Category: The Knowledge Project

Learning How to Learn: My Conversation With Barbara Oakley

In this interview, Barbara Oakley, 8-time author and creator of Learning to Learn, an online course with over a million enrolled students, shares the science and strategies to learn more quickly, overcome procrastination and get better at practically anything.

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Just when I start to think I’m using my time well and getting a lot done in my life, I meet someone like Barbara Oakley.

Barbara is a true polymath. She was a captain in the U.S. Army, a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers, a radio operator in the South Pole, an engineer, university professor, researcher and the author of 8 books.

Oh, and she is also the creator and instructor of Learning to Learn, the most popular Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ever(!), with over one million enrolled students.

In this fascinating interview, we cover many aspects of learning, including how to make it stick so we remember more and forget less, how to be more efficient so we learn more quickly, and how to remove that barriers that get in the way of effective learning.

Specifically, Barbara covers:

  • How she changed her brain from hating math and science to loving it so much she now teaches engineering to college students
  • What neuroscience can tell us about how to learn more effectively
  • The two modes of your brain and how that impacts what and how you learn
  • Why backing off can sometimes be the best thing you can do when learning something new
  • How to “chunk” your learning so new knowledge is woven into prior knowledge making it easily accessible
  • The best ways to develop new patterns of learning in our brains
  • How to practice a skill so you can blast through plateaus and improve more quickly
  • Her favorite tactic for dealing with procrastination so you can spend more time learning
  • The activities she recommends that rapidly increase neural connections like fertilizer on the brain
  • Whether memorization has a place in learning anymore, or simply a barrier to true understanding
  • The truth about “learning types” and how identifying as a visual or auditory learner might be setting yourself up for failure.

…and a whole lot more.

If you want to be the most efficient learner you can be, and have more fun doing it, you won’t want to miss this discussion.

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Transcript
An edited copy of this transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($7).

If you liked this, check out all the episodes of the knowledge project.

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Members can discuss this on the Learning Community Forum.

[Episode #30] Company Culture, Collaboration and Competition: A Discussion With Margaret Heffernan

On this episode, I’m joined by speaker, international executive, and five-time author Margaret Heffernan. We discuss how to get the most out of our people, creating a thriving culture of trust and collaboration, and how to prevent potentially devastating “willful blindness.”

As former CEO of five successful businesses, Margaret Heffernan has been on the front lines observing the very human tendencies (selective blindness, conflict avoidance, and self-sabotage to name a few) that cause managers and sometimes entire organizations to go astray.

She has since written five books and has spoken all over the world to warn, educate and instruct leaders to not only be aware of these tendencies, but how to weed them out of our companies, our business, and even our relationships.

In this conversation, we discuss many of the concepts she shares in her books, namely:

  • How to tap into the collective knowledge of your organization so problems are solved quickly, efficiently, and cooperatively.
  • The strange experiment Margaret ran to build “social capital” in one of her early businesses that transformed the way her employees treated and interacted with each other
  • How to build a culture that doesn’t create in-fighting and unhealthy competition within your organization, and how many companies today are missing the mark
  • One simple thing you can do as a leader to increase the buy-in, productivity and overall satisfaction of your team members (and it takes less than 30 seconds to do.)
  • The dangers of binary thinking and how Margaret catches herself from oversimplifying a situation.
  • Why arguing may be one of the purest forms of collaboration — and how to do it correctly.
  • How to identify the environment and context where you do your best work and how to best replicate it.
  • How “willful blindness” has caused catastrophic disasters in business, professional and personal relationships, and what we can do to avoid being another statistic
  • The wonderful advice Margaret gave to her kids when it came to choosing a career path

And much more.

If you interact with other human beings in any capacity, you need to hear what Margaret has to say.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!

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Listen

Transcript
An edited copy of this transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($7).

If you liked this, check out all the episodes of the knowledge project.

***

Members can discuss this on the Learning Community Forum.

Survival of the Kindest: Dacher Keltner Reveals the New Rules of Power

When Pixar was dreaming up the idea for Inside Out, a film that would explore the roiling emotions inside the head of a young girl, they needed guidance from an expert. So they called Dacher Keltner.

Dacher is a psychologist at UC Berkeley who has dedicated his career to understanding how human emotion shapes the way we interact with the world, how we properly manage difficult or stressful situations, and ultimately, how we treat one another.

In fact, he refers to emotions as the “language of social living.” The more fluent we are in this language, the happier and more meaningful our lives can be.

We tackle a wide variety of topics in this conversation that I think you’ll really enjoy.

