Learning vs Training: Progress Accelerant

Learning vs Training: Progress Accelerant (Dealing with Goliath Podcast #025)

Show Notes:

Awareness of the subtle difference between learning and training can create radically different outcomes. In this solo espresso post, Al explores convergent and divergent thinking and why they both matter.

Why learning without principle can be a waste and sometimes we’ve to lean into the discomfort to have the freedom to skilfully express ourselves.

Topics explored:

  • Peter Sandeen’s few key things that matter in marketing
  • Training is convergent, learning is more divergent
  • Teacher’s Dilemma: Love of learning or teach for the exam
  • Language fluency and the discomfort and pain of the learning curve
  • Put in the discomfort so you can express yourself
  • Learning when it should be training: too open and esoteric
  • The horror of tactics and ‘tricks’
  • Steal from Perry Marshall, but no context
  • Good hacks and bad hacks
  • “No flow without creativity”, Steven Kotler
  • The concept, the principle, the application
  • The learning curve without the pain: Play, low stakes, high stakes


Al McBride 0:02
Welcome to the dealing with Goliath podcast. This is a solo espresso episode that I call learning versus training progress accelerant.

Al McBride 0:13
So this thought was sparked there a couple of weeks ago when I interviewed Peter Sandeen, I think went live just last week, where as I’m recording this, and he said a few different things.

Al McBride 0:24
But a lot of it was about this idea of, well, first of all, was the 8020, they can get a ton of things, almost right. And it won’t matter. As long as you don’t get several key things correct. Equally, you can get several of the key things correct. And then you’re all set, a lot of other things can be average, or even mediocre and won’t make that much of a difference.

Al McBride 0:51
For example, from marketing, he said, you know, it’s all about who the target customer is, what is the offer? And what is the messaging of that offer. And if you get those right, you know, the rest becomes relatively or comparatively simple. And here’s just that it’s about simplification.

Al McBride 1:09
Where the conversation went from there, I thought was, was particularly interesting. And this is where I’m sparking into it now with this, which is, it became this idea that if you want to learn something, a great principle is to ask an expert. What are the three key principles to focus on?

Al McBride 1:28
There’s a few things in that. Now, isn’t that wonderful that you’re starting with this base, you’re starting with focus, right? And you’re then building up from there. But often learning isn’t like that often. That’s not kind of how it works.

Al McBride 1:45
Because I feel there’s this difference between training and learning that needs to be explored. And that’s what I’m doing this little podcast episode on. So training is often very convergent to a point one convergent when I say convergent, I mean, that it’s usually like our school systems, mostly in most of the Western world are quite convergent.

Al McBride 2:05
That there’s one right answer. It’s about eliminating down through reason and logic, often to get to that correct answer. It’s by elimination, this sort of idea. And I wouldn’t, by the way, denigrate that for a second, I think the world needs more of that at the moment, as you can imagine.

Al McBride 2:26
But what I would add to it is balancing it with divergent thinking. And we do a lot of this in the course. And divergent thinking is, you know, where you’re expansive, where it’s quantity over quality, where you’re much more creative, and you’re throwing mad and daft possibilities for solutions or answers, and then you start whittling down and eliminating.

Al McBride 2:48
But it’s the combination of the two that’s very important and very powerful. It’s where one of the methods that we integrate with others, that actually helps many people find that uncover hidden value, or just creatives essentially, thin air these possibilities that were never there before.

Al McBride 3:07
But I digress. Training is very much convergence to a point. So if you think of Well, I’m reminded when I think of training of I did a project management course many years ago, and it was literally I need to tick the box of each section and answer the question correctly to prove that I know it.

Al McBride 3:27
That’s just a perfect example of convergent because it’s an awful lot of things. To be able to, you know, drive a car, you need to be able to have a certain high standard, you know, otherwise you’re a danger to yourself and others.

Al McBride 3:39
You know, maybe the same in medicine, it’s one reasons why checklists might do an episode on checklists, actually. Why checklists are so important because they mean that you can’t skip things, those aren’t huge gaps in your knowledge or in your, your approach or your actions that need to be covered.

Al McBride 3:58
That’s training. It’s very, as I said, convergent learning is a bit more divergent isn’t it’s more expansive in many ways. Now, look, training, strictly speaking, of course, is a subcategory of learning.

