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Fortnightly Links No.32

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Polymaths • How to read • Company culture • Flow • Mobile

Quite a varied issue this week, from renaissance polymaths, to a surprising learning culture at WD-40, to Csíkszentmihályi’s flow applied to learning to a quite enlightening overview of the future of work.

(Canadian Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, hence we’re a day late.)

How to read to learn and exercise your brain

The Mission • 4 (or 16) min read

Focused on reading to learn and based on Jason Fried’s The writing class I’d like to teach, this method is rapidly and simply explained but the author also includes, as a thorough example, all the summaries from his reading of Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety.

How can we get the most from our reading? Make reading a learning process rather than just passively consuming information. Think while you read. Don’t just turn the pages. Stop. Make connections with other ideas and information.

We live in a one-track world, but anyone can become a polymath

Aeon Magazine • 11 min read

Basquiat, Banksy and Battista. I really enjoyed this piece on polymaths, it introduces the term monopath, looks at today’s inclinations towards specialization vs some historical polymaths. It also covers how the chemistry of our brains changes through time and learning, links to art and physicality to finish on an hypothetical but intriguing idea for a new area of study; polymathics.

The real master has no tools at all, only a limitless capacity to improvise with what is to hand. The more fields of knowledge you cover, the greater your resources for improvisation.

Polymathics might focus on rapid methods of learning that allow you to master multiple fields. It might also work to develop transferable learning methods. A large part of it would naturally be concerned with creativity — crossing unrelated things to invent something new.

++ A fantastic audio version by Curio is also available on the site.

How WD-40 Created a Learning-Obsessed Company Culture

Harvard Business Review • 4 min read

It goes to show that innovative and thoughtful culture and lessons can be found anywhere. How Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 Company, makes learning central to everything they do and how it has changed the company.

That’s why the central ritual of life at the company is what Ridge calls the “learning moment” — a period of frustration, a burst of inspiration, a breakthrough of collaboration in which people stumble upon a problem, unearth an opportunity, or fail miserably at an initiative, and then communicate what they’ve learned without fear of reprisal.

Beyond Flow: Motivation through Meaning

Lifelearn • 6 min read

Applying Csíkszentmihályi Mihály’s theory of flow to learning and finding meaning to enable us to care about what we are doing even when “forced” to learn something.

Attention, or focus, is of course crucial in any kind of challenging work and all learning. Most people have a limited capacity to focus, so learning should happen in suitably paced sessions. Achieving flow allows learners to concentrate for significantly extended periods of time.

Elsewhere in the magazine

Learning With Agility

You may not know it yet, but you want to be an agile learner.

The Future Of Work: It’s Already Here — And Not As Scary As You Think

LinkedIn • 16 min read

A lot of what you learn is within or for your career, or for yourself in the hopes of doing something you love. Learning organizations aim to be more competitive and retain employees. Josh Bersin explains at some length his view on the future of work, which is the broader context for most of the personal and organizational learning we do.

What matters is “what you know how to do” and your personal and professional reputation. This means we all must learn how to continuously reskill ourselves, market and position our skills and experience, and get comfortable taking new jobs and new roles which do not always go “up.”

Using Mobile to Capture Informal Learning

Growth Engineering • 3 min read

There are a number of articles about how L&D should accompany informal learning (I’ve linked to a few) but this one has a nice simple way of doing it; select a sharing platform, prompt with questions, document the findings.

Capturing this informal learning means giving the learning managers visibility over the conversation, and letting them incorporate the most useful assets into the formal material.

My Daily Learning Ritual

StartupGrind • 8 min read

Sachin Rekhi’s personal knowledge management regimen. Nothing unheard of in there but interesting for the one hour habit, his list of tools and the fact he also includes sharing, discussion and writing.

I include blog post writing in my learning hour because I believe writing about various topics is one of the best ways to crystallize concepts in your head, since it requires you to really understand them to be able to commit them to writing. So up to once a week my learning hour is replaced with writing instead of reading to accomplish this.

From Making It Stick to Making It Last

ATD • 10 min read

“Seven practices for sustaining a resilient learning organization.” Includes culture, develop and distribute leadership and foster collaboration, connections, and community.

In these cultures, learning is embedded as a way of life in everyday activities, and L&D practitioners are viewed as consultants rather than gatekeepers of employee development. In fact, making learning available to all employees during the workday has been described as a top strategy to support a learning culture.


Renaissance man: Portrait of a Young Gentleman in His Studio by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1530. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. (Taken from the polymath article on Aeon magazine.)

Patrick Tanguay

Editor-in-Chief for E-180 Publications. Obsessively curious transdisciplinary thinker and learner. I help connect people and ideas.