Learnings Retention: The Power of Intentions and Reflections

by Sean Foster | January 21, 2024 | Newsletter

A business owner reflecting on his intentions and thinking of the business

There is Learning and then there is Learning Effectiveness.

At face value, this differentiation may seem inconsequential. Maybe it is?

Specifically, as a business owner, learning effectiveness, i.e. your ability to hold onto your learnings, is crucial in progressing your business from year to year. So when you come to yearly or quarterly planning, you could start each period afresh, or you could start the period afresh together with your retained learnings.

So we all know that we forget stuff over time, but what surprises us most is how quickly we forget our learnings and how large this drop-off is. It was back in 1885 that Hermann Ebbinghaus introduced the ‘forgetting curve’, and since then a lot of research has gone into this subject.

The image below shows a typical forgetting curve. Based on this curve we could say that after a month our learning effectiveness is around 20%. How then can you effectively plan for the next quarter, or even the next year when you retain so little of your ‘learnings’?

A diagram of ebbinghaus forgetting curve

The following is a practical way to do this, and just to convince you that I am not pulling this idea out of a hat, there are some famous examples. I will include those further down in this article.

The two fundamental tools: Intention and Reflection, can significantly enhance learning.

1. Setting Intentions:

Before any experience, ask, “What do I want to learn or gain?” By committing to a specific aim, mental engagement and value extraction increase.

2. Reflection:

Post-experience reflection turns thoughts into lasting lessons. A brief reflection can have a substantial impact on learning and performance.

The equation for more learning is simple:

Intention x Reflection

Possibly the biggest challenge with the above is that you already knew this; it’s way too simplistic; and it requires you to actually change behaviours. If you can overcome those mental blocks then hopefully you will appreciate its simplicity, low cost, time efficiency and the substantial impact it will have on you, and your business’s performance.

Here are some helpful examples of people that you may know of who make a deliberate habit around their intentions and reflections, they include:

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is well known for his habit of setting annual personal goals. Gates reflects on his achievements and shortcomings, adjusting his goals accordingly.

Warren Buffett

The legendary investor and business tycoon sets clear intentions for his investments. Buffett is known for his disciplined approach and annual reflection on his investment strategies and decisions.

Stephen Covey

Author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Covey emphasizes the importance of setting clear intentions and regularly reflecting on personal and professional goals.

Richard Branson

Has a strong reputation for setting bold intentions and reflects on both successes and failures in his entrepreneurial journey.

Serna Willaims

Is renowned for her dedication to training and setting clear intentions. She reflects on her matches, learning from both victories and defeats to continually improve her game.

Usain Bolt

The fastest man in the world, focused on setting specific goals and reflecting on his training and races. His deliberate approach contributed to his record-breaking achievements.

You ____

known amongst your family, friends and peers for ……………………………

Sean Foster

Sean Foster

Business Coach & Advisor

PS: Interested in working with me? I help in 3 ways:
[1] Work with me privately to improve your business profitability, scale your business & improve your personal and business productivity - Schedule an appointment here.
[2] Join BIG – in-person, group based coaching program. Operating from Silverdale, Auckland
[3] Understand & develop your behavioural habits through psychometric behavioural assessments & coaching

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