Challenging the Conventional Thinker

If curiosity is the gateway to learning – the challenge then becomes “Now what?”

Now what

Anyone who is a regular reader knows that I stand on the edge of the world and proclaim to anyone who will listen that it is our responsibility to take ownership of our own learning.  BE CURIOUS.  As I envision massive armies of people stampeding over to Google to research the fallacy of what is “generational gaps” and “learning styles”, the question becomes, “Now what?”

Therein lies the next step of being a Learning Rebel.  Challenging yourself to take the next step.  A lot of what is discussed on this site is about breaking free from traditional confines, and for some of you this may be THE challenge.  The issue is not necessarily about the courage to break free, (and we will talk about courage in the next post), it’s about challenging yourself. It’s nice, warm and comfy in that status-quo box and it can be cold and lonely when trying to “fight the good fight”.  My goal today is to not only help push you out of the box but to leave the box behind for someone else to play with.

keep calm and play_BW Let’s play! 

Story time: 

Recently I had to give a “presentation” on how to use an iPad. Now, I knew how to use an iPad, the challenge becomes how to teach others how to use an iPad. There are a couple of options you can take here.

1.  You can put together a cohesive step by step PowerPoint working through the different steps of the iPads functionality and have the audience play along or

2.  You can hook the thing up to a projector and have at it.

It doesn’t take Sheldon Cooper to figure out the option I took.  Yes, I flew without a net.  I had just a few slides that kept me on track by introducing different components; but otherwise a bunch of less than tech savvy people played on an iPad for the better part of 4 hours.  Afterwards, one of the students came up and thanked me for not only displaying to them how easily the iPad functioned but then actually letting them discover on their own how easy it was.  He was now far less intimidated by this new and expensive piece of equipment. WIN! 

There was no set “learning objective”, no “test” at the end, and no official “script”.  Just a logical outline for me, which included well defined and much practiced exercises.  I can see some of you reaching for your antacids now.  But THAT’s the challenge.  I’m not going to lie and say it was an easy sell. IT wanted their fingers all over this course to explain all the “scary” security features. HR wanted everyone to sign off on a novel as a first step in the session.  Challenge is about not stopping when it hurts, it’s about stopping when you’re done. The arguments coming from IT and HR was making my head hurt; but through negotiation and dancing a pretty mean fast-step, the session proceeded as I had hoped.  Why? Because I did my research about “how to train technology” and it was abundantly clear, and studies revealed (along with my instincts) that the best way to teach tech, by far, was through immersive learning.  So armed with this information, I formulated my challenge and marched forward.

I need a training course before I start face-booking – said no one EVER. 

What I find when I challenge conventional thinking, it is that the person(s) behind the thinking don’t know any better.  We are supposed to be – “Learning Professionals” remember?  This leads directly back to The Curious Learner, you cannot challenge the conventional thinking if you have not done your homework.  What happens next is we end up on the hamster wheel, we do not grow ourselves, we are not in the position to challenge conventional thinking therefore another year goes by with didactic lectures and uninspired, formulaic PowerPoint masquerading as e-learning.  We have to do better.

Think-Different Thinking differently is the key to “challenge”

There are people who say think BIG! I’m more than okay with BIG thinking.  In this case, I’m asking you to start differently, by thinking differentlyYou can’t challenge status-quo if you’re still thinking status-quo.  Start with different.  I knew I didn’t want to spend time delivering a PowerPoint presentation to people in a “How to work your iPad” class.  I could see my daughters group of twenty-something’s friends laughing their collective asses off at me.  So the plan was to challenge what I knew the customer was going to want, and think differently. (Note: There are a number of studies that support the use of immersive learning – be curious and get on the Google machine!)

Challenge the conventional thinking, beginning with the end in mind.

There is a lot of truth in the saying, “first to learn, you must unlearn”.  Conventional thinking, well…isn’t. It’s more like conventional regurgitation. Which is what we do when we settle for tribal knowledge as being absolute. Most people implicitly agree with conventional thinking because it gives one a false sense of security. If everyone else believes it, then it must be true.

conventional thinking_Einstein So how do we “unlearn” and challenge what has been beaten into our minds by our predecessors?

