Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 11

SCIENCE OF LEARNING
SRINI PILLAY, M.D.

FORMALIZING
INFORMAL LEARNING:
TINKER DABBLE DOODLE TRY

When you learn formally, you make deliberate
attempts at attending, concentrating,
memorizing, retaining and applying
information. This learning method can be
very helpful in certain situations. However,
while formal learning is important, there
can be distinct disadvantages as to how
useful it is on the job.
The importance of informal learning is
addressed in my book, "Tinker Dabble
Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the
Unfocused Mind." Here are a few
advantages of informal learning:

CREATE DOWNTIME
SO THAT PEOPLE CAN
GIVE THEIR BRAINS
ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE
CONNECTIONS.
Informal learning helps you utilize your
brain energy effectively. Focused, formal
learning may keep you on point, but
it will also tax your brain and can even
disengage you.
Informal learning adds intuition. When you
learn formally, you stay on task. While this
is helpful, it can also be myopic compared
to a wandering mind that stumbles upon
an insight through informal learning. For
instance, learning how to analyze big
data can be helpful. Yet, you still need the
intuition to prioritize massive amounts of
information. Informal learning can help you
develop these intuitions.
Informal learning helps you to anticipate
the future. Formal learning keeps you
embedded in what is - not what could

be. You may learn what customers want
now by learning the principles of customer
experience, but unless you let your mind
wander informally into the future, you will
not be responsive to changing priorities.
Informal learning helps innovative
thinking. Formal learning may limit
your ability to make connections, whereas
informal learning can connect you to ideas
not addressed in a typical curriculum. For
instance, a client of mine recognized that
luxury motorcycle dealers were learning all
that they could about their competition.
However, they neglected to understand
that luxury watch brands were also their
competitors, as they offer alternatives for
the luxury buyer.
Informal learning may feel more relevant.
When your mind wanders with informal
learning, you feel more self-connected
because, in the brain, self-circuits overlap
with "unfocused" circuits.
FORMALIZING INFORMAL LEARNING
How do you formalize informal learning?
The key is to create downtime so that people
can give their brains enough time to make
the connections they couldn't during formal
learning experiences. You can create this
downtime in the following ways:
Naps: Ten to 15 minutes of napping, for
instance, can give you one to three hours
of clarity to enhance formal learning. You
can even formalize napping policies and/or
provide nap pods, as companies like Google
and Zappos do.
Doodling: Providing employees with doodle
pads to use while listening to conference

calls can also create valuable downtime. A
study by Jackie Andrade and her colleagues
found that doodling improved memory
by 29%. While this may not prove true in
all cases, doodling could make the brain,
metaphorically, less rigid, so it can better
absorb the learning at hand.
Becoming an actor: There is a technique
that I call "psychological halloweenism." It
involves people learning by embodying the
personality of a person who could solve a
problem. One study showed that this can
help you become more creative. Say, for
example, you wanted to solve a problem
related to marketing. You could embody the
personality of a speaker or singer who draws
large crowds to spark new ideas around
audience engagement. You could try this
out at a team innovation meeting.
Group outings: Group outings that teach
collaboration through food sharing, strategy
through gaming or social cohesion through
group challenges can also create downtime.
Overall, formalizing informal learning is
crucial and can be captured through activity
assessments, idea tanks, online insight
sharing tools and/or feedback devices.
When you formalize informal learning
by building unstructured thinking into
employees' daily lives, and then document
the outcomes, you take full advantage of
the brain. As a result, the learning feels
self-directed, relevant and engaging.
Dr. Srini Pillay is the CEO of NeuroBusiness
Group. He is also assistant professor (part-time)
at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the
executive education programs at Harvard
Business School and Duke CE. Email Srini.

T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MAGAZ INE -FORMALIZ ING INFORMAL L E ARNI NG 2 019 I W W W .T RAI NI NGI NDU S T RY .C OM/ MAGAZI NE

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Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019

Thinking More Broadly About How Adults Learn
Table of Contents
Mentoring: 4 Keys To Making it a Meaningful Learning Experience
Formalizing Informal Learning: Tinker Dabble Doodle Try
The Accidental Learner
Percolating Builds Depth
Coaching is a Cop-Out
Close More Deals With Story Selling
Partnering for the Power of Knowledge: How Can Knowledge Sharing Foster Collaboration Among L&D and Employees?
Organizational Resiliency: a Function of Leader Adaptability and Versatility
Rules of Engagement for by Laura Francis Mentoring Reverse
Steps to Formally Make The Informal Part of Your Content Strategy
The Play's the Thing': The Power of Story-Based Learning
Fujitsu’s Experiment With Peer Coaching Pays Off
How to be Authentic When Collaborating on Multicultural Virtual Teams
Making the Case for Informal Learning at Work
Formalizing Informal Learning to Improve Performance
Making Learning Fun Again
Investing in the Future of the Worker, Not Just the Future of Work
Company News
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Cover1
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 2
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Thinking More Broadly About How Adults Learn
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Table of Contents
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 5
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 6
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 7
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 8
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Mentoring: 4 Keys To Making it a Meaningful Learning Experience
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 10
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Formalizing Informal Learning: Tinker Dabble Doodle Try
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 12
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - The Accidental Learner
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 14
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Percolating Builds Depth
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Coaching is a Cop-Out
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 17
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 18
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 19
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Close More Deals With Story Selling
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 21
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 22
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 23
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Partnering for the Power of Knowledge: How Can Knowledge Sharing Foster Collaboration Among L&D and Employees?
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 25
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 26
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 27
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 28
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Organizational Resiliency: a Function of Leader Adaptability and Versatility
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 30
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 31
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Rules of Engagement for by Laura Francis Mentoring Reverse
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 33
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 34
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 35
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Steps to Formally Make The Informal Part of Your Content Strategy
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 37
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 38
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 39
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - The Play's the Thing': The Power of Story-Based Learning
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 41
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 42
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 43
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Fujitsu’s Experiment With Peer Coaching Pays Off
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 45
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - How to be Authentic When Collaborating on Multicultural Virtual Teams
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 47
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 48
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 49
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 50
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Making the Case for Informal Learning at Work
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 52
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Formalizing Informal Learning to Improve Performance
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - 54
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Making Learning Fun Again
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Investing in the Future of the Worker, Not Just the Future of Work
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Company News
Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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