The Heuristic Method of Learning

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Everyone knows the famous story of how Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb after 1000s of unsuccessful attempts. A young reporter once asked Edison why he kept on attempting to invent the light bulb in-spite of his numerous failures. Edison famously replied ” I have not failed 1000 times, but I have discovered 1000 ways how not to invent the light bulb”.

You might have also heard that Edison only had 3 months of schooling, yet was able to establish himself as one of the most successful inventors of the 19th century.

Thomas Edison was a practitioner of Heuristic Method of Learning. In this article, let’s learn more about Heuristic learning; and how you can use it enhance your career.

As per Merriam Webster’s Dictionary – HEURISTICS is defined as

“involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental methods.”

The Heuristic approach employs a practical method in reaching your goals, though not guaranteed to be perfect. In other words, using trial-and-error you can speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. As opposed to traditional learning which usually employs facts,theories and postulations – Heuristic learning involves testing,doing,practice,etc.

Though the term “Heuristic Method” is not commonly used (except for Academic Research) – it is widely used by successful entrepreneurs and corporations.

In this article, I will discuss few scenarios where Heuristic Method of Learning are used to complete projects & achieve objectives faster. Towards the end of the article, I will also share some ideas on how you can apply the concept to your life & career.

Marketing

A/B Testing is the modern Internet marketer’s best friend. If you have spoken to anyone in marketing – the term A/B Testing comes up a lot. In this concept, two different web pages are tested to see which page is more effective. The page that provides a better conversion rate wins. It is that simple.

If you have ever visited a particular website, and you notice that the interface looks different – it is because they are constantly testing which version is more effective.

The reason A/B Testing is very popular and also more effective – is because it helps a marketer to get to their desire end results (higher conversion) faster. Instead of applying theories and complex KPIs – simple tests allows them to allocate their resources – time and budget accordingly.

The Heuristic Method of Learning

Product Development

Traditionally, the prevalent method for programming and product development was the SDLC method i.e. Systems Development Lifecycle. There is a step-by-step process before an actual project is planned,tested and then developed to be released to end users. Though this style of Product Management is widely used – it is being replaced by Agile Methodology. This method speeds up the product development process by incorporating constant feedback followed by testing and then the release. The Agile proccess is more adaptable as opposed to SDLC which is more predictable. In a recent survey, more and more companies are now shifting to Agile Development Process.

The Heuristic Method of Learning

Entrepreneurship

I started off with an example of a prolific inventor Thomas Edison, but he was also one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the late 19th century. Edison used the same Heuristic methods to marketing & selling his products to the mass public. Other successful entrepreneurs who have used Trial-and-error for their ventures include Henry Ford, Richard Branson, etc.

Entrepreneurs are willing to take more risks, and try new ideas & methods as opposed to established corporations who are more interested in protecting profits. As a result, Entrepreneurs cause more disruptions in the marketplace, and thus create more opportunities. Recently AirBnB and Uber have both disrupted conventional business models that have been around for more than 50 years.

The Heuristic Method of Learning

So, how does all this relate to you as an individual?

I hope I have given you enough evidence that Heuristic Method is the fastest and practical way to achieve you goals.

Compared to the traditional method of learning – that is analysis,study,theory- the fastest way to learn a new skill or achieve any goal is to by taking action.

“If you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you have to actually practice that skill in context. Study, by itself, is never enough.” – Josh Kaufam, The First 20 Hours

You cannot learn to ride a motorcycle by reading about motorcycles , or by studying how the internal combustion engine works ; or how the spark plug ignites the engine.

The proven way to learn to ride a motorcycle is just to practice driving it. You will quickly learn how to control the vehicle, how to position your body, how to drive in traffic,etc.

The same applies to a business skill such as “Learning to Build a Website”. There are numerous sources on the Internet, and the Libraries are packed with books on how to build a website.

The fastest way to build a website is to just get started. Here is what my idea of starting a website looks like

a) Decide what to write about
b) Choose a domain name
c) Choose a Hosting Provider
d) Purchase the Domain Name
e) Purchase a Hosting Package
f) Start Writing
g) Get Feedback
h)Learn new Techniques
i) Apply new Writing Techniques
j) Write more Articles

And continue the process until you get the right type of message that resonates with your audience.

Do yourself a favour, check out WayBackMachine. Type in the name of your favourite current website (Facebook,LinkedIn,Pinterest,etc.) – see how that website used to look like in the past. Most of them looked crappy in the beginning. However, they evolved over time to their current state.

Here are some key takeaways

1. The fastest way to learn is the practical method i.e Heuristic Method

2. Adopt a mindset of Consistent Action

3. Don’t look for perfection, just get started

4. Become Agile – learn from the feedback, and apply that to the new action.

Feel free to share this article, if you found the information resourceful !!

The Heuristic Method of Learning

Written By
Nissar Ahamed is the Founder & CEO of CareerMetis.com. He is also the host of The Career Insider Podcast and the co-host of The C.A.R.E. Podcast

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