Adaptive learning mindset

What do Elon Musk, Elizabeth Holmes, and Barack Obama have in common?

They exhibit extreme characteristics of the adaptive learning mindset. In this ever evolving world, the human race faces new problems that our ancestors wouldn’t have even imagined; mass famine, drought, clean energy, pollution, and global warming. These leaders are at the forefront of their respective fields, tackling big problems and trying their best to work to resolve the issues we all face.

The Adaptive Learning Mindset

The adaptive learning mindset helps people build skills, solve problems and face unknown circumstances with confidence. They place their belief in the adaptive learning mindset with trust it will yield productive results. In this article I will shed light on this mental method, and how you can exploit it to your benefit. The only commitment it requires is an open mind, and strong determination to achieve desired results.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”
– George Bernard Shaw

Figure 1: Build Measure Learn loop

The 4 stages below describe the adaptive learning mindset. To illustrate the esoteric points, I’ll use the example of young woman, Sahla, wanting to develop the skill of public speaking to a professional level.

Stage 1: Analyze

The analyze stage focuses on the importance of studying a situation prior to committing a large amount of effort. The process of changing habits or skills can be tedious. To maximize effectiveness, it helps to analyze the given situation and formulate specific strategies before committing to the build stage. As the old saying goes:

“Measure twice, cut once”

Example: Sahla wants to improve her speaking skills and realizes that it takes a lot of dedicated work to become a great speaker. She analyzes videos of great speakers and marks down specific traits she would like to develop herself. By performing this analysis of what defines speakers as being great, Sahla is saving herself time of developing skills that don’t contribute towards effective public speaking.

Stage 2: Build

The build stage is concentrated on the actual executable steps involved in realizing the desired result. This stage can be described as the ‘action stage’.

Example: Sahla has decided to work on the specific desirable traits she identified in the analyze stage with a public speaking coach.

Stage 3: Measure

The measure stage focuses on measuring the results of the build stage. The more specific the measurement criteria, the higher the quality of feedback acquired.

Example: Sahla has joined a public speaking group to practice and measure (by feedback) her progress in public speaking. She asks the group members to grade her speaking on specific criteria she defines which are constructed to measure how she stacks up against the traits of the great speakers she identified in the analyze stage.

Stage 4: Learn

The learn stage is arguably the single most important step of the process. It takes strength of character to admit weaknesses and put one’s ego aside. If constructive feedback can be taken to heart, one can consciously decide whether to take steps towards improving or ignoring the feedback (because not all feedback might be necessary to implement).

Example: Sahla receives a lot of constructive feedback on her first few speeches. She decides to focus on the recurring points that people have mentioned as points of improvement. She makes an active decision to focus her energy on improving the top 3 ‘issues’ to develop her new skill.

Rapid Development Cycle

The rapid development cycle is when a person iterates many cycles of Build Measure Learn. This can only be achieved once a person has a clear understanding of the build-measure-learn cycle.

The people mentioned at the beginning of the article have mastered the art of the rapid development cycle. Their analysis phase is clear and concise which allows them to focus on the rapid development cycle. They are masters of rapid learning, and with the steps outlined above, with some practice you’ll be on your way to becoming a master yourself.

As a parting thought, I’d like to leave you with the idea below. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the 4 stages of the Adaptive Learning Mindset and the Rapid Development Mindset.

“The faster one can iterate through their rapid development cycle, the faster they will achieve their goal”


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