Al McBride 4:11
I’m not saying it’s not, but I’m just pointing out the subtle differences between the two. And maybe, maybe this will be useful to you. I’ve often found it useful to me. And as I was thinking about this, going for a stroll earlier.

Al McBride 4:23
I was thinking, geez, teachers must have a really difficult time because some teachers and some students, there’s demands as the two approaches one the giving and the other, what is the student or the parent or the student want, right? But there’s that one school that says, you know, oh, you need to essentially they’re asked to be trained for the exam. Is this on the exam?

Al McBride 4:44
The dreaded most hated question of a very divergent lovers of learning hate question is on the exam. But for practical purposes, it’s a very fair question if I’m here, to do an exam. That’s true for me to get the points or whatever requirements and need to go on to the thing I really want to do.

Al McBride 5:06
That’s an absolutely fair question. So, I know it’s balancing those needs said with those teachers who are much more about learning for the sake of learning and creating a sense of a love of learning, which is intrinsic learning. Which I mean, I would argue is far more valuable to oneself long term that you can actually you know.

Al McBride 5:27
Intrinsic meaning a the impetus, the motivation comes from within. So it’s not there’s no carrot or stick needed. And this society of ever growing, you know, contractors, freelancers, and you name it. Intrinsic motivation is a huge trace or ability to have isn’t it? But anyway, I digress.

Al McBride 5:47
The other thing that came to mind is I’m actually here in Berlin in Germany and a come to Berlin quite regularly or did and my German is still pretty mediocre. It’s shoddy you know, I mean, I work in English, a lot of my friends are English speaker. So even if they’re German, we still speaking English. And it’s a very international city. So it’s kind of you go into a place and there’s a Spanish bar person, like, are you meant to speak Spanish even speak German neighbors speak English? Like what? what do you what do you prefer, you know, shoddy Spanish to German or, or English.

Al McBride 6:21
So anyway, it’s that kind of thing. So it’s a difficult place to learn a language in in that sort of regard. And I’ve noticed this from the people who are fluent in German around me, and I’ve seen this in other languages as well. That there was always this, the eyes nearly glaze over and the memory.

Al McBride 6:40
There’s always this time where, where they deeply uncomfortable learning curve, where it’s deeply humbling bordering on humiliate, humiliation is too strong. But certainly he is strong sense of humility, where the ego takes a serious bashing when you’re trying to get through this learning curve.

Al McBride 6:59
As I said, because you have that initial level where you’re able to communicate the basic ideas, but you’re not very fluent, you’re not very you can say anything you want. And then the next level is understanding everything, or 90% of stuff coming at you whole different problem area.

Al McBride 7:14
But there’s this painful learning curve, that so many of the people here who speak the language fluently have to get through and just grind through. I’m not sure it needs to be a grind all the time. But there is deep discomfort as the key point.

Al McBride 7:29
It’s like poker, you know, when I used to play poker back in the day, again, you’re thinking, Okay, I’m okay at this. But I if I want to get better, what do I need to do? So you start doing a bit of research, and you go, oh, wow, okay, there’s all this stuff, you need to learn both.

Al McBride 7:44
You know, okay, the probability in the math, it’s not that difficult, but you have to learn it. But it was also then the application of all of these points, and then the thousands and thousands of hands that you need to play to actually get a feel for it and build up your, your new abilities, that learning curve, that’s so difficult.

Al McBride 8:02
That’s also where I was gonna say a lot of people give up, but a lot of people, yeah, they give up others make a strategic decision not to want to. But also think of it in in terms of sports teams, because you often hear soccer players talk about, you know, the dreaded pre season training.

Al McBride 8:21
So this training they have to do before the season starts, and after they just had a long couple of weeks holiday. And they hate it, because this is the pain, it’s the grind, you know, that they have to. They have to just do the thing to build up their abilities.

Al McBride 8:39
Again, take those those necessary steps and actions in order to get up to scratch in order to be freer to be expansive, and express themselves. So you know, this reminded me a lot of learning, I’ve done a ton of courses.

Al McBride 8:55
Sure many of us have these by the stage these days. And some courses, the rarer ones are too open, they make you feel like you’re kind of floating in the wind that you’re you’re it’s to last a fair, you know, they don’t particularly have foundation or this groundwork. It’s too loose or esoteric, but more often it’s the opposite.

