Friday, September 14, 2018

Talk at Reliance Retail, Navi Mumbai

When Yogesh Patgaonkar, my friend from Pune told me that Nitin Kaul from Reliance Retail would get in touch with me for a talk in Mumbai, I immediately said Yes because I trust Yogesh and his judgment completely. The talk was on September 5, Teachers Day. Nitin called and all was fixed up and I went to Mumbai for the talk. It was at the Reliance campus in Navi Mumbai.

It's a beautiful campus with the best of infrastructure. You walk around the corridors of the L&D building and wonder at the scale and the imagination. The idea behind their Learning Centre is wonderful. Some part of the building is now occupied by Jio.

I was to speak to winners of the L&D awards - the trainers. And I was to speak about learning mindset and learner engagement.

The gist of the talk. We began with two personal stories to illustrate the learning mindset.

Everything is a Learning Problem
"I am always asked this one question - you played Ranji Trophy but did not play tests - why? Would you consider it as a learning problem?

Another time when I cleared 18 exams at one go during my engineering college days when threatened with detention after failing to clear any (except English) in my first year. Good teachers, focused studying and a desire to achieve a particular outcome helped. But what happens to the label I believed to be true - that I was not intelligent enough to pass these exams? Interestingly a couple of my friends who were far better than me failed to clear one exam and were detained. Did I suddenly grow intelligent?

The Mindset - Dr. Carol Dweck
The answer to both questions to me came from the book 'The Mindset' by Carol Dweck. I realised that in the first case, in cricket, I had stopped growing, working hard and seeking help and had adopted a fixed mindset. My growth stopped after reaching a high level of the game.

In the exams story, I was already labeled as someone who was unintelligent and had adopted the learning mindset. I had nothing to prove and everything to gain so I asked for help, studied with focus and cleared the exams.

In both cases, the ideas that intelligence is not fixed, hard work and growth-oriented work pays and helps in achieving or bringing us closer to our potential stand proved. While in the fixed mindset we try to prove how smart we are, do not believe in effort (actually effort makes us look stupid and the opposite of smart), do not take up higher challenges, do not persist in the face of tough challenges, give up easily, do not take useful feedback, feel threatened by others success and in the long run, plateau and do not fulfill our potential. In the growth or learning mindset, we only want to learn and grow, take higher challenges, persist in the face of hardship, take feedback from all sources, growth-oriented effort is the key to mastery, get inspired and learn lessons from others success and in the long run do justice to our potential.

An understanding of the concept of the two mindsets can help their students adopt the right mindset and approach to be more secure and create a learning environment.

Learning Environment - Psychologically Safe places
To create a learning environment we must first create a psychologically safe and secure space where it is ok to make mistakes. Most cultures do not encourage asking questions or allow for mistakes. They seem to reward only the perfect answer. By rewarding only what is known they are hindering all growth and learning because all growth and learning happens in the unknown. Only when we are ok with the 'I don't know' and explore that do we grow. So classrooms should encourage more questions, more 'I don't knows' to progress. Don't seek perfection, seek progress through discussion.

Secure and Insecure - I Know and I Don't Know
In my book, people also do not seek help, or express their views because they are insecure inside. All insecurity to me is a result of hiding what we think we do not know. It results in insecure and negative behaviors. To be secure all we must accept is that we know what we know and that we do not know what we do not know. If such an atmosphere can be created and students can be told that they are ok with not knowing and that they can raise questions and seek answers, a learning environment can be cultivated.

Start With Why - Simon Sinek
We also saw the TED talk of Simon Sinek on 'Start with why' and discussed how, the why, which in this case can combine with the approach of the learning mindset or the growth mindset, can make the student secure enough to learn and grow faster and bring more to the table.

ABC - Goal Setting, Process Orientation and Feedback
We looked at the concept of ABC - of Activator, Behavior and Consequence and how in learning we can use all three to make the process of learning more efficient. Activators are goals and by helping students set right context and expectations we can prepare them to act better. Most students live up to their expectations so set clear, high expectations. Activators are followed be behaviors that help students achieve their goals. Here students can benefit by process orientation on how to utilise their time and execute. C stands for Consequence of the behavior which is feedback. The student normally does not get any feedback until it is too late. So we must learn how to give feedback - immediately, by talking only about the act and not the person, by talking of its impact and how it could be corrected and by resetting the expectations with the belief that the person will fulfill them. Normally we do not give both positive and negative feedback because we do not know how to but once we learn that, we can make the process very efficient. In giving feedback, one can follow the CFR method of Continuous feedback - through frequent informal conversations, giving positive feedback and developing a culture of recognition.

A Learning Culture - Encourage Mistakes, Process, Feedback and Discussions
We discussed how a culture of recognition will enable more engagement. Just as challenge and interest go in hand. The example of how Ramakanth Achrekar would use a coin to challenge and motivate net practice was discussed. But to think up such challenges, people have to be creative and really care for their wards. They must make things fun, challenging and tough and really care about the student's growth.

A couple of questions and we wound up the talk. I really enjoyed the entire experience. Thank you Yogesh, Nitin, Sandeep and all who attended the talk.

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