top ten lists

Scribbled down on August 31st, 2006 by she
Posted in Learning & Education

Top 10 lists are so much fun. Just ask David Letterman. He’s been using them for years ;)

Of late, I’ve come across two very interesting top 10 lists. The first was put together by Guy Kawasaki who wrote Ten Things to Learn This School Year. The second is Stephen Downes response to Guy’s list titled Things you really need to learn.

Despite the title, Guy’s list contains 12 items that suggests feels everyone needs to know to survive in the business world but won’t learn in school. I see a lot of lists like this floating around at work and they seem to be brief, simplistic and often revolve around the buzzwords of the day. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I couldn’t help nodding when reviewing sections of his list. Most importantly, I think more emphasis needs to be placed on point 4 of Guy’s list:

How to figure out anything on your own. Armed with Google, PDFs of manuals, and self-reliance, force yourself to learn how to figure out just about anything on your own. There are no office hours, no teaching assistants, and study groups in the real world. Actually, the real world is one long, often lonely independent study, so get with it.

While I don’t agree with Guy’s “real world” sentiments, I do think that we aren’t spending enough time nurturing independant thought and encouraging curiousity in those around us. I worry that perhaps by the time we’re old enough to really appreciate self-direction and self-reliance in our learning paths, most people are so set in their ways that they have no interest in trying to develop these skills.

As I’m aging, I’m encountering fewer people who will attempt to discover an answer for themselves. Too many of my co-workers want to be spoonfed and I’m discovering my silverware drawer is empty.

Stephen’s list, like many of his writings, appears to be centered on a more holistic approach to improving self and society. Concentration on critical thinking (predicting consequences), comprehension and connectivism (how to read), learning to walk a mile in other’s shoes (how to empathize), and how each individual enters and moves through the learning process (how to learn) pervades his list of things Stephen believes we all need to learn in order to be successful in life. As you read his article, it’s hard not to recognize patterns within the content and how many items share connective tissue. Well, that’s how my brain is interpreting what I’m reading…perhaps others may see a jigsaw puzzle where I see a complete landscape filled with fields, rivers and laughter.

Both lists are interesting and have their own intrinsic value. I suspect that those who fawn over Guy’s list may be more business oriented or working in for profit corporate environments. As a corporate cubicle dweller myself, I can see some obvious truths and recognize pieces of myself, my co-workers and working environment in his commentary.

On the other hand, I suspect that much of the content of Guy’s list may have little meaning to anyone working in a non-profit or academic environment. Rather than bringing us closer by offering an all encompassing truth as his introduction suggests, Guy’s points can be used to divide one group of individuals from another by suggesting that their experiences or reality is of lesser value because it doesn’t match or reflect his own.

It is in this area that I find the true value of the list Stephen generated in reaction to reading Guy’s post. Stephen’s suggestions offer insight for encouraging personal growth and developing ourselves in order to understand and accept who we are. Rather than offering trite advice for leaving a useful voicemail message, Stephen suggests areas which, when properly developed, might help make the need for voicemail advice unnecessary. After all, if I’ve learned emphathy and problem solving, it might come naturally to me to connect the need for repeating self-identification and contact information in the message. By developing the self, I could be working towards making business skills instinctive rather than taught.

Don’t get me wrong, running a meeting properly or leaving a good voicemail message are important in the business world, but what use are these items outside of work? In my own blindness, I am unable to fathom how these back to school lessons will help anyone make important decisions, read between the lines, or lead a happier life.

Abject Apologies:
Anyone who has had to suffer through one of my conference calls knows that I desperately need to master Guy’s 3rd point (How to run a meeting). Until my skills improve, perhaps we can all work on improving skill number 2 (How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run).

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