Article (March-2018)


Life long learning : some basic considerations

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Designation : -   Internationally Acclaimed Management Expert. Chairman, DK International Foundation

Organization : -  


A day before I got down to writing these lines, I was at a Board meeting of one of the companies of a major industrial group. It is a high powered Board. Like many such Boards, the proceedings are often peppered up with mirth, anecdotes and reflections. A former Chairman of a major bank, well connected, narrated a party at his home a week ago where his son (aged 37) had invited 9 of his school contemporaries for dinner. With a sense of semi confusion, regret and pensiveness, he remarked, "8 of the 9 were either divorced or were undergoing divorce proceedings."
The epidemic is clearly catching on and the National Health Care systems have progressed well to at least recognise mental illnesses, but are nowhere near even recognising the illnesses of relationships which is the seedbed of much of physical ailments. So be it.
The purpose of these lines is not to reflect on how vows of eternal commitment crumble. One obvious reason is that vows when taken were neither done seriously nor even understood. The author of these lines has spent a lifetime practising to do what he says and even say what he does. Like everything else that is done, there were price tags to it. He has paid it stoically if not cheerfully. That is another story. The core proposition is that there are certain bedrocks of growing and learning. One of them has been, is and will always remain the determination of being honourable in all that one says and does. This process has to be learnt very early in life. Teaching doesn't help much. The parents have to live it. The route of learning lies not only in pre-natal experiences but in early childhood and youth internalisations of observed behaviour.
When middle - aged women start reliving the script their mothers used, the point is often lost because the victims of this behaviour have no access, documentation or recall of the script from which the person is borrowing. The chain goes on transferring it to the next generation of women in the family with little incremental learning. Changes are slow, in the template. This paradigm applies to men also.
The above narrative flags two transgenerational building blocks of learning. There are others also.
Given the limitations of time and space, the author would like to quickly move to the other spectrum of learning.
There is a lot of learning needed because disruption as a process has become far too common to even make sense of it. Hence, first ability at learning is to make sense of the bewildering flux all that goes around us.
The most visible flux is technological. Perhaps the most subtle one is relationships. Referring back to the earlier reference to divorces, one has to recognise how the nature of the institution of marriage itself has undergone so much change. There was never a time when two or three people sitting together spent more time and attention listening to and talking to a machine than to each other. This machine is the evolved version of the telephone and sometimes is also referred to as the 'smart version'!
More can be said on it but that can wait. Three observations on learning before concluding:
One is it has to be recognised in far more operational terms that there is a cognitive deluge overtaking knowledge management domain. The load has immensely increased. The pace is not even measured and unfortunately the evolution of the brain is not always in sync with the demands being currently, made. Obviously, this kind of a statement is rooted in the acceptance of a bottom-line of brain's operational capacities.
The second is the progressive crumbling of conventional disciplinary boundaries and limited competence in coping with transdisciplinarity. Commerce is no longer just commerce but so much of programing. Botany leans heavily on theories of structure to make sense of even, plant evolution. Management practitioners have to recognise modes of philosophy. The list can go on.
The third consideration is the dramatic changes in the processes of learning itself. There is a fast paced learning evolution going on and one is often required to prepare for multiple careers in one span of employment possibility.
The above having being said, perhaps the answers lie in recognising that the learning process has itself acquired many characteristics of a discipline in its own right. This should not be confused with training in teaching. The HR profession will do itself a favour by coming to grips with these concerns of life long learning. This may prove to be an important breakthrough in the ability to live without agitation within oneself. It may prove a breakthrough if not only in the act of understanding life but the process of living it. Living an experience meaningfully and constructively is not only a matter of material resources but, also, that subtle art of growing cognitively and thoughtfully.