Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Mind Is Radial

This article challenges you to think about how we generally accept to learn new material. What I shall call "linear learning" is the process of reading a book from start to finish. What I shall call "radial learning" is the process of reading the table of contents of a book and then in phases, read more and more details of each section.

Practical, hands-on learning for instance has more radial properties, since the material is researched or explored from a problem perspective. The problem plane for the student contains certain 'gaps' that require a resolution.

When people read a book with the objective to learn or to consume information, the information is grouped into chapters, where the book as a whole is the content in a particular context or perspective. It is impossible to read the book in one blink of an eye, so how can one most effectively read a book with the objective to understand and remember all of the contents?

Consider reading 'radially' into the subject using the table of contents. Skim pages, chapters, paragraphs to get a high-level overview of the contents. Write down any questions that develop while reading and do not get immediately distracted, focus on the current context, but also remember not to dig too deep into the detail. As time progresses, the information you have is more complete and you will be much better able to index the information inside your brain, leaving unimportant details out as they can be re-read later at any time without effort.

The way how the brain stores information approximates a kind of network. Likewise information gets connected, which is the process how we recognise similarities. One cannot think as the brain as a bag of unordered information where a hand digs in to retrieve the item when we need it. In order to 'populate' the brain more effectively, follow the same pattern as the network is organised.

This can also be applied to other topics, like conversations. Focus on global objectives, global points before digging into detail.

Try it and let me know :).

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