Byron's Babbles

Explore Heuristically

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 6.23.02 PMThis past weekend at the kickoff of our Indy 3D Leadership Program for education leadership we did a session on norm building for our learning journey. I had put together a few example norms to get the juices flowing. One of the examples was #9. Explore Heuristically. This caused quite the discussion. Of course, that was my intent!

IMG_1857I have to give credit where credit is due on the thought of exploring heuristically. This came from my good friend and great graphic facilitator, Mike Fleisch. Everything he does as a facilitator is heuristic and I really respect that about him and have learned a lot from him on how to let learning happen organically.

The participants were working in groups, so of course the first thing was for the groups to define heuristic. This really gave them pause and made them think, because here are of some of the definitions:

  1.  Any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect (Wikipedia).
  2.  Often enough the search ends in no overt positive conclusion (Dictionary.com).
  3. Describing an approach to learning by trying without necessarily having an organized hypothesis or way of proving that the results proved or disproved the hypothesis. That is, “seat-of-the-pants” or “trial-by-error” learning (WhatIs.com).

IMG_1987Now let’s dig a little deeper. It is really deriving an answer from experience. In other words, enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves. So, wouldn’t it make sense to learn heuristically when in a group, from the experience of everyone in the group. This gives us the chance to explore the possibilities rather than a set of rules. Leadership learning developed by most organizations seems to be one where system developed provisions over-shadows individuals taking personal responsibility for their leadership learning. I believe we must endeavor to create a balance between organization and individual agendas, with the pendulum swung more toward the individual side. Amazingly, we talk a lot about differentiating and individualization of education for our students but we don’t do a very good job of it with adults. Furthermore, it has been my experience that adults really like to learn in the same way we learned when we were kids. Therefore, we should create more leadership learning models that make use of heuristic pedagogy and tools.

IMG_1949Let me share an example of an activity I used this past weekend. Participants were given a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head kit and told to build a model that represented and answered the question: Who Am I As A Leader Today? After giving participants time to think through create their models we then got in a circle and went around and had everyone explain why they built their model the way they did. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads are great to use for model building because of the many pieces and infinite ways to build them. Needless to say it was inspiring. Here are a few of examples of what was said:

IMG_1957To me this was a great model of heuristic learning. I designed this model building activity as a starting point only, intended to help leaders identify the state of their current knowledge about leadership as well as their future professional development needs. The Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head models were used to show his or her current leadership knowledge profile and the knowledge fields on which he or she will need to focus their learning in the future. Heuristically, the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head model building guided discovery and investigation. This allowed participants a rare chance for reflection. This reflection allowed participants to learn things about themselves and for themselves.

IMG_1958As opposed to traditional learning which usually employs facts, theories and postulations, heuristic learning involves testing, doing, practice, trying, and listening to others’ experiences. One of my heroes, Thomas Edison, was the ideal role model of learning heuristically. You all know the famous story of how Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb after 1000s of unsuccessful attempts. In fact we have all heard the quote from Edison when he said, “I have not failed 1000 times, but I have discovered 1000 ways how not to invent the light bulb.” Are you exploring heuristically? Better yet, how are you helping others explore heuristically?

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