Monday, 3 May 2010

How to learn stuff

If you ever want to learn about a subject, listen to a few experts have a conversation about it. 

It surfaces the key issues, and helps you understand the different ways of looking at the subject. You may not understand every word that's being said, but you'll learn:

  • The priorities - what issues are more important than others
  • The terminology - key words, phrases and acronyms that get used
  • The conflicts - key ways of looking at the subject that disagree with each other.
A great way to get into these subjects is through podcasts - but make sure you get conversations, rather than just lectures. 

Here's an example of this "in the deep end" kind of learning:

Last year I wrote some copy for treasury management software company. They do hedge accounting software - that is, they help companies have the right kind of records around managing currency trading. It's a very niche, complicated area. And I needed to learn about it - fast!

The Deloitte podcast really helped, because it featured a panel of experts talking about the key issues around hedge accounting. 

They helped me to understand by telling stories, asking questions of each other, and offering alternative viewpoints.

I didn't understand everything, but because I felt like I was part of the discussion, my brain did an amazing job trying to keep up. It was so much better than trying to go for a "101" systematic approach. 

The problem with a systematic introduction, is that sometimes you're learning the basic principles, but you don't know why those principles are so important. So you don't pay as much attention as you would, if you knew what it was for.

So if you need to know something - fast - jump in the deep end. Start with some podcasts

Posted via email from Simon's posterous

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