The Joy of Learning
A quick ideation on how to learn new things.
Let’s talk about learning. I’m going to introduce myself and then we’ll jump straight into it.
I work as a developer at Humblebee. They are awesome. In my line of work, it’s important to learn new skills. Working within tech, everything around you evolves rapidly and in order to stay relevant, you have to keep your knowledge updated. Personally, I try to stay up to date by doing idiotic and weird side-projects when not at work (e.g. I wanted to learn to work with payment processes so I created a website where you can pay to get a high score).
Even if it’s not something related to tech, it’s still important to learn new skills. It can help you to see things from a different perspective, give you a lot of laughs or introduce you to new friends.
Let’s walk through some steps you can take to learn new skills or gain new insight, whether you’re a curious person or an established business.
Remember, it’s never too late to learn. Michelangelo (the orange ninja turtle, but more importantly the sculptor, painter and lots of other things) said at the age of 87:
I’m still learning
I like to think he means that he was still improving himself and not just a really slow learner…
Let’s jump into it!
Let go of the established ideas.
There are some established ideas on how to learn new things out there. Some are great tips and some less so. One thing that I find quite funny is that a lot of people seem to be talking about “learning styles”. You might think “I’m a visual learner”, or maybe you have the “need to read” when learning. I’ve met people talking about their style and I’ve seen it mentioned all up in the interweb. In any case, that shit don’t matter. There are studies (this video goes into details about this subject) that shows that, while most people have an idea of their ultimate way to learn, it really does not matter as much as you think.
Letting go of established ideas is something we do at
Humblebee all the time. We will challenge the idea that you have if you come to us. Why? Because it’s a great way for us to together gain new insights. It will be hard to gain new findings or learn new things if you already think you know how things work (when learning) or how a market might react to your new TheNextBigThing™ (if you’re a company). It’s often a great idea to rid yourself of the established ideas you have when you want to learn.
Passion, mon amour!
Once you’re a clean slate, ready to take on the world with invigorating strength, we can start to look at the task at hand. What is it we’re trying to learn? Different skills you want to learn or insights you want to learn about can often require different techniques depending on the subject, so I won’t really go into a lot of detail regarding a specific subject in itself. However, I will use something generic for the almighty [placeholder] to illustrate some points. Let’s go with photography.
If you want to learn photography, don’t count on photography being the passion in itself. You will take a lot of crappy pictures and you don’t want it to weigh you down. Instead, try to find something that you already know you are passionate about. Do you frickin’ love cars? Grab your camera and go on an adventure to find nice cars to shoot. Are you a sports fan? Great! Take the camera to your kids next soccer game and go crazy. It’s a great way to mix something you already know and love into a new subject which will give the new subject a meaning, a way to relate to it. The love for the subject will rub off on the skill you’re learning. Hopefully, your kid doesn’t loose the game and leave you with a bad taste in the mouth. Jokes aside, finding meaning to a subject is the key to learning. You can slowly start to fiddle with all the settings on your camera to start to gain knowledge. “Oh, higher shutter speed means my kid won’t turn in to a blur when shooting”. Baby steps. You’ll get there eventually. Just make the journey interesting.
For companies this is a non-issue. You should already be passionate about your product, your crowd or your area of expertise. If you aren’t, then maybe it’s time to start looking for something else. If you are passionate about your product, there are a lot of things you can do. Find new ways to attract costumers, find out why people like your company and gain an advantage or create a new service that helps people interact with your brand.
At Humblebee, we are passionate about building digital products. You are the expert of the area. Together, we can find out what makes your customers tick. Don’t come to us with standard marketing/management talk like this (read the following line with a funny voice in your own head): “We would like to increase the ROI of investment (I know ROI stands for Return on Investment so jokes on you) while trying to leverage the growth hacking system in our B2B market while benchmarking the block chain”. What??!???!?! If you want to connect with your audience and have an idea, then come to us. You don’t have to have a perfect plan or a blueprint for everything. Remember the clean slate? We want to learn together with you.
