What do Titles keep us away from

Created on 2021-05-17 20:06

Published on 2021-05-17 20:13

Today as I was taking a walk, an interesting thought about what we know and what we think we know crossed my mind. We never think of those things we don’t know; they are usually out of our mind’s perspective. Our mind seems to focus on those things we know and those we think we know.

Adam Grant`s Book -Think again talks of two kinds of people the armchair quarterback and the imposter. The armchair quarterback is high on confidence and not necessarily high on knowledge, the impostor is a direct opposite, they are low on confidence and high on knowledge. There are two types of knowledge amongst the four known types that are of interest for this article, conceptual knowledge, and procedural knowledge. Conceptual knowledge would be described in an example as a football fan who knows how football should be played, is not shy to tell the coach of his mistakes and what the coach should have done, the fun may never played professional football a single day in his life. He has become knowledgeable on football from watching hundred and thousands of professional live games or television broadcasts of the Premier League. In short, they know how the game should be played however they can’t play the game as well as those whose daily task is to play football for the entertainment of thousands across the world (Except me who up to this day has never understood the concept of twenty-two men chasing an inflated piece of cow skin, apologies to those offended by this).

The procedural knowledge would be amplified by the football player. He knows how to play the ball. He knows each and every intricate step to play the game. The knowledge he has gained from playing the game for a lifetime. Then there is the knowledge which we do not know that we don’t know, I have not yet found a name for it, and that is the focus of this article.

We make choices on what we want to focus on in life.

There comes a time in life, when we have to decide what career we want to pursue. We got into the careers we are in either by choice, by circumstances, or by choices made for us where we had no say. So, we become Doctors, Accountants, supply chain professionals, Human resource professionals, Learning and development professionals, chemists, and many more others. As we develop in our chosen careers, we dig in deeper with certifications in our field and earn titles. The titles are to declare our deeper knowledge in the chosen fields and to earn our promotions at the workplace and help us grow in our careers. As we progress in our careers, the higher we go, the more our thinking is tested through the type of decisions we have been given authority to make in the organisation. Decisions affecting employees, the community around us, the nation, the country, and others the world.

There has been a propagation of the different thinking modes also referred to as thinking styles in various literature, the four being – the preachers, the politicians, the prosecutors, and the Scientist. The desired thinking style being the scientist who relies on evidence and conducts experiments to prove or disprove their thinking.

Does the chosen career path create or reinforce any of the four thinking styles, do the certifications we pursue build any of the four thinking styles or reinforce a particular one?

Lifelong learning

Life-long learning has been identified as a critical skill for the twenty-first century by many global bodies, what exactly is lifelong learning and how does one become a long life learner, and to throw in some complexity, what exactly are we supposed to be learning for life? Is reading the newspaper daily in your life, lifelong learning? And is the learning we do on social media qualified to be lifelong learning? To what extent we should learn is purely up to us as individuals, the main concern needs to be what we do learn.

 Oxford handbooks define lifelong learning as  “development after formal education: the continuing development of knowledge and skills that people experience after formal education and throughout their lives” (Encarta, 2008). Lifelong learning builds on prior learning as it expands knowledge and skills in depth and breadth (London, in press). Learning is “the way in which individuals or groups acquire, interpret, reorganize, change or assimilate a related cluster of information, skills, and feelings. It is also primary to the way in which people construct meaning in their personal and shared organizational lives” (Marsick, 1987, p. 4, as quoted in Matthews, 1999, p. 19).

A curious case of learning.

Two years ago, I took on a hobby that was a desire in my younger years, photography. I had always wanted to be a photojournalist. Sharing images of what was going on unnoticed by the general population was a burning desire. However, that never came to be, I missed my chance to study mass media at a local university the year after I finished high school. Many years later, I did get the opportunity to get myself a Canon camera, plugged in a zoom lens, and on weekends I live my dream of being a photojournalist. My photography seems to have taken the direction of Macro photography. I move around with my camera in my backpack every time I am out. When I started photography, everything looked good to be photographed. I remember the first week, I tried as much as possible to photograph buildings, boats, and other objects in Dubai. My photography is now limited to plants and insects and occasionally humans for practice and normalization. Nowadays, before I remove my camera from my bag, the question of if the object to be photographed is worthy has to be answered. If it is no, the camera stays in the bag, if it is a yes, then the camera comes out of the bag. As I progressed learning from other photographers and YouTube, I learned of rules, does, and don’ts of photography. Recently, I have come to notice, as my camera is pointed at the object, questions arise in my mind, am I obeying the rules of thirds, is my framing right, are my camera settings fit for the environment of the picture, is the object in focus, what do I want to communicate to the viewer of the photograph?. These are questions and decisions I never had to think about in my earlier days of photography, and now they constantly have to all be answered and decisions made before the click of the shutter.

I learn other things to, a lot of other things, specifically to satisfy my curiosity. I took on a course of instructions system design to answer my persistent question of how do I create world-class learning programs. Another time, ten years ago, I traveled to Goa in India to attend training so I could understand a Neurolinguistics programming book I had bought myself as a graduation present. I didn’t want to waste the money I used to buy the book by not understanding the concepts that were being taught in the book. I continue reading various books, articles to gain knowledge and practice what I learn.

What drives how and what we learn is a personal decision driven by both our current and future needs, be they of career or satisfying our curiosity. Do we need to continuously learn? That purely depends on our end goal and our current circumstances. Many professional`s learning is driven by the need for growth in their career. I believe there are areas of our various careers we have not imagined because they are unknown to us. We mostly focus on what we know, if we looked into what we don’t know, we may see possibilities that were previously unknown to us.

Our LinkedIn profiles contain our titles, do those titles limit the communication we may receive from merchants of knowledge? Today I was sending invites for a course I am running end of this month and I would look at the titles of potential invitees. I noticed, the longer the titles and the many certification acronyms one had, I wouldn’t send the invite. I would tell myself, this one seems to know and learned a lot, what knowledge could I possibly offer them. Thinking back on this activity, I started asking myself if these titles we use limit us, do they in any way hinder our view of what we do not know.

The author is the Chief Learning Officer at iPerformance Africa, a learning and development firm, focusing on developing professionals charged with the responsibility of developing others in their organisations and for the purpose of successful strategy execution.


Adam Grant Think Again (2021) - The power of knowing what you don’t know.  WH Allen 2021 pg. 22

Manuel London The Oxford Handbook of Lifelong Learning (1st edn) Mar 2011,https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com

 Marsick, V. J. (1987). New paradigms for learning in the workplace. In V. J. Marsick (Ed.), Learning in the workplace (pp. 11–30) London: Croom Helm.

Matthews, P. (1999). Workplace learning: Developing an holistic model. The Learning Organization, 6, 18–29.

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