2 Metaphors for Learning: The Baby and the Fly

Let’s consider two role models for your learning and  personal development: the baby and the fly. Now I’m going to start by assuming that you have more in common with a baby than a common house fly, or at least I hope you have.

The Baby
Babies learn to work by trial and error. It makes an attempt to walk but quickly topples over and lands on it’s butt! The shock may make the baby cry but what does it do? Give up, try exactly the same again or try something slightly different? Well by this time the baby has a working hypothesis of what’s working and what isn’t based on feedback of previous butt-floor encounters. Baby may decide to shift weight a little in one direction, do a slightly different thing with the arms and so on. The original plan stays pretty much the same after all it did resulting in standing an a first step. After that it’s a cause of  using a continual improvement approach. Sometimes progress is slow but nevertheless it keeps going forward: try-think-tweak-try-think-tweak-try!

Now let’s consider the fly.

The Fly
Imagine there’s a fly in you house. (If that offends you then imagine it’s in my house). Not being blessed with such a sophisticated processing system, the fly thinks that if it can see through a window, then it must be able to fly through a window. Of course, it collides with the window, over and over again. Unlike the baby, the fly doesn’t reflect but continues to head-butt the glass, even though there may be an open window close by. The fly doesn’t see the opportunities or look for solutions other than ‘persistence pays’. And yes, full marks to both the fly and the baby for persistence, but bonus marks to the baby for using the feedback and knowing to adjust the plan and trying something different. What we need is persistence in formed by feedback with an eye on opportunities viewed through ‘solution-focused’ lenses.

Now, human being are much smarter than flies. Just compare diets for a start. However, sometimes in moments of blinkered persistence we behave like the fly or else give up altogether. Babies are like little scientists performing experiments and that’s how they manage to learn so much in short a short space of time.

Babies learn; flies use your food as their lavatory. What do you want as your role model?


[Adapted from Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It]

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One thought on “2 Metaphors for Learning: The Baby and the Fly

  1. Pingback: The Viewing Influences the Doing: Coping With Big Jobs & Distorted Perceptions of Time « PsyCentral Blog with Dr Gary Wood

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