The Imperative of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is of vital importance both for individuals and the modern societies in which they live. Learning is the driver of personal and societal change. For individuals, lifelong learning is the key not only to ensuring continued employability but also to personal well-being and self-fulfillment. For broader society, lifelong learning can be an important factor in finding solutions to intractable challenges such as inequality, poverty, disease, conflict, populism, intolerance, climate change, and environmental degradation.  The concept of lifelong learning resonates with people. The majority of populations in Western countries consider themselves lifelong learners. A 2016 survey found that 73% of American adults consider themselves lifelong learners. An older survey of Europeans found that 70% expressed the desire to continue learning throughout their lifetime. Lifelong learning has also become a guiding principle for the transformation of education in most developed countries and is a significant consideration in the policies of many developing countries.  Despite its broad appeal, the term lifelong learning has been used inconsistently. More concerning is the assessment by international organizations that actual participation in lifelong learning has lagged behind the popularity of the term. This article will explore the concept of lifelong learning in-depth, including its definition, origins, and evolution. It will attempt to clarify how social, technological, and economic changes have made lifelong learning an imperative. It will argue that the objectives of lifelong learning go far beyond economic and market-driven concerns. Lifelong learning is a path to better and more fulfilling lives for individuals and to a better, cleaner, and more peaceful world. While governments can take steps to facilitate lifelong learning, much of the onus is on the individual because it requires self-motivation and self-direction. For lifelong learning to become a reality, we need both societies that encourage learning throughout the lifespan and individuals who make lifelong learning a habit.  What is lifelong learning? There is no consensus definition of lifelong learning, but it is most frequently characterized by an extension of learning and education beyond initial schooling to encompass all stages of a person’s life cycle. Most definitions include compulsory schooling within the scope of lifelong learning. It is frequently described as continuous learning from cradle to grave. Some definitions specify that learning should be life-wide, which means that it is possible in all life contexts and environments. Lifelong learning does not only take place within institutions like schools, colleges, and universities but can take place in a range of other settings including at home or at work.  Learning activities can be categorized into the following three types: Formal learning usually takes place in institutions like schools, colleges or universities. It is typically designed as a full-time educational pathway for children and young people before their entry into the employment market. It is planned, structured and intentional. Formal learning leads to qualifications recognized by educational authorities.Non-formal learning is also planned, structured and intentional. However, it is considered complementary to formal education and typically does not lead to formal qualifications recognized by educational authorities. It is often provided in the form of short-duration courses, workshops or seminars. This can include workplace training and self-development.Informal learning is most frequently self-directed, but may also be directed by a family or social organization. It is not necessarily structured in terms of objectives or specific learning times, but it is a deliberate activity aimed at improving knowledge, skills or competence. Informal learning can come in many different forms such as self-study e.g. by reading books or articles, going to museums or cultural events, learning to play a musical instrument with a friend, watching documentary videos or listening to podcasts, etc.  Education has traditionally focused on formal learning. Lifelong learning increases the focus on non-formal and informal learning, which represents a paradigm shift in the way people think about education and learning.  Learning can be categorized into formal, non-formal and informal activities The OECD identifies the centrality of the learner as a vital characteristic of lifelong learning. In contrast to the traditional educational paradigm that was focussed on teaching within institutions, lifelong learning recognizes that a significant proportion of a person’s learning is self-motivated and self-directed.  Lifelong learning is an umbrella term that encompasses all forms of deliberate learning throughout a person’s lifespan. Although it is sometimes used synonymously with similar terms it can and should be distinguished from them:  Adult education is specifically targeted at people who are considered adults, therefore excludes compulsory schooling that occurs during childhood and adolescence. Adult education is only a subset of lifelong learning. Further education / continuing education: These terms are similar to adult education, but tend to be more narrowly focused on developing career-based skills. They also represent a subset of lifelong learning. Recurrent education: In contrast to the continuous nature of lifelong learning, recurrent education is intermittent. Recurring education distributes periods of education and training across a person’s lifespan, usually alternating with periods of work. Learning by this definition is not ongoing, but periodic. Lifelong education (éducation permanente) is the predecessor to lifelong learning. It placed more focus on formal teaching and less on self-directed learning.  To review the sources used for this section follow the links for sources pertaining to the definition of lifelong learning and formal, non-formal and informal learning. Lifelong learning improves knowledge, skills, and competence Although learning is frequently associated with the acquisition of knowledge — often the focus in education — there is more to learning than knowledge. Many definitions extend lifelong learning to skills and competence. Although these terms are commonly used interchangeably, the word competence takes on a broader meaning in the fields of education and human resources. Skills are the ability to carry out a task. Competence is the combination of skills, knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes applied in context. Improving one’s competence enables better performance in a type of activity (e.g. management, communication, problem-solving).  