Think like a Duck!


The incident narrated here, happened at a coffee shop, with a group of people, all in the business of learning and literature. Here we were, two project managers in an elearning company, this poet from the Menominee tribe of Native Americans and I.

As is the story of every project manager’s life, this friend was talking about work pressure, and fire fighting despite project plans, fishbone analysis and management reviews. Marcus the poet, was listening to us very patiently until then, asking questions, showing interest in the world of project managers, and at that instance when my project manager friend said, “ I am so stressed….”, comes this line and then the anecdote of, “Think like a Duck..”.

Just as a duck keeps swimming irrespective of the rains and other turbulences caused on water, so should a project manager let it all pass, while doing what needs to be done! I could not help but notice the shine in my friend’s eyes. The lesson hit home, it rung a bell, struck a chord. Say what you will, but that is a learning, which I am sure my friend will mull over tonight. This example will stay in his mind, probably form a schema and in the form of an analogy, maybe recalled by my friend when he passes through similar situations.

Today evening’s conversation was just another example of informal learning, happening in company of peers. Maybe, we need to create more opportunities or allow more opportunities for such conversations in organizations. Effectiveness of such learning opportunities remains to be determined, but a seed is definitely sown in such environments.

In my opinion, the implications for instructional design: to build in analogies to activate representations, and thus promote easier learning as also better retention and recall. One definitely would use it, where it is best utilized.

(To read more about Analogy, and the properties of analogy that activate representations, one may want to read Gentner,D. To read up on representations, one may want to look at papers by Rumelhart & Ortony, disessa, Sherin to name a few).

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