Learn or Die Book Summary - Learn or Die Book explained in key points
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Learn or Die summary

Edward D. Hess

Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization

4.1 (47 ratings)
18 mins
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    Learn or Die
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    System 1 thinking says keep the status quo. System 2 thinking says shake it up; we can do better.

    We learn as we observe the results of cause and effect in our environment. When dark clouds gather overhead, for example, you know through past observation that it may rain.

    Over time, such observations become a way of interpreting the world. Our learning systems are somewhat like a computer operating system – that takes more work to rewrite. Yet it’s precisely our ability to rewrite what we’ve learned that is the key to productive learning.

    The human learning machine consumes lots of energy, and because of this, tends to operate more often than not on autopilot – relying on instinct – to conserve fuel.

    We call this mode System 1. It’s in this mode that you, for example, keep your voice down inside rather than yell and scream, based on the hard lessons you learned as a child.

    Sometimes this mode can blind you, however. When you really need to think out of the box, such as when you’re trying to figure out why a competitor’s product is crushing yours in the market, you need to switch your thinking to System 2.

    The ultimate goal of a learning organization is to overcome the preference for System 1 thinking. To do so, learning organizations must help employees to process information, especially information that challenges automatic assumptions.

    System 1 thinking isn’t a problem with basic activities. Yet in business, it can cause you to miss trends or opportunities. A company stuck in System 1 thinking often can’t see alternatives to the status quo.

    In contrast, System 2 thinking helps you reject automatic responses; instead, you’re able to consider new options and temper any bias.

    Observing and managing the way you think is essential to actual learning. One way to get in the habit of using System 2 thinking is to simply reflect on what you’ve done during the day. This will help you to identify critical moments in which System 2 thinking could have helped.

    Throughout the process, remember to keep an open mind so you can turn mistakes into learning opportunities.

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    What is Learn or Die about?

    Learn or Die (2014) makes a strong case for personal and organizational learning as a survival tool in today’s fast-paced business world. Full of practical tips, the book presents a framework for how individuals and organizations can create an environment that fosters life-long learning.

    Who should read Learn or Die?

    • Team leaders, managers, CEOs and entrepreneurs
    • Career-minded employees looking to improve overall skills
    • Managers who want to build a learning organization

    About the Author

    Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. He has written a number of books on personal growth, leadership and entrepreneurship, including The Road to Organic Growth and Grow to Greatness.

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