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One of the principle tenets of coaching is that we learn more from generating our own answer than from being told the answer. I had a visceral experience of this when a 10 year old tried to teach me how to play Minecraft Survival.

As a “digital native” she is very adept at navigating the screen.  She delighted in setting up a game for me where I had to collect food and implements, traverse structures and fend off dangerous animals to survive.

After hours of practice she has become proficient and keenly takes on exceedingly more difficult challenges. Also as an avid participator in all things digital she is able to elegantly transfer her learning from one game or device to another.

I being a “digital immigrant” struggled to keep on the course and fell precipitously into tanks of sharks and failed to get beyond voracious tigers. Each time I lost a life she grabbed the tablet from me in frustration and repeated in great detail how I was to “do it right”. Albeit a tad crest-fallen, I initially humoured her as she went into instructor mode.

However, with each wresting of the tablet from my hands to reset the game I felt my own impatience growing. What I really wanted to do was grab the tablet and shout “back off and just let me get the hang of it”! …..

Let me experience the failures. Let me calibrate how I navigate more successfully. Let me experiment with the buttons to explore what is in the inventory. Let me see the full consequences of falling into the tank shark. Let me be creative in building structures.

She gave up on me and we resorted to watching an animated version of Sherlock Holmes. As I reflected on this experience it underscored for me the findings of research on how our brains function. We learn best through “self-directed neuroplasticity”. In other words stop telling me and let me come up with the answer.

It is through experiencing a situation and practising rather than intellectualizing that we learn most effectively.

The Neuroscience of Leadership, Strategy + Business (2006) David Rock & Jeffrey Schwartz
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way (2004) Robert Maurer