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Breaking out of the loops


"Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven't asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question - you have to want to know - in order to open up the space for the answer to fit."
- Clayton Christensen

I have always loved courses that are full of questions and hated those that are full of information. Even at work, I like projects that have questions to be answered ('How do we get more users?', 'How do we make this simpler?') than just tasks to be executed. 

But learning by asking questions is only one aspect involved in the process. There are two others that Clay doesn't talk about that have an equally important impact. 

One, what we already know. When we know things, they have already created some places in the mind. And what we know is never complete, so there is always something that can be added on to it. And there is no need for new questions to be asked as long as we are open to changing previously held opinions. 

Which brings me to the second aspect. Openness to changing previously held opinions and beliefs. Unless there is openness, no amount of new questions will result in picking up new ideas. Because the answers now don't just have to fit into an empty space in the mind, but they have to fit in a way that is in line with preconceived notions and biases. Otherwise, the ideas bounce right off. 

This explains generally observed behaviour. As to why kids are more versatile in their learning and can pick up anything - they are full of questions and have very little previously held ideas, which means they can learn anything they put their hands to with only variations in their speed of learning which I'm not really sure what to attribute to. And people learn very little as they get older as they are full of previously held ideas with little to no new questions. 

But we do observe people on the entire spectrum. 

This should make things very obvious as to where one wants to be, right? But knowing where to be and actually being there are completely different things. 

I have found that it is a lot harder to selectively be curious about things I want to learn quickly than to be curious about and open to most things that I come across so that I'm fairly versatile to learn more about one of those areas when needed. 

It seems to me that most people will be this way, as it appeals to both ideas of hard work and passion. Passion is just another word for things you are curious and excited about. While hard work is what is needed to deepen the knowledge that has been acquired through the initial bout of curiosity that led us to it. But I concede that to each his own.

When there is no new knowledge and no new ideas being infused, we are all running the same loops over and over. And looks like a little curiosity is what it takes to keep breaking out of the loops. And the opposite, one that keeps us running the loops without setting a toe off the line, is cynicism. 

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