Learning improves knowledge, skills, and competence To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to knowledge, skills, and competence. Lifelong learning is indispensable in modern societies Several overlapping social, technological and economic forces are responsible for making lifelong learning an imperative in modern societies. Continuous learning is perceived as a necessity to remain relevant in a rapidly changing labor market and dynamic community. The world has seen a profound transformation of economies from agricultural to industrial models. Many have continued to evolve into post-industrial knowledge economies. In such economies, productivity no longer depends on unskilled labor, but on skilled knowledge-workers whose primary skill is thinking and manipulating information. That shift has led to changes in the demand for skills in the workforce.  To remain competitive, and to give low- and high-skilled workers alike the best chance of success, economies need to offer training and career-focused education throughout people’s working lives.— The Economist Economic transformation has been enabled by rapid technological change that has also had a significant impact on communication and individual behavior. At the same time, economies have been restructured by the forces of global trade.  Cultural and social change has accompanied the profound technological and economic transformation. As the world becomes more integrated and interdependent, there is increased lifestyle diversity and cultural pluralism (culturally distinct groups living together). Humans are living longer than ever which is challenging the traditional education-work-retirement pattern of life stages.  In 1975, lifelong learning theorist Paul Lengrand wrote that —  in addition to the challenges people have always faced, such as war, illness, and death (among many others) — starting in the 20th Century people began encountering several new problems. Over 40 years later, his list of challenges remains relevant:  Acceleration of change: people need agility and adaptability to cope with the accelerated pace of innovation and changeDemographic expansion: Population growth and extended lifespansEvolution of scientific knowledge and technology: the speed with which technology evolves means people must continually learn or risk unemploymentPolitical challenge: Although the political issues of today are different, they are no less challenging. Information: Then the emergence of mass media was transforming communication, just as the internet and social media are transforming it today. Leisure: An increase in leisure time enable self-fulfillment outside of work and family life.Patterns of life and relationships: the cultures and customs that provide guidelines for the behavior of individuals in their interpersonal relationships are also continually evolving.Body: We should not neglect biology, physical expression, and sexuality. Ideologies: Ideologies of religious and economic nature continue to clash (e.g. trade wars, terrorism).   To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to the lifelong learning imperative. The modern concept of lifelong learning took shape during the 20th century The concept of learning throughout life is not a new one. Continuous learning has been considered a virtue in many cultures, both ancient and modern. According to Kenneth Wain, the modern concept of lifelong education began to take shape in Britain around 1919-1920, where people such as Basil Yeaxlee began to promote the idea that education should be permanent throughout life.  The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings. —Basil Yeaxlee, Lifelong Learning The concept began to appear in policy documents in Great Britain during this time:  Adult education must not be regarded as a luxury for a few exceptional persons here and there, nor as a thing which concerns only a short span of early manhood, but that adult education is a permanent national necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, and therefore should be both universal and lifelong.—Great Britain Ministry of Reconstruction, Final Report of the Adult Education Committee (1919) The concept caught on in France in the 1930s, where lifelong education was called éducation permanente. There, advocates such as Paul Lengrand pointed out that it was no longer possible to provide people with a formal education that would equip them for a lifetime. Education must continue throughout life.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was one of the key players in establishing lifelong learning as an educational concept and policy. Two reports commissioned by UNESCO are considered the defining documents of UNESCO’S position on lifelong learning.   In 1972, a commission chaired by Edgar Faure produced a report titled Learning to Be, which is often referred to as the Faure Report. It proposed lifelong education as the master concept for educational policies. We propose lifelong education as the master concept for educational policies in the years to come for both developed and developing countries. —Edgar Faure and others, Learning to Be In 1996, a commission chaired by Jaques Delors produced Learning: The treasure within, otherwise known as the Delors Report (1996), which updated the UNESCO conception of lifelong learning, calling it “learning throughout life.” The concept of learning throughout life is the key that gives access to the twenty-first century. —Jaques Delors and others, Learning: The treasure within In the 24 years between the two UNESCO reports, there was a shift in terminology. Lifelong education became learning throughout life. Lifelong learning puts the emphasis on the individual rather than the institution. The focus is on the agency of the learner. The influence of UNESCO in educational policy waned following the Delors Report. The OECD and the World Bank became the most influential shapers of educational policy. However, the concept of lifelong learning continued to gain strength and evolve.  