• Ian Gibbs

5 Ways to Start Strengthening Your Understanding of New Ideas


We all know that practice makes perfect. But when practice isn’t an option, a good alternative is to vocalise.

Whether you’re interested in team-building, telesales techniques or trigonometry, a great way to increase your understanding of a new concept is to discuss it with someone else.


If you want to consolidate the new ideas you read about last night, explain them to a friend.


This works because when we transform our new ideas into meaningful conversation, we create new neuronal connections which reinforce those ideas. The result is that by talking about new things we want to learn, we understand them better and remember them for longer.

Yet while talking is easy, having a meaningful conversation about your focus subject is more challenging, especially if you don’t have someone to talk to who is as equally keen as you are.


And even if you are lucky enough to have a conversation partner at the ready, spontaneously starting a conversation isn’t that easy.


So to give you food for thought - or food for dialogue, to be more precise - here are a few conversation techniques I use in my LEARNABILITY workshops.

1: The 3 Most Important Points

Here you’re encouraged to consider, from all the ideas you’ve covered, which are the most important. There is no correct answer as it’s purely subjective. The activity is to get the participants to start recalling and evaluating.

So from the training day you just attended or the last nonfiction book you read, what were the 3 most important points?

And when you’ve done that, explain each one.

2: What would happen if…?

Here the challenge is to think of a hypothetical situation based on the subject you’re learning and consider what is consequences would be.

What would happen if business meetings could only be for a maximum of 30 mins?

What would it be like if it were impossible to lie?

The purpose of these questions is not to get a ‘right’ answer. It’s to generate meaningful conversation.

3: Just a Minute

‘Just A Minute’ is a popular British Radio 4 panel game where individual members of two teams have to speak for 60 seconds on whatever subject they’re given.


The rules are simple:


- If you pause, you lose.

- If you say ‘er’, ‘um’, ‘ahhh’ or similar, you lose.

- If you repeat yourself, you lose.

- If you stray off subject, you lose.


Your challenge is to recall as much meaningful content as possible to last the minute. Once done, you can then enter into real conversation about any points raised.

4: Why Why Why

Here you start with a ‘Why?’ question such as…


“Why is leadership not the same as management?”

Or…

“Why did the Spanish Civil war start?”

Or…

“Why are 40-ton aeroplanes able to fly?”


Once the person has given their answer, you keep asking them more ‘Why?’ question based on their previous answers. But when appropriate feel free to enter into a meaningful conversation.

5: If X were Y

Finally, another hypothetical challenge. Here you ask a question such as:

”If Angela Merkel were an animal, what animal would she be?”

or

“If the Cardiovascular system were an airport, what would be the heart?”

Remember, they’re always based on the topic you want to understand better.


Then follow up by asking more details which, again, should lead into a natural conversation.

Conversation is a simple and effective method to reinforce new ideas. But sometimes it’s not that easy to dive into a discussion at the drop of a hat. So the next time you’d like to strengthen your understanding of a new idea, try out one of these activities with a friend and see how things unfold.


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