1. You must create your own compelling reasons to change what you believe you already know. In the case of my own Learning Rebel journey, it was the simple question of: “There has GOT to be a better way.” –  I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to find out and then I’m going to apply what I know.

2. Stop resisting new ideas and points of view that differ from yours, regardless of success. That old saying “We’ve always done it that way”? I’ve heard people use this saying to explain why a certain process is in place for both successful and unsuccessful applications.  Be very aware: What is successful today is no guarantee for success tomorrow. 

3. Know this: Challenging a mindset, even if it’s your own, is not easy. There is not a light-switch and no magic fairy dust. It is far easier to accept that the reason why students don’t complete pre-work is because they are Gen Y, and Gen Y’ers don’t like to read; rather than to change the fundamental mindset that your pre-work is tedious, boring and time consuming for everyone, regardless of generation.

Is it overly dramatic to say that the fate of your learning organization is in your hands? I don’t think so. Challenging the conventional thinking is everyone’s responsibility.  We all should asking how we can do better.  Write these questions in your daily planner, you should be asking these questions regularly, about everything and not just about L&D because you never when an opportunity will pop up where L&D may be a benefit.

  • Why?
  • Why not?
  • How can we do “that” differently toward a better result?
  • Don’t you think there’s a better way to do “that”?

Given how often conventional thinking fails, it’s just crazy to me that anyone still pays attention to it. When was the last time you heard anything positive that started with “Conventional thinking indicates that…” I mean really?

Conventional thinking prevents creativity, flexibility and risk-taking, and real Learning Rebels enthusiastically break away and challenge it.

What are you doing to challenge conventional thinking in your business?

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

2 thoughts on “Challenging the Conventional Thinker”

  1. Cool stuff. That bit about ‘no set learning objective’ was edgy stuff.

    Two questions..

    1st question: What’s the typical response rate for comments to blog posts like this one?
    2nd question: how do others continue the dialog around the stuff you say?

    I’m asking because I’m a curious learner when it comes to professional development (PD). To the extent your blog post aids PD in what space/context does it happen?


    • Hi Urbie – So sorry for the delay, my comments have been hit with spam and your comment got lost in the shuffle.

      First, thank you for asking such great questions!

      Let’s get on to the answers.

      1st question: What’s the typical response rate for comments to blog posts like this one? I average about 5 comments per post which deal with this type of philosophical topic. However, my biggest form of comments comes from twitter. It seems posts such as these touch a nerve, usually the comments are positive, I rarely get negative feedback – but I do get the occasional cynic or defeatist. But I’m okay with that – any form of conversation either positive or not is helpful to everyone. My goal is to encourage thinking about Learning and Development with a renewed mindset. My readers don’t have to agree with me, if whatever I post gets them to thinking about learning in a different way. I consider it a success. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, I get a fair amount of traffic and I hope that a few people have been inspired to either reconsider how they think about L&D, or revise their current thought process…or in a lot of cases, keep on Fighting the Good Fight.

      2nd question: how do others continue the dialog around the stuff you say? My rose-colored glasses view is my readers take the post and have passionate discussions with their team. But the reality may be that they have internal discussions about the post, I do this myself when I read an interesting blog post. About the dialog, I respond to every comment (in your case a little late – again sorry). Sometimes I get responses back sometimes not, and I highly encourage a good debate or discussion.

      I post the blogs to the Learning Rebels G+, Facebook and on Linkedin & some LinkedIn groups and LinkedIn is third on the list for the comments. Twitter being first, this is where the conversations really seem to happen. Holding the second spot is email. I receive quite a bit of email traffic regarding posts. I do wish questions were posted directly to the site, but for whatever reason some people need to be on the down low and that’s cool too. I’ll respond, answer questions or debate whenever/however someone connects with me, because you are correct in saying it’s about professional development and those conversations are key.

      I think you bring up an interesting question about the continuing dialog – I think that would be a great blog topic… Don’t you? 😀

      Hope I’ve answered your questions.


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