To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to the origins of lifelong learning. The objectives of lifelong learning go beyond employability Lifelong learning has become virtually ubiquitous. It is rare to find educational policies that do not reference lifelong learning in some way. However, there remains disagreement about what the objectives of lifelong learning are and how to achieve them. This disagreement is not surprising considering the broad scope of the term spanning all learning across the entire human lifespan. Lifelong learning was bound to be hard to define succinctly. Cultural differences naturally flavor local interpretations.  The most significant schism in the debate about how to define lifelong learning appears to be the primary motivation for pursuing it. Many observers would argue that economic and market-oriented concerns are the dominant driver of lifelong learning policies today. The early theorists had more transformational humanistic principles in mind. Through an economic lens, individuals are considered human capital. They are resources whose knowledge, skills, and competences are to be improved to achieve a competitive advantage in a globalized economy. Critics of this narrow view argue that learning could become a trap in which people must endlessly learn to earn to stay employable in a fast-changing economic environment.  Lifelong learning can be pursued to achieve objectives other than employability. The European Commission’s definition, for example, lists personal, social, and civic objectives in addition to employment-related concerns.  all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills, and competence, within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective.—European Commission, Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality  The Delors Report emphasized four pillars of learning, that can be interpreted as objectives for the UNESCO vision of lifelong learning:  Learning to know: Acquiring knowledge, both general and broad as well as specialized and in-depth in some areas. This pillar also included learning to learn, a skill that enables people to benefit from future learning opportunities. Learning to do: Developing skills and competence to succeed at work.Learning to live together: Developing an understanding of other people and cultures. Fostering peace, pluralism, interdependence, respect, and diversity.  Learning to be: Enabling individuals to reach their full creative potential. This pillar involves developing all aspects of the self including autonomy, judgment, responsibility, memory, reasoning, aesthetic sense, physical capacities, and communication skills.  The pillars of learning are frequently referenced, but they leave much room for interpretation. Based on a synthesis of several sources, the following can be considered as possible objectives of lifelong learning. Problem solving: People learn when they have a challenge they want to solve or a need they need to fulfill and don’t have the required knowledge or skills to do it. Employability and adaptability: Acquiring the knowledge, skills, and competence to stay relevant and make a contribution in a competitive economy. Personal development and self-fulfillment: Individuals engage in learning to pursue their personal interests and goals. This may include learning for its own sake to satisfy a feeling of curiosity or for pure enjoyment. People may also be motivated to achieve a level of mastery in a particular skill. Social and cultural benefits: Many learners are motivated by extrinsic factors such as the achievement of status and recognition. Other learners are motivated to contribute to the improvement of their communities and even the world. Learning can promote social inclusion and cultural understanding. Allowing people of different backgrounds to live and work together has the potential to both minimize conflict and improve lives. Additionally, learning is a prerequisite for informed and active participation in society, especially in democratic systems. To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to the objectives of learning. Early theorists envisaged the creation of a learning society  Every individual must be in a position to keep learning throughout his life. The idea of lifelong education is the keystone of the learning society. —Edgar Faure and others, Learning to Be The vision of lifelong learning that was put forward by Edgar Faure and Jaques Delors is considered by many to be a “maximalist” position. The hope was not just to rethink education, but to transform society. They envisioned a society in which educational systems were reimagined. The rationale was that formal education could not provide all the knowledge and skills to prepare individuals for life in an ever-changing environment. Learning should be continuous and extend beyond what is taught in educational institutions.  Robert Hutchins first proposed the concept of a learning society, which is “characterized by the freedom of its citizens to cultivate their intelligence through liberal education.” It aimed to extend the possibilities of learning to all members of society, not just an educated elite. The objective of learning in this society is not limited to training skilled individuals who can then generate economic growth. It hoped to foster continuous learning by providing equal opportunities to citizens and empowering them to be active participants in democracy. The learning society represents a humanistic and utopian vision of a better society in which individuals have the freedom to pursue self-fulfillment through self-directed learning.  To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to the origins of lifelong learning. To make lifelong learning a reality, challenges must be overcome Although the concept of lifelong learning has been enthusiastically embraced in name, according to an assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), actual implementation of related policies has lagged. Data indicate that the participation of individuals in lifelong learning beyond formal compulsory education remains low.  The OECD thinks participation rates in organized education beyond formal education are too low There are many challenges to making lifelong learning a reality. One of them is the increased responsibility of the learner to discover and pursue learning opportunities once they move beyond formal education. Lifelong learning requires individuals to be active learners that have the skills to learn in a self-motivated and self-directed manner. Individuals must develop the motivation and capacity to learn independently early in life. Otherwise, there is a risk that a proportion of the population gets left behind because they are unable to navigate the landscape of learning opportunities successfully. The likely result of such a development would be an increased inequality within the population.  