Social and Learned Helplessness in Learning

It’s been a few weeks since I first wrote about Learned Helplessness in Learning but it hasn’t once left my mind. Even last week had some familiar mentions of it but without the name.

What I gathered from DevLearn Tweets during Neil deGrasse Tyson’s keynote was that he spoke in part that kids are born scientists, but we beat it out of them.

That sounds familiar to Learned Helplessness in Learning. Kids are curious, heck, all ages of people are! As formal education takes hold many of the curiosities are beat out of them by rigid instructions. Some are lucky enough to escape with some curiosity left, but most are not.

So, it’s not specific to science. Kids are curious at all sorts of things including learning, but that goes away with years of discouraging exploration.

There’s all sorts of things that can lead to the non-interest of learning and not even trying to find the answer. I think I’m most interested in trying to find an answer on how to undue or at least encourage these long embedded habits.

So this time I’m exploring social as a solution to the problem.

Social Learning

This comes with its own set of challenges I admit, but it’s something that otherwise non-existent answers may come from.

I must be clear that I’m talking about social learning in the technological sense of the term. Places like Twitter or Yammer rather than the water cooler or lunch with colleagues (although it could apply there also).

Social is a great method to combat Learned Helplessness in Learning. While not the only method, and by no means a method that can be used alone, it will definitely assist in the change to self help.

Social makes the tools available for users to explore and learn on their own, unfortunately the problem is rarely a lack of resources. The problem in learned helplessness is the motivation for people to WANT to learn. Or at least the problem of feeling overwhelmed with the vast number of resources. Giving them the tools is only one piece of the puzzle, the easiest piece.

Social Motivation

The challenging part to social learning is motivation.

How do you motivate people to want to explore?

How do you make them feel less overwhelmed in an information rich environment?

Better yet, how do you motivate them not to default to calling a help-desk that costs you money?

Pushing that person to look beyond the obvious and do a bit of exploration is a hard sell. There are many distraction out there, laziness is in excess, and there’s usually a phone number that’s easier to find than the answer itself.

As you can see I don’t have a lot of answers on how to motivate people to be more social. All I can say is that you must find the benefit to that person. Make it easy to use and easy to find answers so they can do their job better.

I know for me, my motivation to be more social has been to learn beyond my job description, making myself indispensable in shifting times.

The popular Seek, Sense, Share framework and learning socially from Harold Jarche has been a driving force in my being more social. They are ways to find those answers and broaden your knowledge in a field you didn’t know you had interest in.

Call to Action

Learned helplessness in learning is a one way ticket to obsolescence in the marketplace. Being more social is one way to improve the chances that you, and coworkers, are not stuck within a bubble expecting others to bring things to you.

I challenge you to keep an eye out for those that refuse to explore and learn new things.

When you find somebody who is stuck in this rut, try to encourage action in working more socially. Encourage them to find answers outside their comfort zone and expanding those answers beyond what’s spoon fed from others.

Speak Up

I’d like to hear from you. What do you see as problems in learned helplessness in learning? Do you see any solutions for that?