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The Only Way to Learn from Experience…

Seth Godin wrote in a recent blog post that ‘… the only way to learn from experience is to have different experiences.’

This same notion could be expressed in a number of different ways:

  • If you do the same thing over and over, you’ll get the same result every time; and
  • In the words of Albert Einstein, the only source of knowledge is experience.

I agree with these sentiments, but… I would strenuously add one critical dimension.

I work as an experiential educator and I frequently help people distinguish the powerful difference between ‘learning by doing’ and ‘experiential learning.’ As shared in Episode 37 (scheduled 18 June 2019) of the Facilitator Tips video series, these two educational paradigms are not the same thing. An element of reflection is the key distinguishing feature.

To this end, I would add that the only way to learn from experience is to have different experiences AND to reflect between each of them. Remove the process of reflection, and all you’re left with a lot of doing, even if it is all different.

You know what they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. The doing is not enough. Nor is it enough to simply do a lot of different doings. The key to learning is the reflection which takes place before, during and after these different experiences.

The process of performing a series of different actions, exploring what is possible, is the essence of education and learning. This search for possibility in the context of education is also discussed in this article.

Do you agree?

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About Mark Collard

I'm an experiential trainer, keynote speaker & author of three best-selling books. As the founder and director of playmeo, I am passionate about building connections through play.

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