Taxonomy of learning & Jazz

Years ago in agency life I was in a pitch for a piece of inter-galactically large business. It brought together people from all seven continents. Rehearsals, refine, rehearsals, updates. A super slick pitch. Everyone knew their bit to the nearest minute. Our pitch proposition – “We are jazz not classical – we can ad-lib, flex around your needs as a client” …. The client loved it – so much so that 20 minutes into the 2 hour pitch they said “Great – we get it. Lets try and do it now. How do we reach small business owners? – 5 groups of 5. We can catch up again in 45 minutes and see how we all got on”. The true horror of Jazz had emerged.

What was fantastic was the client (no surprise – a tech business) realised that doing would be a far better way of finding out about us than us describing…. and they called it.

How do we learn, especially when things keep changing? The key is to “do” as quickly as possible

Not being afraid of the unknown. Not trying to create the perfect answer. Having the confidence to realise that there is no perfect answer will get you most of the way there and at that point you will be in the unknown again but moving firmly forwards.

So onto a favourite chap of mine, Benjamin Bloom. A mid century psychologist who held a belief that learning was not so much about content – but how we matched what we wanted to learn and do with how we learnt it. I like to think Benjamin would have let out a cheer in that pitch and probably referred to this as Mastery Learning.

In a nutshell he broke things into 5 states each one being a higher order that builds on the previous. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Blooms Taxonomy

1. Describe -Describe, tell, list, find name, what is it?

2. Understand – Explain, discuss, demonstrate, interpret

3. Apply – Use, complete, solve

4. Analyse – Recognise trends, identify issues

5. Evaluate – Judge, defend, choose, select

6. Create – Modify, use old concepts to create the new

The exciting stage is when people to start to move up to phase 3 – Doing. Its a word that comes up time and time again when people talk about success in changing markets. If one can move between apply and analyse and back to apply seamlessly, you’re really starting to change culture and approach.

Doing is tough, it takes time. Its not necessarily the most comfortable thing. As we all know it is far easier to sit round a table describing our worlds to each other. It is when we “do” that we really get the “Ahhhhhh – I see”. The challenge for many businesses is how they get people to apply the knowledge, the things we read about, the people we talk to – see if it works – not be worried if it doesn’t at first, but at least start to get up on your feet.


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