The best single predictor of later participation in education is earlier participation.— Albert Tuijnman, Journal of Lifelong Education  Participation in formal education is a critical step. Providing access to high-quality education and keeping students engaged must be a priority. Increased integration between learning and working environments may help increase the relevance of the material and increase motivation. Additionally, the appropriate guidance, signposting of learning opportunities, and clear learning paths through various life stages, may help people remain engaged with learning beyond compulsory education.  Although the importance of informal learning is widely accepted, finding ways to assess and recognize it has proven challenging. There is a lack of standards and qualification systems in order to provide forms of recognition that people can use to improve their career opportunities.  Learning opportunities beyond compulsory education should be structured around adults’ distinctive needs, creating enjoyable and adult-friendly learning environments such as learning-rich workplaces or dedicated adult learning institutions like community colleges or folk schools. New opportunities for learning in digital environments have become much more common as the adoption of the internet and smartphones has increased. These new technologies have facilitated access to a much broader range of learning material.  Three types of barriers obstruct adult participation in lifelong learning:  Situational barriers arise from the circumstances of a person’s life. Due to work or family-related obligations, people may feel too busy to make time for learning. Other situational barriers include financial difficulties, lack of transportation to and from the place of learning, and health-related issues.Institutional barriers are the practices of institutions that supply educational opportunities that can create barriers to learning. Examples include tuition fees, rigid scheduling, location, requirements for specific qualifications of the learner to participate. The offering of learning opportunities may also be considered undesirable. Dispositional barriers are those related to the attitude of the learner toward learning. People may feel they are too old, not smart enough, don’t fit in with the group, etc. Identifying such barriers makes it easier to overcome them. Supporting lifelong learning requires significant resources and policy coordination across a range of players. Overall, there is still a long way to go before lifelong learning becomes embedded in educational systems.  To review the sources used for this section follow the links for sources pertaining to the barriers to learning and the challenges of lifelong learning. In our rapidly changing world, everyone needs a lifelong learning habit Individuals and organizations have both recognized the importance of lifelong learning. The majority of people in Western countries consider themselves lifelong learners. International organizations, policymakers, and educational institutions have embraced lifelong learning as a guiding principle for the transformation of education. Social, technological, and economic changes have made lifelong learning an imperative. Economic drivers have already caused many to recognize that education and training are necessary in order to ensure their continued employability. If futurists’ visions of a world infused with artificial intelligence and automation become a reality, then employment markets are likely to become even more competitive.  To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again.—Yuval Noah Harari, Medium Learning throughout life is vital, and not only for economic reasons. For individuals, learning can improve well-being and maintain cognitive fitness. From a societal perspective, humanity is facing stubborn challenges such as rising inequality, conflict, populism, identity politics, intolerance, the erosion of human rights, climate change, and other environmental damage. Humanity has the best chances of overcoming these challenges if every individual can take advantage of learning opportunities that enable them to fulfill their creative potential. The mark of a lifelong learner is recognizing that you can learn something from everyone you meet. Knowledge is best sought from experts. Wisdom can come from anywhere.—Adam Grant, LinkedIn Policymakers and institutions have found it challenging to implement lifelong learning because it is a holistic vision that spans the entire human lifespan. Formal education can provide the general knowledge and foundational skills required from a lifetime of learning. However, many people exit formal education without the motivation or ability to pursue independent, self-directed learning.  Being educated is no longer about how much you know, but about having the skills and motivation for lifelong learning so that you can learn new knowledge whenever you need to.—Andrew Bollington, oecd.org Lifelong learners cannot depend on government or educational institutions to continuously motivate and guide them as they learn throughout their lifetime. Lifelong learners need to cultivate their innate curiosity and find intrinsic motivation, which will allow them to be active explorers of their environment and take control of their own learning paths. Learning is more enjoyable when learners pursue their goals and personal interests. When they do so, it becomes a habit that spans a lifetime.  Developing a learning habit requires you to articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve … based on those choices, set realistic goals … with goals in hand, develop a learning community … to focus on your objectives, ditch the distractions … finally, where appropriate, use technology to supplement learning.—John Coleman, hbr.org (emphasis added) When lifelong learning becomes a habit, it contributes to a fulfilled life. It can be a path to professional success and a method to pursue personal interests for enjoyment. Not least, it can also be a way for people to help make the world a better place. To review the sources used for this section, follow the link to everyone needs a lifelong learning habit.

