“What’s the most important skill to acquire in our digital age? Surprisingly, it’s the ability to learn,” said Adam Bricker, Executive Director of the Carolina Cyber Center, during a recent NextGen virtual training event.
That ability is innate and can be developed, but often our educational system actively discourages real learning. So how to rekindle it? Applying the seven skills of curiosity, collaboration, critical thinking, grit, agency under duress, and humility, you can recover your ability to learn.
Cultivate Your Curiosity
“Curiosity is the starting point to everyone’s learning,” Bricker explained. He defined curiosity as “the insatiable need to question, learn, discern, and solve problems,” coupled with an attitude that allows you to be deeply interested in something and the ambition to learn more. Ask questions. Try new things. “The more curious you are, the better thinker you are, and the better you’re able to collaborate with others,” said Bricker.
Remember that Self-Discipline is Essential to Collaboration
Working together to create something special begins with self-discipline. “If you haven’t learned to manage yourself, I don’t think you’ve earned the right to lead others,” Bricker cautioned.
But collaboration requires the skills of everyone on the team to excel. “I’ve climbed a lot of mountains,” he said, “and great expeditions have navigators, a doctor, a logistician. They have a lead climber to get to the top. But what matters is that your team got to the top.”
Use Critical and Integrative Thinking to Resolve Conflicting Needs
As you approach critical thinking, imagine: What would you research to prove yourself right? What would you research to prove yourself wrong?
Integrative thinking is a tool for reconciling those opposing approaches to a problem. It asks you to reduce the issue to an extreme, two-sided dilemma and accept that the two sides will remain in tension as you test solutions. As you build solutions, think about what an even better solution would involve.
Apply Grit and Agency to Get Through Challenges
The army defines grit as “guts, resilience, initiative, and tenacity.” It powers your personal agency, the ability to keep going in the face of difficulty. “When you lack motivation, passion, and energy, can you still perform?” Bricker asked.
Be the Right Kind of Humble
“Undergirding all of this is humility,” he explained, but not the humility of self-deprecation. Bricker defined humility as “an accurate understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and a generous acknowledgement of the qualities of others.” This type of humility helps you come to each challenge open to what you need to learn to resolve it.
“At its heart, intentional learning is the practice of treating every experience as an opportunity to learn something,” Bricker said.
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