You’ll learn:

  • The three main drivers that determine your personal happiness and life satisfaction
  • Simple things you can do everyday to jumpstart the “feel good” reward center of your brain
  • The principle of “jen” and how we can use “high-jen behaviors” to bootstrap our own happiness
  • How to have more positive influence in our homes, at work and in our communities.
  • How to teach your kids to be more kind and empathetic in an increasingly self-centered world
  • What you can do to stay grounded and humble if you are in a position of power or authority
  • How to catch our own biases when we’re overly critical of another’s ideas (or overconfident in our own)

And much more. We could have spent an hour discussing any one of these points alone, but there was so much I wanted to cover. I’m certain you’ll find this episode well worth your time.

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Transcript
An edited copy of this transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($7).

If you liked this, check out all the episodes of the knowledge project.

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Members can discuss this post on the Learning Community Forum.

[Episode 28] The Return of a Decision-Making Jedi: My Discussion With Michael Mauboussin

Guess who's back? Back again?
Michael Mauboussin is back; tell a friend.

Mauboussin was actually the very first guest on the podcast, when it was still very much an experiment. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to continue with the show. (If you missed his last interview, you can listen to it here, or if you’re a member of The Learning Community, you can download a transcript.)

Michael is one of my very favorite people to talk to, and I couldn’t wait to pick up right where we left off.

In this interview, Michael and I dive deep into some of the topics we care most about here at Farnam Street, including:

  • The concept of “base rates” and how they can help us make far better decisions and avoid the pain and consequences of making poor choices.
  • How to know where you land on the luck/skill continuum and why it matters
  • Michael’s advice on creating a systematic decision-making process in your organization to improve outcomes.
  • The two most important elements of any decision-making process
  • How to train your intuition to be one of your most powerful assets instead of a dangerous liability
  • The three tests Michael uses in his company to determine the health and financial stability of his environment
  • Why “algorithm aversion” is creating such headaches in many organizations and how to help your teams overcome it, so you can make more rapid progress
  • The most significant books that he’s read since we last spoke, his reading habits, and the strategies he uses to get the most out of every book
  • The importance of sleep in Michael's life to make sure his body and mind are running at peak efficiency
  • His greatest failures and what he learned from them
  • How Michael and his wife raised their kids and the unique parenting style they adopted
  • How Michael defines happiness and the decisions he makes to maximize the joy in his life

Any one of those insights alone is worth a listen, so I think you’re really going to enjoy this interview.

Listen

Transcript

An edited transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($9).

More Episodes

A complete list of all of our podcast episodes.

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[Episode 27] The Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets from Chris Voss

Whether you’re buying a car, requesting a raise at work, or just deciding where to eat out with your spouse or partner, your negotiating skills will determine how pleased you are with the outcome.

Today, we have the special opportunity to learn some of the most effective tactics and strategies from a true master, Chris Voss.

Chris is the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and author of the excellent book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As Though Your Life Depended On It.

In this fascinating conversation, Chris shares how you can use the same techniques that have been field tested in some of the most high-stakes, pressure cooker situations, in your daily life.

If you want to become a better haggler, a better communicator, or a better listener, don’t miss this episode. It’s packed with actionable insights you can start using today to be more persuasive and grab hold of more of what you want in life.

Here are just a few things we cover:

  • What it really takes to be great at negotiating (most people approach it all wrong)
  • How to keep your emotions in check in a negotiation
  • The three different voices you can use to connect with your counterpart and put them at ease
  • How many of us “take ourselves hostage” in a negotiation and ruin it before it starts
  • The biggest time-waster (and profit-killer) that plagues so many negotiations
  • The main problems with traditional negotiation techniques (BATNA, etc.) and how they’re leaving lots on the table
  • The “negotiation one-sheet” Chris uses before entering into any negotiation (and how you can use it, too)
  • How to use an “accusations audit” when you’re structuring winning deals (this is brilliant)
  • One technique to get your counterpart to spill their guts when they’re trying to be tightlipped.
  • “Prospect theory” and how to use it to your advantage
  • Maximizing employee satisfaction in the hiring process so you get the best talent… and keep them!
  • How empathy saves time and makes you more likely to get what you want in a negotiation
  • The power of deference (and when to use it)
  • Chris’ go-to tools that work best on all personality types, in nearly any situation
  • How intentionally getting the other party to say “no” substantially increases the success rate of a negotiation

And much more.

Listen

Transcript

A transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($9).

More Episodes

A complete list of all of our podcast episodes.

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Members can discuss this post on the Learning Community Forum

Footnotes
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    Image Copyright Kate Haley Photography

[Episode #26] Warren Berger: Improve Your Life by Improving Your Questions

The quality of your outcome depends on the quality of your questions. Through asking the right questions, we can spark innovation and creativity, gain deeper knowledge in the topics that are most important to us, and propel ourselves forward in our personal and professional pursuits.

Yet very few of us do it well — if we do it at all.

My guest on the podcast today is Warren Berger — journalist, speaker, bestselling author, and self-proclaimed questionologist.

His insightful book, A More Beautiful Question, shows how the world’s leading innovators, education leaders, creative thinkers, and red-hot start-ups ask game-changing questions to nurture creativity, solve problems, and create new possibilities.

