How to Learn: Take Advantage of Breaks

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I’m a member of Vistage, the largest CEO membership organization. I learn a lot in my group’s monthly meetings, but it’s not always during our working sessions or speaker presentations.

After a one or two hour structured dialog, people get up to stretch, move around, maybe grab a drink or a snack. This simple change of position and activity does something to your brain. We need change to stimulate and re-energize us and periodic breaks provide that opportunity.

So what goes on next? Someone will start a casual dialog, I’ll chime in, and then it happens. What seems like a innocuous comment, something that was said in passing conversation, becomes that golden nugget of information that we all strive to get – the reason that we show up at conferences, seminars, and group meetings like this.

idea lightbulb

Here’s how this scenario played out earlier this year. I was trying to figure out how to guide our marketing team on publicity strategy for our bi-annual email marketing metrics report (by the way, our latest report is coming out next month – new trends are surfacing!).

At lunch, one of my group members asked how we were planning our publicity. I responded with a typical strategy: as soon as the report was finished, we would draft a press release and contact some of the media outlets with whom we have relationships.

That’s when it happened. As the waiter poured the coffee, out came my colleague’s casual comment: “Sometimes we write the press release first. It gives everyone who is working on the project a clearer definition of the end goal.” It hit me like a bolt of lightening. It made so much sense.

Now, once we have the general statistics on what we will include in our metrics report but before the final draft is completed, we write the press announcement so everyone knows the main message points of the final report. It helps the graphic designers focus on the key points during layout and keeps the marketing and support teams ready with tidbits of teaser information for those who contact us about it prior to release. Of course, we’re careful not to write the report’s conclusions before we have analyzed the data.

That insight, which took all of 2 seconds to hear, was my golden nugget that day. It was worth the entire day’s meeting. We now apply the concept to other small projects that warrant press announcements.

Tell me about a situation in which you learned more during a break than the actual learning event.

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