Cross training as it turns out makes you smarter, but only if you learn how it connects and relates to the other related areas

Hebb’s law: Neurons that fire together wire together

Jonathan Levi has dedicated his life to studying how humans learn. His recent book, “The Only Skill That Matters, uses a neuroscience-based approach to help people read faster, remember more, and learn more effectively.

As human beings, when we learn something new, we tend to treat it as just that- something new. But this isn’t conducive to learning or remembering.

Instead of thinking about something as new information, you should immediately think of how you can connect this new topic to something you already know and remember.

Ask yourself, “How does this relate to what I already know? Where can I create a connection?”

Why is this important? Because, as Levi likes to say, our brains work like Google. When you stumble across new information, your brain is asking itself, “How many connections are there to this piece of information?” and “How trusted or valuable are those connections?” The more connections you can make to pre-existing memories, the more likely your brain is going to remember new information.

In neuroscience, this phenomenon is called Hebb’s law, and the idea is that when you connect information in your mind, you’re actually creating connections between neurons in your brain. When you treat a piece of information as entirely new, you’re creating a lone network of neurons. Your brain deems this solitary network unimportant, and you promptly forget it.

But if those neurons are connected with memories (neurons) that are deeply cherished or embedded in your mind, your brain understands that this new information is linked to something important–and therefore, the new stuff is also important and needs to be remembered.

Why Is This Important?

Understanding how cold cutting, heat treatment and plug testing are all related to the work a client needs done and how one affects the others is extremely valuable. There is a huge difference between a one stop shop of multiple crews versus an integrated crew.

In managing departments or supporting them – Learning and connecting the dots BETWEEN safety, IT, quality, sales, quotes, job plans, etc, makes you highly effective and will excel your performance and effectiveness.

Here’s an important point to avoid overwhelm:

Knowing “enough”.

The final piece to remember is that, in most cases, you don’t need to know every granular detail or understand a concept in depth – you just need to know enough.

Levi mentions a story from his time in business school that many could relate to. He was paying an inordinate amount of money to go to business school, yet he found himself in an introductory accounting class. Like most students, he was there to learn how to run a business, not work as an entry-level accountant. So why the accounting class?

The professor started the semester with a simple clarification. He said:

“I fully understand that none of you are here to become accountants. In fact, you probably won’t even do your own bookkeeping. But when someone else is doing it for you, you need to be able to understand what’s going on, ask intelligent questions, and point out errors. That is why you are here.”

As an execution manager as an example, you should only be concerned with learning enough to make an informed decision. Don’t get bogged down in nitty-gritty details. Learn what you need to learn, make the decision you need to make, and move on to the next one.

You need to learn and know enough of all the interconnected pieces to be effective, you don’t need to be the subject matter expert in safety or finance – just enough to do your job and let others be the subject matter experts.

Use the idea of Hebb’s law to become a stronger technician, manager or high performing team contributor.