Find the right task
Let’s go back to photography. Do you think that you will learn more by listening to a podcast describing shutter speed at depth for an hour or taking two pictures, one with super low shutter speed and one with super high shutter speed? Photography is a visual art. Visual ways of learning will be better for this type of task. If you want to learn something, find the best way to gain comprehension of that skill. Do not try to justify for a second that you will learn music better by reading about it rather than listening to songs and trying to create the same sounds. Music is auditory. We already abandoned learning styles.
For companies it’s about finding a medium in which to interact with your tribe. Will an app, podcast or Instagram account be the way for you to interact with them? Maybe a vlog that catches their attention, that then makes them aware of an app you’ve created? What channels do you already have today and what are new ways to approach people? People, not costumers. You want to create value for them. If you give them what they need, you are already making good progress on gaining new insights.
Create a plan or set up goals. Document and re-iterate.
This is a no-brainer. When I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done (my first webpage, holy shit) I realise that even though I sometimes feel like I haven’t gotten any better, I see that old pile of garbage and it gives me the energy to keep putting in the time to get better and try harder. If I compare my work now to the things I did then, I know that I’ve gotten better. It is seldom that the manifestation of what you’ve learned it instant. Learning a new skill is change over time. Make sure you look back at times and see how far you’ve got. If you don’t document your journey, there is nothing to look back at. So document your progress.
Of course this is hard when just starting so what can you do at that point? Some people like to have a goal. I’m one of those people. If I want to learn how to create an app, I would set up a goal to have it released before a certain date. That’s how I managed to get my puzzle game released (only on Android right now). Some people would rather learn by having a direction and focus on the process. If that is more your style, then set up a process for yourself. It could be that you should spend one hour, two times a week, doing this great new challenge you’ve so bravely taken on.
To tie this into a companies perspective, it is here we can start to learn things. What is the goal you’re after? I’m not talking purely about a ROI here. I’m talking about a way to connect with the folks you want to connect with. Find key numbers that isn’t just about the cash.
Iteration. It doesn’t matter if you’re a person or a company for this. If you bump into a part you find hard, do it again. And again. And again. For a company, tweak what knowledge you’ve already made. Again. And again. After a while you will see that things start to make sense.
Be pedagogical as $#!†
This is closely related to documenting your journey, but it takes an extra spin on it. It takes it one step further by putting you in a position where you have to teach someone (imaginary friend, “to whom it may concern”, mom or maybe a Kanye West cut-out you keep in your room). Teaching someone that doesn’t have the same knowledge as you have requires you to take an extra stab at it and brake it into pieces. Chunks of information that you need to be able to convey to someone else means that you need to have a complete understanding about it. If you don’t have a complete understanding, you will notice when trying to explain it. If this is the case then good. Go back to that part and continue to practice until you can explain it.
You can combine this with documentation. I’m trying to get better at documenting things while simultaneously growing my personal brand online. Check it out below if you’re interested.
Filming yourself going through what you just learned and putting it up on YouTube is a great way to both document your journey and also teach someone else what you’ve learned.
At Humblebee we do case studies (look at that beautiful page filled with yummy information). It’s a great way for us to document our findings. It gives us a time capsule we can travel back in time with and we also need to know what we do well enough to be able to write about it. Case studies doesn’t have to be overly complicated to fill a need. They can be short and sweet and still help a company to scribble down the learnings from their adventures.
DO, DO, DO — 💩, 💩, 💩 (👈 this is a visual joke I put in so you’d get a short mental brake)
Finally, I just want to point out that in the end, it’s all about doing. So continue to do it over and over and over and one day you will wake up with an awesome new skill and you will probably be a better person for it.
To summarise (person/company)
- Pick a skill you want more insight into. / Pick an area you want more insight into.
- Let go of your predefined opinions and thoughts of how it works.
- Tie it together with something you love. Give it meaning. Make the journey interesting. / You have the passion. Figure out what it is you want to learn.
- Find the right task. / Find the right medium.
- Create a plan and start documenting.
- Do. Do. Do.
P.S. If you want to learn more about how to take some steps into creating new services that will help your company, feel free to get into contact with us at
Humblebee. If you want to learn a new skill, just go out and do it!
Note: The original author of this article, John Hult, is no longer at Humblebee, he's recently left us to do wonderful things elsewhere! Best of luck to you Sir, you'll be missed. ❤️