In this episode, we discuss the importance of asking the right questions, why they’re critical to your success, and how you might be one great question away from a major breakthrough.

You’ll also learn:

  • How Warren manages the constant input and stimulation from online consumption when it’s time to create.
  • The small habits that pack the biggest punch and make the most difference in Warren’s life
  • What makes a question more or less effective
  • How to create a culture where questions are welcomed and encouraged
  • Why answering all your kids’ questions may be doing them a disservice — and what to do instead
  • What “collaborative inquiry” is and how to use it to get the most out of your teams in the workplace
  • How Warren transformed one of his most painful failures into one of his most proud achievements
  • Why Warren insists that everyone is creative, and what we can do to fan the flames of our own creativity

If you think you could improve the quality (and frequency) of your questions to enhance key areas of your life, this is not a conversation you’ll want to miss.

Listen

Transcript

A transcript is available to members of our learning community or for purchase separately ($9).

Show Notes

You've gone from writing about business, then design, and now you're writing about questions. How did you find yourself at this moment in your career? [00:03:12]
Questioning is at the center of design thinking. [00:04:49]
What do you think of the state of freelance journalism today? [00:05:58]
Devaluing of journalistic content [00:07:14]
How do you personally filter and consume journalism and books? [00:08:05]
The enemy of creative: “There's so much media out there now that I feel like it's dangerous…” [00:08:50]
React Mode versus Create Mode [00:09:36]
How do you manage React Mode and Create Mode? [00:10:20]
Creating in a (metaphorical) cave [00:11:07]
“I have no choice but to actually create something, because otherwise there's nothing else to do.” [00:11:55]
Does React Mode have to be in the morning? [00:12:06]
Find a routine that works for the individual. [00:13:46]
Manager's Schedule versus Creator's Schedule [00:14:32]
How do you make yourself focus? [00:15:59]
How do you say “no” to opportunities? [00:17:14]
The importance of creating sacred time blocks [00:18:06]
What kinds of things do you regret saying “yes” to? [00:18:46]
Using caution when agreeing to travel to events [00:20:09]
How much reading do you do? [00:20:46]
How do you organize your notes while writing a book? [00:21:58]
Organizing printed papers by subject [00:22:19]
Pruning the subject folders as you go [00:23:54]
Being creative on paper — literally [00:24:31]
The need to see everything in front of you at the same time [00:26:01]
Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary [00:27:10]
Getting Schooled by Garrett Keizer [00:27:58]
Do you stop reading if things aren't good? [00:28:58]
What would you say is the smallest habit that you have that makes a big difference? [00:29:32]
The importance of outdoor walking (or any slightly immersive activity) [00:30:04]
“Museums are the custodians of epiphanies.” [00:32:45]
What's the most surprising thing about creativity? [00:33:35]
Creativity and questioning seem to decline as we age. [00:33:59]
“We do not get rewarded for questioning.” [00:37:19]
“Questioning is seen as inefficient.” [00:38:47]
The “uncoolness” of asking questions [00:39:39]
How “knowledge” gets in the way of asking [00:40:45]
Innovation is about being the one who asks questions. [00:41:28]
What's the relationship between questions and being more creative? [00:41:41]
“Questioning is a tool that enables us to organize our thinking around what we don't know.” (The Right Question Institute) [00:42:15]
The awareness of what you don't know. [00:42:40]
The importance of questions for innovators in a variety of fields [00:43:45]
How can you coach people to improve their questioning skills? [00:46:07]
“A good question is a question that's rooted in curiosity.” [00:47:10]
The value of the outsider [00:48:43]
Why would an expert ask a novice question? [00:51:20]
What should parents or teachers do when children ask questions all of the time? [00:52:42]
Adults aren't simply “answer machines” for children — but they can be good question coaches. [00:53:34]
Ownership of a question [00:54:54]
What do you struggle with more: questioning others or answering others? [00:56:15]
The problem of giving overly definitive answers [00:56:35]
How do you get a group of people to work on the same question? [00:58:19]
What is collaborative inquiry? [00:58:37]
Mission Statement or Mission Question (“How might we…?”) [01:00:24]
Who had the most impact on you intellectually when you were young? [01:03:29]
Warren talks about what he learned from the reaction to his book Glimmer. [01:05:49]
The seeds of success can be found in failure. [01:09:34]
The problem with being “happy” when you fail. [01:11:25]
What's a common piece of advice about creativity that you're not buying? [01:15:38]
Everybody is creative. Don't separate “creatives” and “non-creatives.” [01:16:04]
The backlash to open-office culture [01:18:40]

People and Things Mentioned

Paul Graham
Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War
Getting Schooled by Garrett Keizer

Learn more about Warren on his website, Twitter, and through A More Beautiful Question.

More Episodes

A complete list of all of our podcast episodes.

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