Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with ABHIJIT BHADURI

Abhijit Bhaduri is today’s featured STAR in my Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.

ABOUT ABHIJIT BHADURI
Chief Learning Officer @ Wipro, Author and an Eternal Student. A more detailed bio can be found here. You can follow Abhijit on Twitter OR Stop by his blog .

THE RENDEZVOUS
How can a discussion with the Chief Learning Officer not be about learning?
Nischala: Good Morning Abhijit! Thanks for your time for this Rendezvous
Abhijit: Pleasure is mine

Nischala: So Abhijit, let’s start with a very basic question – In your view, why is learning important?
Abhijit: In today’s day and age, most knowledge comes with an expiry date. Be it your educational qualifications, professional knowledge and expertise or even soft skills / life skills. In the past, a formal college degree had a longer shelf life. Today, things are changing rapidly, new things are being discovered and hence it becomes important to make continuous learning a focus and priority in both your personal and professional life. With time, there’s obsolescence in what we have learnt in the past. And over a period of time, the level of obsolescence will definitely increase.

Take the scenario of medical science. Even a few years back, the number of diseases known was limited. So if a doctor had knowledge in these ailments and knowledge & experience in how to identify and cure them, the doctor was effective. However, today the nuances associated with diseases has increased manifold and so also the nature and type of solutions for each of these medical ailments. Hence, it becomes important for doctors to learn continuously. And you can extrapolate this analogy to any discipline and you will see that continuous learning is key!

For learning, you need to make space in your mind. It’s important NOT to hold on to the past. It requires un-learning and re-learning. You need to be able to bring in and assimilate new information in your mind.

For e.g: I read that the cause of ulcer is not stress, but a bacterium. Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren did extensive research on this and also won the Nobel prize for their discovery of “the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease” (For further reading, refer http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2005/press.html , http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9576387/ns/health-health_care/t/two-australians-win-nobel-prize-medicine/ ). Even though this research was given the Nobel Prize in 2005, even today in 2012 after about 7 years it’s still not been a part of mainstream adoption in medical science. So current research and findings are making old notions obsolete, but there’s a definite time lag to mass propagation of information and acceptance…

So it’s important to make learning a part and priority in your life

Nischala: How can one make learning a part of your life?
Abhijit: In my view, the most effective ways are:
1) Do the exact opposite of what you usually do – For e.g.: If you’re an engineer who enjoys logic and logical things try doing something you are not naturally drawn towards. Explore fine arts, design, classical music, photography, watch an abstract movie from a creative director you’ve never seen / heard of, watch a movie in a language you don’t know. Or if you are an artist/ writer, try to read or study about finance, economics or math. Even trying to attempt something like this will be met with internal inertia. It is TOUGH to push yourself beyond the known frontiers. So by doing what you don’t usually do, you constantly challenge yourself. In the long run, you learn and build your ability to hold diverse points of view

2) Engage and Interact with a wide and diverse group of people – And by diversity, I mean diversity in age, socio-economic background, professions. For e.g.: Usually younger people deal with older people or vice-versa in social gatherings or when they don’t have a choice. What I am suggesting is to actively seek the company of people / groups who are different from you. Be open to talk, express, communicate and have a meaningful interaction – Observe and learn. Learning is really about getting questioned and questioning your own beliefs and information. And this is usually hard for many of us as we create a static world and are cocooned in it.

3. Pursuit of hobbies – I find this a truly admirable trait in individuals. And active and serious pursuit of a hobby can be a phenomenal learning experience – It can be a new language, cuisine, art, craft, etc. Embracing even a hobby in totality is a metaphor for learning.
We all have unconscious biases. Normally, we don’t like to challenge ourselves, struggle or move out of the comfort zone. So initially the pursuit of a new hobby will compel you to move out of your comfort zone, and over a period of time, you should enjoy doing it. The process itself helps us to learn

Nischala: So, any specific individual / person who stands out in your mind when it comes to learning?
Abhijit: The best example is of my neighbor when I was living in the US. In my assessment, she was probably in her late 60’s. Soon after she became a grandmother, she enrolled in a community college to complete her education. The fact was that after school, she had never really been to any educational institute because of her family commitments, mortgage, other responsibilities, etc. I truly admired her spirit to learn and not only did she complete her graduation, but I heard that now she has enrolled for a Post-Graduation as well.

Nischala: Do you think age has any influence of one’s ability to learn?
Abhijit: Learning has nothing to do with age. It is an individual orientation. The best example I can cite is of Daniel Kahneman who is close to 75+ years old is still doing some cutting edge research. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential living psychologists. You should watch his TED Video

I believe that learning is the key in the journey of life. Like I said before, the whole process of doing something new / something out of your comfort zone is in itself a learning process. You need to re-jig your calendar, space and life for this new activity. Let’s say you want to take up reading and many will say they don’t have time to do this. To me, this is a reflection of attitude towards learning than just shortage of time. And changing your attitude towards learning is also a self-learning process

Nischala: How do you personally ensure that you are learning?
Abhijit: I find Twitter to be a great learning platform. I figured out early in the game that the trick was to follow the RIGHT people. And the fewer the better – I usually keep the number of people I follow to less than 40 and constantly review the list. Among the 40 I follow, they are great curators of information and knowledge that I am personally interested in – From Music, People, Technology, Learning, Innovation, Ideas, Books, etc. There’s enough variety among these people. And then Twitter is just one channel. I read a wide variety of other blogs, papers, articles, etc. I love reading The Economist – It’s an amazing magazine and if I had to read only 1 magazine – It would be this.

Nischala: So how much time do you spend on Twitter. It’s so easy to lose track of time once you’re on Twitter.
Abhijit: I don’t spend more than 30 minutes daily on Twitter. I don’t tweet everything I read. Usually I tweet about 2 – 3 tweets / day on average. It’s either something that I read previous day and mulled over and felt it was worth sharing OR some new idea or phenomenal research that I just came across. You can’t flood someone’s timeline with everything you read. So if someone tweets irrelevant stuff excessively, I just Unfollow them.
A few days back, I came across the Human Library project in Ottawa. It fascinated me a great deal, so I put it on my timeline. The underlying premise is this – Everyone has a story to tell and not everyone needs to write an autobiography, but this is a great opportunity to hear those stories from people who you probably will never come across in your life – bankers, criminals, bus-driver, opera singer, deportee, fire-fighter, taxi driver, journalist, sheep farmer, etc – All from diverse walks of life for a one-o-one discussion. I’ve never read or heard of anything like this before. Its an amazing idea…For more reading, refer this link

Nischala: That’s interesting. So any final words you want to share as a part of this rendezvous?
Abhijit: Learning can be threatening. It can upset your inner world. It can challenge conventional wisdom. Learning is really about a continuously curious mind. It is about constantly asking questions and being questioned.
Does everyone have a learning orientation? Probably NOT. But can one learn to be a better learner? Yes.

Nischala: Thanks Abhijit for this rendezvous. I really enjoyed hearing your views and am sure readers will also enjoy this post.
Abhijit: Thanks. Take Care. Have a GREAT DAY!

How did you like this Rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know

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2 comments on “Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with ABHIJIT BHADURI

  1. Abhijit,

    Pretty inspiring – the things you have done and the varied interests you have. Interesting perspective on learning. The truth is that often we all know the right things to do in life and yet never get around to doing them and self realization is one formula to break that. I have also realized that my learning has always exponentially increased purely based on the associations and people around me. A lot of individuals also go past an experience without learning from it simply because they never look for anything from it.

    Nisch,

    Well written again and thanks for teaching us all a thing or two.

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