CIO Leadership Stories - Learning to Learn

Share on LinkedIn1Tweet about this on Twitter6Share on Google+0Share on Facebook0

My family and I just returned from a week long spring break trip to Colorado.  I’m very thankful for the opportunity to take a long break, as it’s great to spend that much time with family and friends, and it is also a good recharge.  Also, several hours on ski lifts provide some good thinking time.  This is the first of three leadership stories I’ve been reflecting on in the brisk mountain air.  I hope they provide some inspiration for you and your teams.

I Hated Snow

Growing up, we took very few vacations to cold places.  Maybe an occasional trip to New York to see relatives, but nothing much focused on winter sports or activities.  Maybe it was because my parents grew up in the northeast and were tired of all the snow?  In any case, we were more into warmer weather vacations.  As a result, aside from one attempt as a kid, I never skied until I was in college - a friend and I went to Heavenly in California/Nevada and hit a blizzard.  Miserable doesn’t describe it.  I forgot to mention that in addition to my bad skiing experiences, I also was without much of a left ACL or much cartilage.  I wrote off snow skiing.

However, my wife had different ideas - at least for the rest of my family.  She had some great experiences growing up skiing and wanted our two boys to have the same.  So, about six years ago we (she?) planned a trip to Squaw Valley, California for skiing.  Me?  I became the Sherpa.

This wasn’t going to work very much longer cause I know we were going to be a skiing family, with or without me.

The first step to accepting this reality was to get my knee fixed.  I found a good doc and had my ACL repaired at 40.  Despite all of the things I read and stories I heard, it wasn’t a terrible experience.  I only had about 2 days of major pain but the results have been well worth it - several years of skiing and weekly basketball since.

The next step was to learn to ski.  This actually came in the way of a business trip.

More Than One Way to Ski

If you spend any time around the slopes, you have certainly seen the crowds of instructors in their blue or red jackets every morning waiting for their students.  Once they get organized, the rest of the ski school day is filled with columns of Pied Pipers singing their tunes.  Strangely, most of their training metaphors are food based - peanut butter & jelly, pizza and french fries.  Anyway, the first lesson or two I took as a child were focused on the “pizza” - the dreaded snowplow.  While this maneuver provides a lot of control it is also pretty tiring, slow and very goofy looking.

Thanks to a wintertime meeting in Colorado a few years ago, I was introduced to a different way called Direct Parallel invented by Harold Harb.  This method focuses on learning the parallel ski carving moves from day-1 in a progression instead of learning and unlearning the wedge.  I’m not sure why, but my brain could wrap around this approach much better, and I WANTED to ski more after just a half-day lesson.

As a father of two distinctly unique boys, I’ve observed first-hand that people learn differently through the same basic teaching approach at the same school.  One of my sons is a very visual learner (like me) and the other learns by reading and memorization.  What is also important is that different teaching approaches can accelerate your learning and increase your interest and retention.

More Than One Way to Learn

Thinking through my appreciation of my wife for (indirectly) pushing me into skiing, Harold Harb and the instructor Bob, I can’t help but try to apply this to our work.  What kinds of things do you think would be productive, interesting or fun but have never stuck in your organization?  Here are a few possibilities:

Maybe they haven’t worked for you and your organization because you just haven’t found the right approach or instructor?

Share on LinkedIn1Tweet about this on Twitter6Share on Google+0Share on Facebook0
  • Nalneesh Gaur

    Recently like many other fans, we also watched the Winter Olympics and I was personally awed by two personalities - Apolo Ohno and Lindsey Vaughn who overcame all possible odds to win golds and beat many records.

    I grew in a tropical country and snow is not exactly my idea of fun either. But like most parents, we also want out kids to enjoy and learn from new experiences. Skiing is one of those sports that we have been procrastinating for many years now. I don’t know how to Ski but I am now inspired to learn it after reading your note and watching my new heroes on TV.

    I guess its not too late to learn…. I will give it a try and let you know how it goes…