Phil von Heydebreck
10 Oct 2019

A Parent’s Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

We are in the midst of a cultural shift in the way sleep is perceived. Not long ago, it was common to hear people brag about how little sleep they could get and still function. But with a continuous stream of new research being published about the importance of sleep for health, well-being, and performance, it is unsurprising that attitudes toward sleep are shifting. There is now a virtual tidal wave of content being published on the internet about how to optimize sleep, but there is one topic many people gloss over — children. If a child is not sleeping well, neither are the parents Any new mother can tell you about the challenges of getting sufficient sleep with a newborn that wants to feed every few hours. But prospective parents may not be aware that a child can continue to have challenges sleeping well beyond the need for night feeds. Often those problems last for years. Researchers believe that 20–30% of children younger than school age have trouble sleeping. There is no shortage of people who will give you advice on how to get a child to sleep through the night. But it’s much harder to find insights that are based on scientific research rather than someone’s personal opinion. There is useful information out there, for people willing to dig deep enough. As a sleep-deprived parent, I was determined to find it. This knowledge has made bedtime much easier to manage and it has stopped the regular nightly disruptions that were making us all sleep-deprived and irritable. Our two eldest children — three and five years old — go to bed with minimal protesting and very rarely cry out for the comfort of a parent at night. We’re all sleeping better now. Sleep requirements change throughout childhood and adolescence Children actually sleep a lot. At two years of age, most children have spent more time asleep than awake. Overall, a child will sleep for 40 percent of his or her childhood. The challenge for parents is that a child’s sleep can be irregular and doesn’t align well to when parents want to sleep. Sleep researchers have collected lots of data about sleep in children. So there is very good information about how long children sleep at different ages and at what time of day (napping vs. nocturnal sleep). Total sleep duration over 24 hours at different ages. Chart and data from the Zurich Longitudinal Study published in Pediatrics by Ivo Iglowstein and colleagues. The chart uses percentiles to show the proportion of children sleeping specific durations. Newborns have irregular sleep schedules The immense variability in sleep duration for children below one year of age is striking. Some parents appear to get lucky with good sleepers. The bad news for most new parents is that nighttime sleep during the first year of a child’s life is usually quite irregular. Newborns do not distinguish between night and day. It takes them a few months to develop a normal circadian rhythm. Newborns feed on-demand approximately every 1.5–3 hours and likely will need diaper-changing during the night as well. They tend to sleep 2–5 hours, then spend 1–3 hours awake. Researchers call this a polyphasic sleep pattern because it is characterized by multiple phases of sleep throughout the day. Most adults tend to have a monophasic sleep pattern, meaning that they sleep in one consolidated stretch during the night. A child develops a consolidated nocturnal sleep pattern 2–6 months after birth. Sleeping patterns gradually shift until children reach adulthood As children age, their sleep requirements gradually change. Daytime sleep declines steadily, and the number of naps declines. One-year-olds usually nap twice a day. At 18 months they tend to go down to single nap. By age five, regular napping usually stops. Total sleep duration declines throughout childhood until late adolescence, when it reaches the eight hours required by adults. Before they reach adulthood, adolescents experience a natural, but temporary shift in their circadian rhythm. That shift will make them want to stay awake later and wake up later than the rest of the family. Resisting bedtime and night wakings are the most common sleep challenges, and they are both learned behavior Children’s sleep patterns become more regular around one year of age. But it is also around this time that new sleep challenges can begin to emerge. Children develop a drive for more independence and autonomy. They also become physically able to escape their cribs on their own. Developmental milestones can disrupt sleep. So can separation anxiety when children transition to their own room or nightmares and other parasomnias (more on those shortly). But the most common form of challenge is behavioral and can be categorized into two groups: Resisting bedtime: stalling or refusal to go to bed.Night wakings: problems staying asleep, usually requiring a parent’s assistance to return to sleep. Both are learned behavior derived from the interaction between the child and the parents. They can be incredibly frustrating, but learned behaviors can be modified. Overcome bedtime resistance with a consistent bedtime routine As children develop and become more independent, they attempt to gain more control over their environment. Testing limits is a way for children to learn about their span of control and what constitutes appropriate behavior. Such limit testing frequently takes place at bedtime in the form of stalling, protests, or requests to go to the bathroom or have another drink of water. Some testing of limits is inevitable, but for some parents, bedtime can be a painful battle of wills with the child. Such conflicts are most likely the result of unenforced limits and boundaries. When parents give in to a child’s protests or requests, they reinforce the undesired behavior, making it more likely to reoccur in the future. The best way to overcome bedtime resistance is to set and stick to a consistent bedtime routine. A bedtime routine means repeating the same pattern of activities each night. Routines have the effect of reducing stress at bedtime because children know what to expect, making the transition between activities easier to manage. Sleep specialists recommend a short routine between 30–45 min of quiet activities that are enjoyable for the children and parents. Activities can include bathing, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading, and singing songs. The routine should have a gradual progression toward the child’s bedroom and should avoid any backward steps, which would reinforce resistance. Think of your bedtime like a little machine that you run every night to help your child transition from wake to sleep.