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Continuous Improvement: Celebrating Tactile Learning

I admit it.  I am someone who has to move around when I am absorbing information. I found a name for it, a Tactile or Kinesthetic learning style.

It became apparent early that I was problematic for old-school teaching methods. I was a doodler. As I listened, I would draw pictures on my notebooks. This habit landed me in detention more than once. At the time, I was unable to explain that this doodling helped me to focus.

Around Grade 5, I really began to enjoy school. Taking notes was a gift. I could read the blackboard and write everything down as I listened. I could rearrange the notes, draw little pictures for emphasis and colour code. I still didn’t understand that I could only learn by doing.

Throughout much of my career, my learning style continued to be an issue. I would fall asleep during computer training, drift off during long auditorium-style lectures and be laughed at for my furious scribbling during meetings. It began to dawn on me that I needed to be hands on.

Mid-career, I had a boss that would stand up during meetings, look out the window and tap his lips, appearing deep in thought. People were irritated by his behaviour. He was labeled a weirdo. I, however, realized that he had heard every word and that this was his way of processing information Ah, there were more like me!

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. – Chinese Proverb.

This was a turning point. I began to understand the power of the tactile approach to absorbing information. I began to test out theories, play with computer programs and share my notes. As I could almost record meetings verbatim, I was often picked as the meeting scribe.  By editing other people’s briefing notes and reports, I learned to mentor.  Not only could I help them with their grammar, I could help to clarify arguments and provide a safe space for working out strategies. Penmanship became, for me, the ultimate in my tactile journey.

But not quite. As a tactile learner, my learning journey was iterative and through trial and error. It wasn’t until late in my career that I came into contact with the concept of continuous improvement and Lean methodologies. It was suddenly ok to learn by doing and ok not to get it right the first time. I found what I had been looking for!

Time to celebrate my tactile learning style!

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