplification side of things:

The problem with limiting generalizations is that they can lead you to oversimplify (“to get ahead in business women have to think and act like men”), to draw false dichotomies (“we either have to find new domestic oil or be forever dependent on foreign suppliers”) and to stereotype (“working class whites will always vote Republican” which can lead you to draw false inferences from correlations, to write off classes of people, and to inhibit your creativity.

Dave offers a helpful comparative table of ten false myths and limiting generalizations that he regularly encounters and reframe questions that might show another way to see the situation.