Rekindling a learning culture in Africa
When I was younger, I remember how eagerly I looked forward to my aunt’s stories. She would tell them as she was cooking and I helping, or when we were sitting idly after eating, or before bed. They were so much fun to hear and made strong impressions - some moved me to tears, some made me vow to take revenge on characters in the story who weren’t kind to the main character, others made me think “I want to be like that person in the story when I grow up.”
I am not an anthropologist or historian, so my knowledge of the complexities involved in oral traditions is limited. I only have my experience and observations which inform my take on what we can do to rekindle and reshape that innate love for learning in our African contexts, but it seems there are others thinking in a similar direction.
Oral traditions were means, if not the means, of sharing knowledge and stimulating learning about different aspects of life. It has been the way we learned how to build homes, about seasons, about interpersonal relations, how to rear children, and so much more.
Currently, the prevailing feeling about talent is that we do not have a strong learning culture as defined by western standards of books and courses, therefore we tend to not move as fast as other employees in other countries do. This is likely an outcome of multiple factors, but I’d like to look at it from the learning point of view.
Oral traditions have been the backbone of our learning as a culture and I believe finding ways to reintegrate them into learning strategies in organizations is one way we can begin to rekindle a learning culture. This opens up to loads of opportunities for crafting different learning experiences that can make meaningful changes.
Don’t just throw the contents of a bucket into a fire - it might be gasoline
Working a solution to completion only to find that it did not do what it was supposed to is as disappointing as waiting in the wrong line at the bank. What a waste of time!
This is why Risper’s encouragement to gain a thorough understanding of a problem before proposing a learning intervention stuck with me. Often, in organization, the shortest and fastest routes are preferred, which is understandable because time is a limited resource and time is money (so someone said). Yet, when we consider that we desire lasting and effective outcomes, we find that they demand we take more time to hone down on various parts of this problem and address them one by one. I’ve been subjected to retreats to fix team work, training in the form of PowerPoint presentations to fix time management issues, and so on. None of these interventions lasted past the last day of the training and I am sure there are more people with these kinds of experiences. It turns out that quick and fast solutions can be huge wastes of time.
Risper encourages a careful examination and addressing of possible confounding factors before deploying a learning solution. At the same time, I am a fan of iterations during a process, so learning more about a problem as the process of addressing it unfolds is another way of going about it.
Interesting articles I found
As I thought more about my conversation with Risper and snooped around the internet for related thoughts around the issues of learning, I found interesting articles that gave me good food for thought. Here they are:
Becoming a Learn it All - Satya Nadella in conversation with Adam Grant
What’s Worth Learning in School
Oral Traditions and Civic Duties