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Systems to help you thrive

The Kuang Si Falls, sometimes spelled Kuang Xi or known as Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls, is a three levelled waterfall about 29 kilometres south of Luang Prabang. Breathtaking cascades of water make the Kuang Si one of Luang Prabang

In response to the pandemic, we started having weekly meetings for the Learn and Get Smarter community, to brainstorm and support each other in helping our businesses -- and especially our online courses -- survive and thrive during these challenging times.

Over the past several months during these weekly meetings, we've been using the structure of a cognitive strategies course (learning how to learn), as a container to help us organize our collective thoughts. 

Trello board showing brainstorming ideas for our cognitive strategies course

The question we've been focusing on is:

How can we best learn how to survive and thrive, on all levels,

during these challenging times?

What's emerged over time from our group discussions, is that SYSTEMS THINKING is a very helpful cognitive strategy that we can apply to our lives on all levels during these times of chaos, complexity, and disruption.

At the community meeting on July 11th, 2020 we experienced powerful synergy as we shared what's been working well for us during these unprecedented times.

With so much bad news out there these days, it was uplifting and inspiring to hear what's been working WELL for community members during the pandemic.

Looking at our lives from a wholistic perspective, on all levels from the physical to the social/emotional to the financial to the spiritual, some of the positive developments that community members shared include:

  • Developing improved systems for basic physical survival functions like getting groceries through Instacart
  • Having more time for projects such as reading, cleaning, and personal development
  • Seeing family more often than before via regular online meetings
  • Younger family members teaching older ones by sharing digital products through screen sharing
  • Exploring creative ways to interact socially, such as through Air B n B's online experiences
  • Having more efficient business meetings
  • Being able to accomplish more in our businesses, virtually than is possible in person
  • Not polluting the planet through unnecessary car and plane travel

Community member Rob Ruder has taught us about how systems work, and explained different types of feedback loops (balancing loops vs. reinforcing loops) that operate in systems.

Balancing systems establish a fixed amount of capacity that throttles new inflows coming in to the system. A coaching program (which can only allow as many clients as the coach has hours available) is an example of a balancing system. Rob explains that balancing feedback is GOAL oriented. The prime example is the thermostat in a house. You set the thermostat where you want it to be and it controls whether additional heat is added to the house or not in order to maintain the target temperature. Your GOAL is to maintain a specific temperature, and the thermostat's balancing system is designed to do that.

Reinforcing systems allow continual increase  in the amount of new flows coming in to the system. An online course (which can have an unlimited number of students enrolled) is an example of a reinforcing system. Rob points out that reinforcing feedback is GROWTH oriented. Inflows into the system create more in a continually reinforcing feedback loop, which continues until the system runs into a balancing feedback system.

Globally, in terms of increasing production and pollution and so forth, we've had a continually growth-oriented reinforcing system since the end of World War Two, but now have hit  limits of the planetary stock of oxygen vs. CO2 and so on...which triggered a balancing feedback loop in the form of the pandemic.The planet was getting out of balance.... so eventually, a balancing feedback loop imposed itself on the global ecosystem, enforcing behaviors (such as drastic reductions in travel and production) that allow for better maintenance of critical planetary systems such as temperature control.  The pandemic has produced tremendous disruption for individuals and businesses and communities, but may work well for the planet as a whole.

In our own lives, we also see interactions between balancing and reinforcing systems. We like and need the stability that balancing systems help us maintain. But too much stability can lead to stagnation, burnout, and boredom, which impell us toward a desire for disruption and growth.

While it can be painful to have our routines and lives disrupted, there can also be benefits.

We learned the term "purposeful chaos", where disruption serves as a catalyst for growth, helping us challenge ourselves as we find new ways to adapt to the conditions around us.

We decided that next week, we will start to build a community document or template for sharing ideas, methods, systems, tips and tricks that we have each discovered, that help us survive and thrive in these challenging times.

This is an ongoing collaborative  process… come and be part of it!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Click on the green button to register for the meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Learning how to cope with challenging times

egg cracking open with light coming from inside it

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary learning and extraordinary thought. We are all on an accelerated learning curve just trying to cope with what's going on around us every day.

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, June 6th, 2020 we will explore societal and global solutions to the problems we are all facing. Are there models that have worked, to overcome the types of society-wide challenges we face? Are there methods of thinking that can help us bring in new solutions, not only to new pandemic problems (like Coronavirus) but to old endemic ones (like racism)?

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Click on the green button to register for the meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


 We need systems of healthcare, food distribution, financial wellbeing, education, housing, justice, and all other aspects of life, that honor the needs, the rights, and the inherent nobility of every member of society.

