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Tweets, Books, and Learning

Keeping informed by tweets is like nourishment from fast food: at best limited, at worst hazardous. Learning comes from in-depth experience, like submersing in a book.

Recently I found a blog with a good summary of Daniel Pink’s Drive and tweeted the link to the world. I scanned the blog, noted that it was well-written, and committed some key points to memory. So I was surprised when I actually read the book to find that it excited me greatly and challenged some deeply-held beliefs. Why? Didn’t I already know the main ideas?

It reminded me of a dinner where the kids and I tried to explain Avatar to my wife. There’s this cripple who goes to another world where he can inhabit a manufactured body and he bonds with aliens. She nodded and spooned out the quinoa. Then we slapped the 3D glasses on her and made her watch it. Two and a half hours later she emerged transformed.

Here’s the point: our twit-culture risks making us think we’re learning when we’re not. Learning comes from immersion. Reading a book is deeply involving because it requires concentration. Our minds interact with ideas and we are transformed by the work of interaction. Important ideas don’t work only on the intellect; our whole beings need to dance with them. Snippets and tweets and summaries don’t allow this. They feed the head, not the being. Like fast food, they leave you full but not better.

Consider this the next time you schedule a seminar. Will it provide information or an experience? Because if it’s only the former, chances are you’ll learn little, and little will change.

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