Friday, May 2, 2008

Accidental Education

"Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit...Accidental education had every chance in its favor, especially because nothing came amiss."
Henry Adams,The Education of Henry Adams

I like the idea of accidental education, not basic education, but education in life and career that builds upon large and small experiences, planned and unplanned detours, and sought-after and fall-in-your lap opportunities.

My first approach to writing Nonprofit Leadership was to try and figure out if my various and assorted community economic development projects added up to something. I made lists and matrices, hoping for the puzzle to come together magically and reveal some truth -- maybe just an insight. It never did.

I finally realized that what I had to share, and know about myself, was how I went about working in the nonprofit field -- what personal attributes made a difference; what skills I developed or felt challenged to develop; and the importance of building relationships. Having the vantage point of time on choices and behaviors allowed me to observe and reflect upon actions -- not just my own chatter.

I haven't found many doers and thinkers to learn from who emphasized 'self teaching" and learning from errors and failures. Henry Adams, great grandson of John Adams being one. Ben Franklin another. That's a very odd list.

Who else has something to say about accidental education?


Josh said...

It isn't exactly accidental education but I'm a firm believer in teaching yourself and being a lifelong learner. Some fields of study, such as online outreach and Internet marketing, don't have Master's programs yet. To learn things that traditional education doesn't offer, sometimes you have to leave the beaten path and forge your own way forward.

Bob Giloth said...

That's a great point. If your not open and committed to lifelong learning, neither intentional or accidental education will make a difference. At the root of this, for me, is curiosity, self reflection, and incentives.

Brent said...

The "accidental" part of learning is where we generate new ideas. Anytime we work within some model, we restrict our perception, which can be a good thing. But in order for ideas to grow, you have to break out of the dominate model. But that is soooo difficult.

Edward de Bono, who coined the term "lateral thinking," was a big proponent of "accidental" insights, finding connections to things that one would never anticipate there being a connection. It forces the mind to look at a situation or problem in a new way. He also had some interesting techniques for generating these insights.

One simple one was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary or a book (nouns or verbs work best), and try to see how your problem or issue is like that word. Such a technique will definitely break your mind out of the box.

Bob Giloth said...

Thanks for reminder about Edward de Bono. There are things we can do so that accidental education is not accidental