The process of learning

What happens in our minds when we are learning something?

Lately, I've been developing a special interest in how we apprehend knowledge, learn and apply that knowledge in a practical situation.

"How do we learn?", however, is no simple question. If it were, schools would generate much more insightful young professionals. There is, on the other hand, a three-bullet point guide I've come up with based on my own experience. I think good learners:

  1. Investigate
  2. Emulate
  3. Innovate

Phase 1 is the investigation phase. You barely know your subject and read a lot about it. Basically, it's raw data time, and based on my experience I don't think it happens often enough (which means people don't tackle their knowledge gaps enough).

Phase 2 is the most common one, and based on one principle: copy/paste. Based on your reads, you think by following the same logics and adapting the same ideas to your reality you'll be doing your job correctly, and get rewarded accordingly. It's also the ugly phase, because it's what pure copycats and no-brainers are all about. Unfortunately, too many marketing people (among others) make a living out of this.

Phase 3 is the rarest of them all. It's where based on your investigations and after emulating enough (and growing tired of it), you start generating your own procedures and logics to work on something you'll believe will change everything. It's tightly and cyclically connected to phase 1, it's where the true innovators live, and it's what our ultimate goal as creatives and creators should be.

Passionate newbies live in phase 1. Compulsive article readers live in phase 2. People who change things over and over again (and mad men) live in phase 3.

PS: It's not a coincidence that the learning process has so much in common with the creative process.