The Point of Maximum Learning

Reading time ~ 2 minutes

This post draws on some exceptional leadership training I attended in Cincinnati some years ago, a personal near-legendary experience from Summer 2009 and the fact that many of us actually flip back and forth from being visibly outgoing, strong and confident to being introverted, quiet and shy.

Recognising this model was something quite special for me – it highlighted why I gain so much from conferences, talking to customers, like-minded strangers and other controlled but potentially stressful situations…

In order to learn we have to explore, leave our comfort zone and enter the learning zone. Beyond the learning zone lies the panic zone where we are blocked (by fear) from learning – lessons here are only recallable in similar negative situations.

  • Individuals must find their own way into their learning zone, it’s unique to them.
  • Forcing someone out of their comfort zone out of their control may tip them immediately into panic.
  • The point of maximum learning lies at the cusp of the learning and panic zones.

I believe this is why we learn so much from failure and stressful situations and why we often only realize it when we face them a second time.

It’s also why I learn most from group workshops and preparing presentations. Getting out of my comfort zone and talking to people in public gets my adrenaline going and brain working.

A cautionary note. I’ve found that having recognized what’s happening and broken the seal on the comfort zone it becomes somewhat addictive. The boundaries between comfort, learning and panic zones shift and you need to keep finding something else to drive you onward.

Chris Matts is somewhat of a master at demonstrating learning on the fringes between learning and panic – talk to him about exploring deserted conference facilities at 2am armed only with a shopping bag, red wine and no water.

What things do you do that make you really uncomfortable but maximise your learning?