How do you remember what you learn?


Professional development should be viewed as process,
not an event. Anybody who thinks that by simply going to the occasional
professional development event (eg workshop, conference, etc.) that they
will develop their capability to any significant extent, is kidding


Maximising professional development is all about what
you do   with what you have learned. Knowledge, just sitting inside
your head, very quickly dissipates, as the research proves.

The research on retention of learning goes back to
the nineteenth century with
Hermann Ebbinghaus,  
a German psychologist
(1850-1909), who created a way to assess the rate at which people


Ebbinghaus found the rate to be
highly predictable, and completely dependent upon repetition and
reinforcement. Psychologists now call this the ‘forgetting” curve’.


Ebbinghaus discovered that when
we acquire a new idea, much of our forgetting occurs right away. A
significant amount of information is forgotten within twenty minutes of
learning it; over half the material learned is forgotten within 60
minutes. Almost two thirds of what we learn within a day is forgotten.


In other words, if information
is retained for a day, you have given yourself a good opportunity of
retaining that knowledge in the long term. Even better is when you
revisit the material for consecutive days to reinforce the learning.
This maximises your chances of retaining that knowledge long term (as
represented by the graph, below).




Jim Rohn  , one of the
acknowledged pioneers of the personal development industry, more
eloquently stated the issue like this:


We intend to take action when the idea strikes us.
We intend to do something when the emotion is high. But if we don’t
translate that intention into action fairly soon, the urgency starts to
diminish. A month from now the passion is cold. A year from now it can’t
be found.


So take action. Set up a discipline when the
emotions are high and the idea is strong, clear, and powerful.   If
somebody talks about good health and you’re motivated by it, you need to
get a book on nutrition. Get the book before the idea passes, before the
emotion gets cold. Begin the process. Fall on the floor and do some
push-ups. You’ve got to take action; otherwise the wisdom is wasted. The
emotion soon passes unless you apply it to a disciplined activity.
Discipline enables you to capture the emotion and the wisdom and
translate them into action.


Sounds simple but it’s not necessarily easy.


I have worked with over 100 individuals undertaking
personal coaching programs with me. The overall success of each coaching
program in generating improved performance is easy for me to predict;
the clients that take immediate action after a coaching session  ,
based on their insights and commitments from that session, are those
that gain maximum benefit from the coaching program.


Those who attend each session but have taken little
or no action between the sessions, gain only a fraction of what is
possible had they taken consistent action each week.


The major discipline I have in place to maximise my
own learning is a simple one – to write it down. My weekly production of
InSight is, of course, about keeping my personal brand front-of mind
with existing and potential clients but it is also a strong and powerful
habit that forces me to review my learning for the week and capture it
in a way that is useful, for both myself and you, the reader.


You may have noticed that after attending any
conference  , I write an article   about that conference based on a
specific theme or what a speaker has shared (recent examples being

The Number 1 Trust
Builder: Being Present

Gut feeling,
evidence and the Moneyball effect: Lessons from ATC 2012


Social Media: The
future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades


If I read a book   then I write about the
insights I gained from that book (recent examples being Lessons from
Linkedin’s Reid Hoffman:

The future’s in
network literacy

Thin-slicing: How Malcolm Gladwell
demystified one of my skills


If I read a piece of research   or an
interesting report then I articulate how that research or report might
be relevant to my readership (recent examples being 

Australian swimming review: How an
unchecked ‘star’ culture destroys a team

The grass is not greener: Why star
recruits rarely shine


When I work with my clients   I often find
myself working with them on an issue that has broader relevance beyond
their own business. This prompts me to write about that issue (recent
examples being

Are you overworking your jobs?


Should they stay or should they go?


If I have a personal experience   that I think
contains some lessons for other people then I will share my
emotion/insights/lessons from that experience to help others to whom it
is relevant (recent examples being

How not to use
LinkedIn: Lessons for recruiters (and other self-promoters)


Email marketing: Are
you annoying people and trashing your brand?


Here are my suggestions as to how you can reinforce
your own learnings: 

  • Keep a professional development journal (hand
    written or soft copy)
  • Write a regular blog
  • Share with your colleagues (informally at a
    meeting or formally by running a training session)
  • Record your learnings (voice memos or video on
    smart phones is an easy way to do this)
  • Have a regular time scheduled in your week to
    ‘have a coffee with yourself’ to review training, conference notes
    and other learnings

Some managers and owners have shared with me how they
use the weekly structure of my InSight newsletters as a prompt for their
team’s weekly professional development. Simply put, each team member is
required to attend a weekly team meeting having read InSight and with a
view as to what (if any) action should or could be taken by themselves
(or the team as a whole) to improve their own performance or the overall
team performance.


What should you   do?


It all boils down to one thing; to repeat the wisdom
of Jim Rohn:


So take action.  
Set up a discipline when the emotions are high and the idea is
strong, clear, and powerful  


  1. Schadd Montgomery on 01/05/2013 at 11:40 pm

    Good stuff Ross. I continually talk to our consultants right from their induction training and at each subsequent session about installing the information learnt by repetition and practice (reading, speaking and doing) My analogy is thinking of your favourite song. The first time you heard it you didn't know the lyrics so you listened hard…after the hundredth time you can now sing along word for word…even without the song playing. American Pie on Kareoke anyone? @SchaddM

  2. Ross Clennett on 01/05/2013 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks Schadd. I love the analogy of the favourite song. You are exactly right. Cue 'On a dark desert highway. Cool wind in my hair…….'

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