The secret of successful learning – what’s the magic word?

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Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Oracle User Group Finland’s 25th anniversary conference. The majority of participants were database engineers and database security experts – a foreign world to me, but nevertheless a very friendly and hospitable one.

My connection with them may sound strange – given the fact that the world I inhabit is one of reflection in/on action – as opposed to their world of mostly technical, linear type problem solving. However, 2 years ago when I was undertaking research for the keynote that I was invited to deliver at their 23rd conference, those differences soon become irrelevant as I learnt more about what makes them tick. I discovered this during a very enjoyable evening of dining with the Board members and learning more about their beginnings and the groups’ reason for existence; in a nutshell they believe in the importance of sharing professional knowledge – something I am as equally committed to as they are. This is what drives me – every hour of every day. I’m a passionate action researcher, a strong advocate for continuing professional and personal development and we share the same principles; a strong belief in sharing our professional knowledge to support others in the development of theirs.

However, like many industry groups, they face certain challenges and this annual conference is one arena in which they can work collaboratively, share ideas, co-construct potential solutions and generally find a great deal of support.

There were many excellent presentations throughout the two days, but one in particular stood out for me (it was on ‘the top 10 things to be a great DBA or database developer’) and here’s the reason why. Halfway through the presentation, the presenter handed it over to the audience (around 30 people) and asked them the following question;

‘What are your opinions on what it takes to be a great developer?’

One by one they spoke, and as I listened, a broad smile began to cross my lips. ‘Learning more, being open to learning, learning more about myself and others, learning, learning learning’!!! And then, as we got to the end, the icing on the cake!

Peter (pseudonym used) uttered the magic word…’we need to ask why’.

The magic 3-letter word ‘why’.

I believe that if we are going to overcome the challenges mentioned earlier, we need to be working on developing certain competencies. We, as individuals and teams, must be engaged and committed to;

  • distancing ourselves from our actions, taking time to reflect and make explicit why we do what we do

The potential benefits? It can support collaboration and cooperation for a start – instead of always competing.

But perhaps most importantly;

  • it engages us in a deeper type of learning – and the only way we can do that is by  asking why – just as Peter suggested.

The result? Learning experiences that are emergent, have the potential to transform, but most of all are sustainable. And that benefits everybody.

Call to action:

Why are you going to ask why today?


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