Learning can be a very personal journey. But there can also be a lot of value to both you and others in sharing what you have learned.
What’s new to you may well be new to others – It’s tempting to think that nobody’s interested in what you’re learning. But that is to undervalue yourself and your learning journey. What is new to you may well be new to others.
If you found it useful, so might others – There is an endless fascination with ‘Did you know…?’. We are programmed to enjoy questions, and to look for answers, and also to share information with each other. You are almost certainly not the only person thinking about that particular question, and when you find the answer, others may well also find it useful.
You may be able to add value for other people – Bill Gates, for example, shares book reviews, and even publishes an annual list of his favourites among the books that he has read each year. His thoughtful reviews, including comments about which books may be more difficult and why, may help others to decide whether to read the book or not. In a wider sense, curation is the ultimate in ‘adding value’.
The process of explaining helps to cement your learning – There is nothing like explaining something to identify the holes in your understanding. But explaining can also help to slot things into place in your head, and understand the logic better. It is rather like the process of filing: as you decide where things go, you also see how they fit together.
Being challenged by others can also help you to learn even more – As you share your learning, you may find that you are challenged by others. This may be in the form of questions which you find you can’t answer, or as a direct challenge of ‘I don’t agree’. Whatever the form, the challenge will prompt you to recheck your understanding, or even to dig deeper and find new insights.
Sharing and explaining help you to remember things better – Remember how your teachers always told you to ‘put things in your own words’, because you would remember them better? It’s because it’s true. Somehow the process of paraphrasing something helps to install it in our memories in a way that makes it easier to access. Perhaps it is the act of processing the information in some way, but whatever the reason, it makes sharing your learning very worthwhile.
Explaining something helps you to move beyond ‘unconscious competence’ – You may be aware of the Competence Cycle of learning, which starts from unconscious incompetence, moving through conscious incompetence and conscious competence to unconscious competence. At this final stage, you are so good at doing something that you do it without thinking about it. Some commentators have suggested that there is a fifth stage, where you become conscious of your competence to such an extent that you can teach it or explain it to others. In other words, if you can teach it, you’re even better at it.
The more you practice explaining and sharing information, the more your skills improve – It doesn’t matter whether you are sharing your learning in writing or face-to-face. The more that practise explaining your points, the better your writing and/or presentation skills will become. In other words, sharing your learning also hones other skills on the way.
Sharing your learning encourages others to share theirs with you – We have already noted that other people may find your learning useful and/or interesting. In the same way, you are likely to get something from what others are learning. Not only is this interesting of itself, but learning can often be a lonely journey. Sharing your experiences is a way to reduce the loneliness as well as learning more.
Sharing your learning encourages others to learn too – The alternative ‘fifth stage’ of the competence cycle is complacency. It is easy to fall into a trap of deciding that you know everything and there is nothing more to learn. Sharing your learning, and hearing or reading about what others are learning helps to puncture this mindset, and ensure that we all remember the importance of keeping an open mind and continuing to learn.