I’ve spent time reflecting these last few months, but it’s not for a new business idea.  I’m thinking about what I want to leave behind. What can I put out in the world that will help people work and live better? What can help them learn and grow?

I first discovered a useful hack several years into my consulting career.  I re-discovered this hack early in 2020.  Ready to see it?

Learning Hack: Summarize what you have learned about a key (and possibly complex concept) in three to four words.

I like to call it Capture That Concept in homage to “Capture the Flag” format in some games. Thanks to friend, April Jefferson (@soulcraftswoman), for inspiring me to gamify more.

Let me share some examples and a fun challenge for you.

CAPTURE: Agile and Lean

After my first 15 years coaching agile teams, leaders, and organizations, I discovered there was one thing that I always tended to seek out to see if the concept was understood.  For agile and lean, it was:

Agile and lean understanding exists when you observe “regular applied learning.”

You can explore many ideas and take many actions from those three words.  You can think of many questions to better understand the context in which someone applies the concept (“agile and lean” in this case).  For instance:

  • What does “regular” mean for the team, group or organization involved? (Note I did not say “continuous”.)
  • How might “learning” be accomplished?  Is there more than one way?  
  • Does the learning help or hinder the mission of the organization?
  • Is the learning collaborative?  Does a collaborative learning approach help or hinder?
  • What are the best ways for learning to be “applied”?  Does this vary over time?  Does this vary over context?
  • How does “applied learning” help or hinder the mission of the organization?
  • (etc.)

Generating healthy debates (and more learning) becomes a side effect of this 3-to-4 word approach.

CAPTURE: Better Remote Work

In early 2020, I tried to share my years of learning about remote work.  People suffered the rapid switch to remote work.  Their experience (context) differed greatly from mine.  I found power, flexibility, unique collaboration, and more in remote work.  How could I summarize my years of experience in a way that could be easily shared, but applied in many different situations? How could I make remote work easier to understand?

I came up with “Remote Amplifies” (Read the July 2020 blog post here).

What I didn’t expect was how much these two words would help me continue to explore this new world of work and how I could continue to blend (and sometimes challenge) agile and lean concepts.  (I’ll be sharing more about “remote amplifies” in my newsletter.)

CAPTURE: Open Space Technology

As I shared this concept with a friend of mine recently, we were also discussing how to explain Open Space Technology (OST) to non-technical people. If you are not familiar with OST, it’s not the type of “technology” you are thinking about. It’s a format for gathering people together who are passionate about solving an important problem, sharing perspectives, and also coming up with experiments to help solve the problem.

My friend Mike, had heard me talk about OST and how to facilitate it, and had even been in some lean coffee discussions I’ve lead. (Lean Coffee format is the younger and smaller sibling of OST.)

Mike was struggling to explain to his group of leaders that his OST event is not about them talking, but more about listening and being open to new ideas from the entire group. He asked me what I had to explain this unique form of gathering and inspiring others.

My response: Open Space Technology is “passionate learning and action“.

When the “space is held” well in OST, I’ve seen amazing groups, partnerships, support, and even new businesses start in open space. Those four words summarized my experience with this powerful way of gathering people to make a change.

What concept can you capture?

So now I give this tool to you.  What key concept in your work do you have deep experience with?  What do you notice you look for when you seek evidence the concept is being applied?  How would you capture this concept in three to four words?

Now that you have these three to four words, what additional learning does it trigger for you?

Go capture that concept! Let me know what you capture!