— Craig Canapari As children get older, they will want a greater sense of control, which can be achieved by allowing them to make decisions within clear boundaries. Such choices can include which pajamas to wear or which book to read, but should not include changes to the routine itself. Nobody sleeps through the night — self-soothing is the goal A rudimentary understanding of how the sleep cycle works can help clarify why hoping a child will sleep through the night is an unrealistic expectation. Sleep researchers have discovered that sleep is not a uniform block of unconsciousness, but a cycle of varying brain activity. Adults generally complete four to five sleep cycles per night, each lasting about 90 minutes. The sleep cycle progresses through several stages from wakefulness to increasingly deeper sleep, before returning to a more active stage known as REM-sleep. Brief awakenings are common during the REM stage. A Hypnogram shows the stages of the sleep cycle. Each night we cycle through several distinct phases of sleep punctuated by brief awakenings. (Image by RazerM on a creative commons license.) Newborns have much shorter sleep cycles and spend more time in REM sleep. Sleep cycles get progressively longer until they reach adult-like durations when children reach school-age. The critical takeaway is that everyone goes through several sleep cycles each night with a brief period of partial wakefulness that can occur at the end of each cycle. Everyone wakes up during the night, but most people fall back asleep quickly and forget that they were ever awake. Night wakings are the result of the inability of the child to fall back asleep without help. They usually occur when a child has learned to associate falling asleep with something else such as the presence of a parent, a pacifier, a rocking motion, hand-holding, etc. If the child wakes up during the night, and that thing is not present, he or she will usually cry for help. Whatever children need to fall asleep at bedtime, they will also likely need during the night to return to sleep.— Lisa Meltzer Children need to learn to fall asleep independently — without parental intervention — this is often called self-soothing. Experts recommend that parents begin putting a child to bed drowsy, but awake when they are 3–6 months old, so they can start learning to self-soothe. Sleep training methods can be used to overcome frequent night wakings Sleep training consists of a set of techniques derived from behavioral psychology that can be used to correct unwanted behavior. It is not appropriate for children younger than six months old. There is some controversy around sleep training, which tends to focus around one of the most drastic methods, known as Cry-It-Out. This method involves ignoring a child’s cries until he or she falls asleep. Psychologists and sleep experts debate whether the process is too distressing for the child. It also proves incredibly difficult for parents to ignore a crying child for long. Luckily, there are several gentler methods which have proven to be effective. A regular sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine are considered the gentlest methods for addressing sleep challenges. But to overcome night wakings, the child needs to learn to fall asleep without help from a parent. It is necessary to break or replace associations that require a parent to be present. One approach is to provide an alternative form of comfort such as a stuffed animal — although this can backfire if the beloved toy goes missing. Several methods work through gradual withdrawal. Children slowly get used to falling asleep on their own, without the sudden shock from the complete absence of parental comforting. There are two main approaches: Ferber Method: Involves leaving the child alone in bed for progressively longer intervals before returning to comfort the child. The child will probably cry, so the parent needs a firm resolve to stay away until the time is up.Camping Out: Parents gradually withdraw their presence by moving farther away from the child every few days. It may start with the parent lying next to the child, then moving to a chair next to the bed, and later moving the chair to the other side of the room. The aim is to continue withdrawing until the parent is outside the room when the child falls asleep. The process can take several weeks. Bizzare nocturnal behaviors are common in childhood and usually resolve on their own Bedtime resistance and nighttime wakings are the most common sleep challenges that parents face. But there is another class of challenge — referred to by experts as parasomnias — which include nightmares, sleepwalking and other strange nocturnal behaviors. Parasomnias are common in preschool-aged children and are usually harmless, occurring in children who are healthy and happy. They tend to go away without treatment as the child enters adolescence. When it comes to nightmares, parents generally do the right thing by providing comfort and empathy. Other parasomnias can be trickier. One of the most frightening parasomnias is the night terror, which is not to be confused with nightmares. With a night terror, the child is not dreaming and may even appear to be awake. The child may sit up, cry, scream, and thrash about. Experts believe that night-terror sufferers are caught between a sleeping and waking state. That could explain why the children remain unresponsive to a parent’s efforts to calm and console them. They also generally do not remember the night terror when they wake up the next day. The most important consideration with parasomnias like night terrors or sleepwalking is ensuring the child’s safety by avoiding a fall or an accident. With the right knowledge, parents don’t need to be sleep-deprived anymore For parents, dealing with sleep challenges can be exhausting. Sleepless nights can turn into unproductive days. Irritability caused by sleep deprivation can compound the problems and make coping with them harder. But the good news is that small and gradual changes applied consistently can make all the difference. With the right guidance, most children can become good sleepers. Regular sleep schedules and consistent bedtime routines are essential guidelines for the child, making the process predictable and easing the transition from waking to sleep. Allowing children to make certain choices gives them a sense of control without the process descending into chaos. Importantly, falling asleep alone is a skill that children need to learn. Parents can help by putting young children to bed drowsy, but awake. As children get older, parents should gradually withdraw their presence to ease the children into self-soothing. After doing all this research I was amazed that the information was so hard to find. Having this knowledge sooner could have spared me many sleepless nights and sleep-deprived days. I hope this article can help other parents in a similar situation. There is a lot that parents can learn from dealing with sleep challenges — not least the appreciation of a good night’s sleep. This blog post originally appeared as a story on Medium. It is based on insights from a stream called Children and Sleep.

