Learn Through Micromastery

Why micromastery?

Many (or even most) organisations are production focused; the danger with this is that management skills are not keeping pace with organisational growth. L&D can tend to be reactive and symptom focused. This is inevitable when their information comes from performance reviews and appraisals, which are by their very nature retrospective, and their internal clients prioritise plugging knowledge and skills gaps over developing their staff members for a possible future role that may not even occur in their team.

People are changing the way they consume learning; often they are looking for immediate answers or ‘how tos’, when and where they need them and in a variety of formats – the ‘googlisation’ of learning is upon us!

Some organisations are experiencing very real problems with staff engagement, retention and succession, not necessarily caused by the current situation but certainly spotlighted and exacerbated by it, which are symptomatic of management capability and performance issues. Staff may be managed by ‘accidental managers’, that is managers who have been promoted based on their technical mastery but have not been trained or mentored in the management skills. While this is clearly not their fault, there will be an impact on team efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately on results. Historically learning and development has rarely been linked to concrete qualitative or quantitative business measures, thus very few organisations know how much of their training budget is having an effect or what the effect actually is.

Right now Covid-19 means that the majority of people are furloughed or working from home and classroom-based learning is off the agenda for the time being; social distancing is likely to persist and working (and learning) from home is going to be part of the new normal. Organisations must by law provide a (mentally) healthy and safe work environment, even if it’s at home; part of that obligation includes ensuring staff have the skills, knowledge and confidence to carry out their work, wherever they do that. The UK government has clarified that furloughed staff may participate in online training; this may be vital to ensure their transition back into work is as seamless as possible.

What is a micromastery?

A micromastery as defined by Robert Twigger, author of ‘Micromastery’, is ‘a self-contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field’. When you learn using the process of micromastery, you have a choice: you can perfect that single thing or go onto bigger things – or both. Micromasteries are repeatable by their very nature and level of granularity, and importantly, they have a payoff for the individual in and of themselves. They lend themselves to experimentation; the learner is encouraged to change different variables to see what leads to improvement.

One of the founding principles of learning by micromastery is that they allow you to learn in a 3D way so they appeal to the multi-sensory neurons in the brain and engage every learning style. You learn ‘in flow’ and micro-successes/payoffs mean the learner does not lose heart, and time flies.

Twigger maintains it is all about your attitude to learning, NOT any innate talent. In other words, by using the micromastery learning process, anyone has the opportunity to become a great leader or manager.

The micromastery learning process allows us to overcome the three main reasons why learners fail:

  • They give up

  • They fail to gain momentum so lose heart

  • They become distracted

How do people learn through micromastery?

Micromastery is about learning small, learning fast, learning long. The learner begins by asking him/herself a couple of questions:

  • What is the problem, gap or need I have that requires skills or knowledge I don’t yet have?

  • What skills/knowledge do I need for the next rung on the career ladder or the next thing I’ve been tasked within this job?

Once this is established, a micromastery is made up of six elements; these are not sequential but are integral and integrated:

  1. Entry trick – the way into a skill that insiders know, that circumvents the often lengthy, painful and exasperating learning curve, and that make the skill/appear easy

  2. Rub-pat barrier – recognising there is often a competing, equally important skill that can slow progress if you try to perfect both simultaneously. Each skill requires development of its own neural pathway before they can be combined to create ‘flow’ or ‘autopilot’ level of mastery

  3. Background support – ensuring you stack the odds of success in your favour by having good equipment, tools, support, time and an open mind, and doing what you can to remove any obstacles to success

  4. Payoff – vital to ensure you’re motivated to continue; this can be an ‘inside’ job. The payoff must be defined and measurable by the learner themselves in order to counter distraction and demotivation. Measures can be intangible internal feelings or external applause/attention

  5. Repeatability – (through purposeful practice) – it must be fun, interesting and flexible within a format that makes it easy to repeat and improve. Gameability introduces an element of unpredictability (so improvement is not always a given) and can make practice more compelling

  6. Experimental possibilities – can link science to human curiosity; try changing the variables/places where you practise. Twist, turn, do it back to front, mess it up and have fun; you’ll add zest to the purposeful practice. It’s not always just about the outcome

Learning through micromastery encourages dynamic rather than just static learning; the difference between learning a series of process steps and exploring the relationship between those steps. Dynamic learning encourages centring and balance, which leads to confidence thus to a virtuous circle of improvement. Repeatability and experimentation help to flatten the forgetting curve by creating efficiency through short cuts, aides memoires and patterns/habits; thus you are able to retain what you learn for longer.

Importantly in today’s world of greater personalisation, the learner develops a much greater feeling of control over their learning, not only what they learn, but also how, when and to what level.