I like stories–hearing them, telling them. A Gaelic proverb says a good tale’s no worse for being told twice (Cha mhisde sgeul mhath aithris da uair).
A story can be an example, or it can be an anecdote. Trouble looms when we generalize from anecdotes–individual instances, rather than a significant accumulation of data.
One of the points Jamais Cascio mentioned was science. To me, the essence of science involved observing, musing, predicting, checking…and trying again. As Isaac Asimov said, the key phrase is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny…” We notice something askew and start wondering about it.
When it comes to learning, and I think especially when it comes to training, we tend to lean more on anecdote rather than data. Will Thalheimer’s worked diligently to dispel myths about how much we learn through various means, but the legends will likely outlast him, me, and perhaps the nation.
If you work in areas related to learning, what do you do that’s based on data? What do you along the lines of observing your work in action: checking to see whether the things you anticipated turned out as expected? For me, there are few things more compelling that someone sharing what they tried, why they tried it, and what happened–or didn’t.
Ruth Colvin Clark has for years put learning principles to work. You can sometimes use her insights to be diplomatic, highlighting “cognitive load” rather than saying “there’s too much stuff here for anyone to pay attention to.”
Similarly, Clark Quinn regularly stresses the need to pay attention to how people work (and to try using what people have learned in the past).
All these things are instances of the great principle: the more we learn, the better we see what we don’t know.
The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surrounds us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view. A true scientist is bored by knowledge – it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him.
Matt Ridley, in Genome
Feathery anecdote photo by * Cati Kaoe *.