Phil von Heydebreck
12 Sep 2019

Disagreement Makes Us Better

Disagreement is the antidote for the potentially disastrous effects of conformity. It has the power to unleash creativity, innovation, and superior performance. Conformity can lead to disaster Shortly after liftoff on its tenth mission, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven crewmembers. Seventeen years later another shuttle, Columbia, exploded upon re-entry into earth’s atmosphere and again seven astronauts died. In both cases, engineers had raised concerns about the exact technical problems that would ultimately cause the disasters, and on both occasions, those concerns were ignored. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, which was in charge of both missions, was criticized for defective decision making which many believe was a result of groupthink — a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis to describe the pressures of unanimity that take place in highly cohesive social groups. Analyzes NASA’S decision making leading up to the space shuttle disasters https://vimeo.com/97008693 Homo sapiens are social animals, and interesting things happen when we interact in groups. The behavior of individuals is influenced by the social norms and pressures exerted by groups. Individuals tend to look to others within their group for cues on how to behave. They also adapt their behavior to the group’s expectations to gain approval. Psychologist Salomon Asch found that social pressure could cause people to provide an obviously wrong answer to a question to conform with the consensus of a group. In Salomon Asch’s conformity experiments participants were asked to identify which line — A, B or C — was most like the target line. The correct answer was always obvious, but in the experimental group, Asch had filled the room with confederates who purposely provided a wrong answer. 75% of participants in the experimental group conformed to the majority at least once, meanwhile in a control group without social pressure, participants almost never provided a wrong answer. (Image by Saul McLeod on Wikimedia Commons) More recently, researchers have found that discussions within groups of like-minded people can lead to convergence and strengthening of their commonly held views while dissenting views are suppressed. The phenomenon is called group polarization and also has the effect of pushing opposing groups further apart. Like-minded people, talking only with one another, usually end up believing a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk.— Cass Sunstein Diversity and disagreement unleash creativity and innovation The silver lining in Asch’s conformity experiments was that the presence of a single dissenter in the group caused conformity to plummet. The challenges posed by group dynamics can be overcome through diversity and disagreement. Research has shown that both decision making and performance within groups improves as diversity increases. When people with very diverse ideas, opinions, and beliefs come together to collaborate, it creates fertile ground for creativity and innovation. The collision of different ideas creates the sparks of innovation. Every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea.— Bret Stephens Teams and organizations that foster disagreement develop more creative solutions to problems and perform better. The challenge is managing disagreement so that dissenting voices are not suppressed and the best ideas win. Nobody said it was going to be easy Diversity provides two key ingredients that allow groups to outperform others: Skills and knowledge: A diverse group has a broader range of skills and expertise available to it. Like-minded people tend to share similar backgrounds and have more overlap regarding skills and knowledge.Friction: As a result of differing backgrounds and opposing viewpoints, diverse groups lead to more disagreement. It’s the friction that makes the magic happen. The academics Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap used the term creative abrasion to describe the process by which “intellectually diverse people generate, vigorously debate, and ultimately implement ideas.” The friction forces individuals to put more effort into the process, for example, preparing better and forming better arguments to reach a decision. There is likely to be less consensus and more potential for conflict. Reaching decisions will feel harder in a diverse group, but the process will probably produce better results. Design teams and organizations for disagreement Creative abrasion can be fostered by seeking out people who disagree with you. Individual decision makers can solicit input from people likely to have opposing views. But the effort to build diversity into teams and organizations should start much earlier. Truly successful teams will aim to bring in people that are opinionated and think differently. There are many ways to create diversity within teams and organizations. Start by intentionally creating roles with naturally conflicting objectives or by pairing people with opposing viewpoints to work on a project. Pixar brought in Brad Bird because they knew he was a maverick that would shake up their traditional way of doing things. Jerry Hirshberg was known for hiring people in divergent pairs when he was president of Nissan Design International. He purposefully hired people who were destined to disagree and made them work together. When it comes to creativity, the best person for the job is often two people — people who see the world in utterly different ways.