INFORMS Open Forum

  • 1.  Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 18 days ago

    Recently, a number of us published an article about the significance of life-long learning for military education https://pubsonline.informs.org/do/10.1287/orms.2022.04.13/full/.  We pointed out that individual and collecting learning are critical to our future; however, we also remarked that learning isn't easy once you've left the schoolroom. 

    We listed a number of skills/attributes that we thought to be necessary; I'd like to hear comments about any of these.  Do any of them resonate with you, either as personal attributes or attributes for your subordinates?  Did we miss anything?

    We also listed a couple of impediments; would you like to comment on them?

    We aimed this article at the military; however, with only slight changes, it could have been written for any highly structured organization.  So, feel free to generalize in your responses.

    But there is a final point, namely successes.  When I was in the Army, I served in the Pentagon, supporting the analytical part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The impediments were missing there and most if not all of the attributes for life-long learning were supported.  I suspect that any successful organization will have at least a portion of it that embodies many of these attributes.  I'd be happy to hear about those, too.



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    Dean Hartley
    Principal
    Hartley Consulting
    Oak Ridge TN
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  • 2.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 15 days ago
    Hello Dean,

    I found your article quite enjoyable to read.  I believe your discussion on motivations, necessary skills/attributes, and impediments are quite accurate to my own observations.    Consistency and a long-term view are key to gradual, persistent knowledge acquisition, in individuals and organizations, and I believe your work here is highly relevant to individual learners.

    In terms of impediments, I'd be inclined to add something to the effect of "time until acquired knowledge reaches useful proficiency", which is coupled with the near-term incentives most people face in life.  For example, it may end up being quite useful for someone's future success that they take the time to study a deeper level of, say, probability theory, perhaps diving into the subject at the measure-theoretic level.  In the near term, they may not wish to pursue it, since it would likely take a great deal of time until they are proficient enough to leverage the additional technical machinery.  The perception of a knowledge upgrade being a wasted time sink rather than a way to, in aggregate, enhance one's abilities, be this perception internal or organizational, strikes me as an impediment.

    On the topic of effective learning, I recently came across some resources on spaced repetition that I thought might be of interest to share, either for students or colleagues.  This first one would be well-suited for introducing either highschoolers or undergrads to the subject: https://ncase.me/remember/.  This second resource is of greater scholarly interest, as it includes a nice summary of the literature on spaced repetition and the efficacy of testing in the memorization process: https://www.gwern.net/Spaced-repetition.  Given that many of us pursue quantitative work, I think it is useful to remind students that memorizing definitions and theorems will greatly complement the work they do completing practice problems in their path to mastery.

    Kind regards,

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    Kiefer Burgess
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  • 3.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 15 days ago
    I'm not sure if I'm doing this right - but here goes.  Keifer, thanks for the thoughtful and useful response.  I agree that you've identified a new impediment.  Thanks!  Dean

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    Dean Hartley
    Principal
    Hartley Consulting
    Oak Ridge TN
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  • 4.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 15 days ago
    interesting article...

    To better understand what the term" Cognitive Superiority" means, 
    can you kindly provide a copy or link to view Reference 7.Hartley, D. S. & Jobson, K. O., 2020, "Cognitive Superiority: Information to Power," New York: Springer.



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    Klaus Peter Finke Harkonen
    Principal
    Finke Harkonen Oy
    Espoo
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  • 5.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 15 days ago
    If you follow the following link to the Springer page, you will find more information about the concept and the book.

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    Dean Hartley
    Principal
    Hartley Consulting
    Oak Ridge TN
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  • 6.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 13 days ago
    With respect to impediments, I think "time-out" might be the biggest.
    I'm currently serving as an Army ORSA, and while there are some odd things about my career path I don't think the amount of schooling I've had is out of the ordinary.

