driving school

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For many of us, the last time any of us learned something truly new was when we learned to drive

Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, says soft skills are the future. Humans cannot process data quicker than machines, so don’t try. Do what they can’t. Teamwork, influence, lead, and so on. He was talking about the future of AI and how we survive and win.

The challenge is that, for many of us, the last time any of us learned something truly new was when we learned to drive. And we did that by using an old piece of learning science called ‘spaced repetition’. It basically means do something, stop, go back and do some more. Many of us have been ‘sent’ on training courses and have gone home with the best of intentions to review that wonderful binder full of slides, notes and handouts. Six months later, we find it and sheepishly toss it into the bin. It feels like too much effort to get stuck into it all again.

So, what’s the answer? Is it books? Maybe. Each self-development book is about 60,000 words. Given an average reading speed of 225 words per minute, a book will take just under five hours to read. If we started at 9am, stopped for an hour for lunch, and a couple of short breaks, we’d finish at 3.30pm. That’s a large chunk of the day.

So, what is the answer? Well, I can recommend a great training provider! Alternatively, if you want to do it yourself, I recommend teaching others. Use these six simple steps:

  • Identify a soft skill you want to improve. Let’s say you want to be a better negotiator, and so do your colleagues.
  • Now identify a problem within that soft skill. What do most people struggle with when they think about negotiating? Preparation. They don’t know how, so they use PowerPoint. Very bad.
  • Find a tool to use. We offer a ‘squaredance’ template (Google it), and read, watch and listen to all you can about that tool.
  • Share what you have learnt with your team in a 60-minute session and encourage questions. Don’t use slides – they’re dull. Print the template many times and let them scribble on theirs.
  • Tell them that in session two, next week, “we’ll fill it out together on an upcoming real negotiation. And in session two we’ll agree what we do in session three.”
  • Look back at how much you have learnt. Why? Because no one wants to look an idiot in front of their peers!