We need to let go of old ways of being and doing things that do not work, and that impact us all in negative ways.

Here's a summary of our work in the community meetings over the past several months.

(Click on the screenshots of the Trello boards to enlarge).

1) We used the structure of a mindset change course to brainstorm how to survive and thrive under challenging conditions


trello mindset course screenshot


We discovered that while mindset change is important, it's not ENOUGH to help us cope. 

2) We then explored using the structure of  a "how-to" course, to see if what we need to do is develop new skills 


Would learning new skills be the answer to surviving and thriving under conditions of uncertainty? We discovered that the answer was, once again, no.


We might indeed need to develop new skills. But skills alone are not enough to get us through.


Like having the right mindset, learning new skills might be PART of a strategy we can use to survive and thrive, but they are not the WHOLE strategy.

3) We realized that what is needed is a COGNITIVE STRATEGY.


trello questions screenshot

We needed to find ways to LEARN HOW TO LEARN about what will help us survive and thrive in these unprecedented times. Having the right mindset, and learning new skills, are important PARTS of the cognitive strategy. But we also need more: we need to learn new ways of thinking.

Community members generously shared their expertise about complex ways of thinking, such as mind-mapping, the Cynefin Framework, and Systems Theory. We explored ways of holding different (and sometimes opposing) ideas in relationship to each other. 
We related these ideas to our own experiences of life under  current conditions on all levels, from the personal to the communal to the global.

The result is  a collaboratively-developed cognitive strategy we are working on to empower ourselves and each other to find ways to fulfill our business missions under conditions of uncertainty, especially with respect to teaching online.

One of the highlights of the Saturday morning meetings has been hearing from members of the Learn and Get Smarter community about how they are adapting their products and services to meet the needs of their target audiences in these challenging times.

The creativity and innovation of this group is inspiring to us all!

cognitive strategies course screenshot

We are still exploring this process, especially on the societal and global scales. As societies struggle to reinvent themselves in ways that work better for all their members, we can look for role models that have worked effectively to overcome large scale challenges. For example, we can explore the methods South Korea used to contain the pandemic, and the methods South Africa used to democratize their social structure despite a history of racial oppression and inequality. 

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

As a leading-edge thought leader committed to teaching online in transformational ways,  you are a different kind of front-line worker. You are at the forefront of helping people learn and get smarter online, and my mission is to provide products and services that help you do that.  

Come to the community meeting on Saturday June 6th as we explore social and global systems that might work better than those that are crumbling around us now.  

And keep in mind that if you'd like to make this the summer you get your transformational course online to support the people you are here to serve, the Course Design Formula® Master Course starts June 16th. Write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com if you would like to learn more.

Developing a cognitive strategies course

People untangling a ball of yarn together

At last Saturday's community meeting, we discussed the questions can we ask ourselves, that will help us survive and thrive under all conditions, and especially, the conditions we are all dealing with now in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We decided to use the questions we came up with, to develop a sample cognitive strategies ("learning how to learn") course as a group. That's what we will work on at next week's community meeting.
 

With profound thanks to everyone who attended for their participation and insightful contributions, here are some of the important questions we came up with as a group:

  •  How can we have  balanced healthy lives under any conditions?
  • How can we have thriving businesses that support our lives in a way that is balanced?
  •  How can we allow equal time for ourselves and the people that we're here to serve?

We decided that we will now ask ourselves the following powerful question:

How does my mission continually align with my clients’ desires and what they are willing to pay for? 

How do I ensure this going forward under all conditions?

Finding effective answers to such questions, especially under conditions of uncertainty such as we are facing now, is not an easy task. This is deep work, the work of learning at the most fundamental level.

(Remember that learning means adapting to conditions in ways that promote and optimize well-being and survival).

The stakes are very high: for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the planet as a whole.

Come help us develop effective learning strategies that can help us find answers to these and other important questions.

Join us next Saturday!

many people online in a conference call

We will start to actually BUILD our group

 cognitive strategy ("learning how to learn") course


In a complex and unprecedented situation where no one has all the answers (or sometimes, ANY answers), working collectively can help us find solutions we would not have been able to find on our own.

I'm creating a Google doc with the questions we came up with at last week's meeting, and will share it via email with those on the Learn and Get Smarter email list. We can keep adding questions to consider, as we think of them.

You may enjoy this enlightening article from Harvard Business Review, on how businesses can approach decision making when faced with complex, unpredictable, and unprecedented systems.

People untangling a ball of yarn together

For the next few days, think about  questions to ask yourself in YOUR business, that will help you adapt to a complex and unpredictable environment.

Then come join us next Saturday as we start exploring answers in the form of a cognitive strategies course we can create together!