    If I count up my time in schooling to include Professional Military Education (PME), advanced "brick and motar" schools, and full-time advanced civilian schooling (ACS):
    • ~9 months for various initial entry courses (Officer Basic, Airborne, etc)
    • ~7 months of Captain's Career Course
    • ~4 months of long courses related to some assignments/skills
    • ~4 months of initial ORSA qualification (ORSA-MAC)
    • ~6 of intermediate level qualification (Satellite ILE and FA49 Qualification Course)
    • ~22 months of advanced civilian schooling (ACS)
    • This does not include any "off-duty" or part-time schools, nor any online training (annual online or in-person training, shorter courses related to an individual duty or assignment, technical sustainment training, etc)

    If we compare this time (~52 months) across a 20 year career (240 months) we find that I will have been in school more than 1 day in every 5 in the Army.  This ratio is higher if I look at my current time in service (another 2 1/2 years of work with no more school) -- it's almost 1 day in every 4! 

    What would this ratio be if we include the myriad short courses and online training such as:
    • how to integrate FBCB2 with CPOF or quickly and safely egress a HUMVEE that rolled over;
    • awareness of cybersecurity threats;
    • how to hire and manage civilians and conduct performance appraisals in three different systems (TAPES, NSPS, DPMAP!);
    • how to work in the Army's new HR system or how to code in SAS;
    • the various skill acquisition and sustainment training the Army provides in ORSAs via MIT or Coursera. 
    What would it be if we counted training at the Joint Readiness Training Center or the National Training Center?

    If viewed this way, it is certainly reasonable to ask if all of that time is well spent.  I doubt any corporation invests in the professional and personal development of its employees more (though in few other circumstances are the stakes as high as life and death).  The vast majority of the Army's senior commissioned officers have an advanced degree (a 4-year degree is a pre-commissioning requirement that rarely gets waived, and then only for our most junior positions).  And there are plenty of ways for Officers to get a graduate degree (from numerous fully funded opportunities to tuition-assistance or 9/11 GI Bill funded study after-hours). But there is alot more to life-long-learning than just academic credentials.  Whether or not they pursue an academic credential, I'd argue that almost every Army officer is already a life-long-learner.  It's baked into our career paths, our culture, and even our career management processes and assignments.  While I can certainly find the exceptions (I'm sure every company and industry will have an example of someone being THAT guy), the general rule is that Army Officers already exhibit and embody the dozen attributes you list for the future.  These attributes aren't provided from any one source.  They come from life experiences, from previous employment and assignments, from military and civilian education, technical training courses, shared culture and the shared purpose that comes from tackling the nation's hardest problems. 

    Surely, there's plenty to improve upon... but the future is already here. 


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    Matthew Ferguson
    Senior Operations Research Analyst
    United States Army Human Resources Command
    Elizabethtown KY
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  • 7.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 12 days ago
    Matthew, I'm glad to hear this.  I was only on active duty for four years and that was in a special situation.  Your experience tells me that the training opportunities I had were not anomalies - at least for ORSAs.  After that I worked in industry and at ORNL.  It was a lot harder to get extra education there than it had been in the Army, and that was a time-out impediment in industry and a funding issue at the Lab.

    I wonder if being in a technical field makes a difference.  Life-long learning is critical in technical fields; however, I think it is also critical in general management, perhaps more to maintain flexibility of thinking and decision making rather than technical content.

    Comments?

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    Dean Hartley
    Principal
    Hartley Consulting
    Oak Ridge TN
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  • 8.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 7 days ago
    Hi Dan,

    I read your article and found it very interesting. There are many students who reengage with the Industrial and Systems Engineering department at the University at Buffalo for life-long learning purposes. This is usually in the form of an MS degree but sometimes is also in the form of taking a set of graduate classes or a certificate program. We have had several students (not large numbers, but a steady stream) with a military background come to our department to complete an MS degree with a thesis that is focussed on military and security applications. These include military officers from the US, and also from South Korea and Turkey. When engaging with these students in class I found that they needed some time to re-familiarize themselves with some advanced analytical (e.g. calculus and theory) and programming skills, but once that was achieved they did well in our program. As a result a typical situation involved two years of study as opposed to 1 1/2 years for other students who transitioned directly from an academic setting.

    Best regards,

    Rajan

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    Rajan Batta
    SUNY Distinguished Professor
    University at Buffalo (SUNY)
    Buffalo NY
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  • 9.  RE: Life-Long Learning Is Hard

    Posted 7 days ago
    I know what you mean - my calculus skills are definitely rusty!  Thanks for giving us this information.  Dean

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    Dean Hartley
    Principal
    Hartley Consulting
    Oak Ridge TN
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