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"What did you learn?"

December. The end of the year. End of 2018.

The time when some are rushing into finishing 2018 resolutions. Some are doing last minute big life changes. Some are trying to reflect on the past year. December in RSVP Design is also a month of reflection. We reflect on what we have learned this year and what are we going to do next year.

Our colleague Dr. Geoff Cox shares his thoughts on his end-of-year reflection below:

"If you created a Venn diagram of my current activity it would certainly include three important circles:


My work time as a Learning Designer
My recreational time as an Endurance Runner
My passion time as a Poet and Writer


Depending on the balance of demands of these activities the circles on my diagram would take on different sizes, but they would all be there. They would also vary in the extent to which the diagram has them overlapping e.g. sometimes a long run will have the clear purpose of unblocking a gnarly design or writing challenge. These are all parts of my life, all different, all important, and all bringing me into contact with different people.


Coming towards the end of the year, always a time of reflection, I thought that it was a good time to think about these parts of my life, and the people I meet, and to recognise a trend in how these people are dealing with the pressures that they experience.


Professionals, Poets and Athletes, all different, but all, in the main, sharing a common and powerful desire to succeed, often driven by targets, performance indicators, milestones, numbers. None of this is inherently a bad thing, we need measures of our progress to make worthwhile the efforts we make to improve: being committed to succeed in any dimension of our life demands that we know what success looks like, and numbers give us a measure of success.


There is, however, a flip-side to this situation - sooner or later the numbers become what drives us, rather than being driven by an intrinsic motivation to succeed. Hitting the numbers becomes an end in itself, and this can only ratchet up the pressures we experience in our lives, and this can produce consequences that are both negative and unwelcome. I meet a lot of people whose lives are being impacted by these consequential pressures, and there’s one piece of advice that, if asked, I offer to them all.


Focus on what you’ve learned, rather than what you’ve achieved.


As I’ve said, the numbers are important but they’re not the only way of assessing performance. Look at the measures you think are an appropriate assessment of your performance: do they tell you that you’ve hit target? exceeded it? or fallen short? An honest answer to these questions will give you important data you can use to set and revise future targets, but there’s a further question that I would ask, and an honest answer to this is as important, or more important than the first question. “What did I learn?”


When I first ask people this question they often respond in a particular way, a way that suggests to me that they are answering a different question i.e. “What do the numbers tell me?” This is a different question in that it is solely reflective - it only looks back at a single point in time. The “What did I learn?” question can only be answered accurately if the person responding has made some change in what they do as a result of looking back at their performance. Learning is about change and we can only say that we have learned if we have implemented a change in behaviour, attitude, approach etc etc. So asking “What did I learn?” means that we need to focus not only on performance, but on progress -


“I did this…..


it resulted in this performance…..


so I learned that…….


and this is what I now do……”


The result is a lot more empowering, and usually easier to handle.


Try it in 2019, or, better still, think about your 2018 and ask yourself


What did I learn? ”

There are a number of tools that you can use either on your own or with team members to help answer the question What did I learn?.

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