— Jerry Hirshberg Another approach to injecting more disagreement into a process is to create competition deliberately. Red teaming is a method derived from the military in which a team is created to take an adversarial position to the preferred option. Appointing a devil’s advocate to take a contrarian view can have a similar effect. Both methods encourage dissent and ensure no single position dominates the debate. Embracing disagreement requires humility, candor, and empathy To improve the quality of disagreements, individuals must recognize the limits of their knowledge. By keeping an open mind and accepting that their beliefs and opinions can be wrong, individuals can cultivate intellectual humility. This openness enables people to shift their perspective and see a problem from another point of view. If you don’t mind being wrong on the way to being right you’ll learn a lot …— Ray Dalio Productive disagreements require an environment in which people feel safe voicing their opinions. The aim is to create an environment in which there are no negative repercussions of speaking one’s mind. A safe environment opens the door to candor, which is characterized by a willingness to offer frank opinions and constructively challenge the ideas of others. When individuals have a shared purpose and cultivate mutual respect, the challenge can be seen as a means of improving the overall outcome rather than as a personal affront. Never decide without disagreement Our natural tendency is to seek out like-minded people, which is unsurprising, considering that diversity can lead to more uncomfortable and difficult situations. However, the conformity and polarization that can result when groups of like-minded people come together can have disastrous consequences. Diversity and disagreement not only counteract conformity, but they are also likely to enhance creativity and innovation, which will ultimately lead to better performance. In that context, it should be clear why one of the most influential thinkers and authors on the topic of management wrote: The first rule of decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is a disagreement.— Peter Drucker In a similar vein, longtime chairman and CEO of General Motors Alfred Sloan once refused to decide on a matter because there was not enough disagreement on the topic around his management table. Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here. Then, I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until the next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.—Alfred Sloan Disagreement should be an essential ingredient of all-important decision-making processes. Although the friction it creates can feel stressful, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. By challenging each other’s ideas with openness and candor, people are more likely to find creative solutions to their problems, make better decisions, and outperform their competitors. So don’t decide without having a good debate first. This blog post originally appeared as a story on Medium. It is based on insights from a stream on how to Disagree Well. Featured Image: A NASA space shuttle prior to launch (Photo by Terence Burke on Unsplash).

Phil von Heydebreck
12 Sep 2019

The Decision-Making Collection

Decisions are important, which is why most people strive to make good choices. Whether it’s an important life choice or a high-stakes business decision, there are proven methods for making better decisions. It starts by understanding our limitations as decision makers. The Decision Making Collection takes a close look at the art and science of making good decisions. It explores the common errors made by the decision makers and presents many approaches to avoiding them. The collection consists of three streams:  Judgment and Intuition — The Fine Line Between Expert Judgment and Cognitive BiasDecision Making — The Art and Science of Making Better DecisionsDisagree Well — The Art of Disagreeing to Unleash Creativity and Improve Performance Judgment and Intuition — The Fine Line Between Expert Judgment and Cognitive Bias Decisions shape our lives and our world. People are faced with making a constant stream of decisions to navigate daily life. They often rely on intuition to make decisions rather than conscious deliberation. Intuition works well for experts in situations with predictable outcomes. In unfamiliar situations, intuition can be misleading. The stream Judgment and Intuition looks at what can happen when decision makers rely on their intuition to make decisions. Common sources of errors in judgment such as heuristics and cognitive biases are explored.  Decision Making — The Art and Science of Making Better Decisions This stream about Decision Making attempts to clarify why many decisions fail to achieve the desired outcome. It proposes practical debiasing techniques for improving decision-making performance. These techniques include ensuring decision readiness, broad framing, diversity, disagreement, changing perspective, testing assumptions, running experiments, etc.  Disagree Well — The Art of Disagreeing to Unleash Creativity and Improve Performance Disagreement is an essential ingredient in strong decision-making processes. Teams and organizations that foster disagreement perform better and develop more creative solutions to problems. Disagree Well explains how to foster candor and diversity of opinion to enable productive disagreements. 

Phil von Heydebreck
12 Sep 2019