Al McBride 9:17
You know, you’re feel like you’re being drilled and trained too much in a narrow series of situations where you’re not sure how this will be more broadly applicable, or how it’ll grow intointo being a nice, clear, underlying foundational principle.

Al McBride 9:38
So it’s great if it is that basis that you can build upon. But sometimes it’s not. And what if you don’t want you know, this is the thing that I hate the most is these ideas. And it’s always a bit of a red flag when people ask me for tips or tricks.

Al McBride 9:56
There is oh wow tips or tricks. No! You know, it’s like, asked me to keep principal asked me, you know, what do I do in this situation? That’s one thing, but tips and tricks are man.

Al McBride 10:10
It’s like, you know, okay, Perry Marshall put it best is a consultant who’s a great I mean consultant doesn’t do justice but remarkable thinker in many ways but he said look, you can steal my copy, you know, he’s a great , he says you can steal my copy word for word.

Al McBride 10:24
But guess what it won’t work for you will work, it might work a bit, but it won’t really work. Because this is not the context. There’s not everything built up on the way to reading that copy, and everything that comes after that makes all the difference. And this is the thing about, you know, hacks, your life hacks, business hacks, time as well as the same idea of give me a trick.

Al McBride 10:47
It’s, it can be interesting when you can get the hint of a principle at work, if it’s from an expert, that can be interesting. But I wouldn’t call it a standard hack, a lot of the hacks are just the sort of little throwaway things that as Pete Sandeen said, that are referred to at the start, they’re one of those hundred things that can be pretty interesting and make a marginal gain.

Al McBride 11:10
But they’re not the core thing that will help you get where you want to go to help you build actual skill or knowledge. So ideally, we want to train to principle. So those are the basics, the foundations, yeah, we want to hone those but crucially through principle. And the principle can often be fractal.

Al McBride 11:33
And what I mean by fractal is that, you know, when you zoom in or out that you know, the pattern stays the same, that the principle may change a little bit, but essentially will be the same that will be more dynamic, not just in one set of circumstances, but will actually be much more, much more adaptable.

Al McBride 11:51
This stuff is key for me. And I was reminded there by Steven Kotler of the flow state Genome Project, fascinating trap. And he said there is no flow without creativity. And I love that. I love that.

Al McBride 12:09
But it is sort of the starting point that you need a certain level of, of knowledge or skill set development, before you can be all that creative. So it’s the mix of the two isn’t it spent training up to a certain level that you have some basics to them play with, to make them your own.

Al McBride 12:26
It’s really those sort of principles that I’ve tried to try to be at the core of the Goliath negotiation method, my training course. I’m always trying to keep in mind that balance between training and learning between getting the things that people really need, but doing it in a way where it doesn’t feel like grunt work.

Al McBride 12:46
It doesn’t feel difficult that there’s not as painful learning curve. But very quickly that people are able to take a concept and so get start to wrap their heads around it. And then start to learn it or apply it in a very safe situation, or even just a conversation situation.

Al McBride 13:04
And then apply that low stakes. And that’s the key thing, so that you have a built up level of knowledge, or experience with the principal and how to use it how to apply it. Because if you’re not applying it at low stakes, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to apply it at high stakes.

Al McBride 13:22
And that’s where it really matters. That’s where it can really benefit you, you know. So, as I said, that, really is that one of the key principles for me is, is getting people to, to move through those stages with a but also then all of this is with a view to making it your own.

Al McBride 13:40
And that’s where you can have full flexibility, full adaptability and dynamism. Some of these principles with anything that you learn, forever learn the key principle beneath it. And this is key for me. Now, as I said, All these things are a work in progress.

Al McBride 13:56
You know, I’m always trying to improve the thing of always trying to tweak it, and like all the trainings that they give. But as I said, it’s that that the principle can be applicable and more than just one narrow situations. Absolutely, absolutely core.

Al McBride 14:13
So on that note, learning versus training, it can be handy to know the difference. As I say expensive learning can be brilliant. But often, you need a certain point in that journey, particularly when you hit a tableau, you need that training, you need to focus in on some of that convergent before you can go divergent again.

Al McBride 14:36
So just a thought to leave you with there.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Connect with Me, Alistair McBride

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