Necessity is the mother of learning.
(In case you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me in over a week, I was up in the northern backwoods of New Hampshire with my co-author Raj Sisodia finishing up our new book, Firms of Endearment.)
The fourth core needs system in this series concern adaptation values. A-Values promote behavior that lead to development of knowledge and competence to fulfill one’s needs.
Like a good mother, Nature uses a variety of strategies to make sure that we get our minimum daily learning requirements met. The play imperative is found in every mammalian species. Whether kittens or kids, play is Nature’s way of ensuring that the young acquire the learning they need to survive as adults.
Children play with miniature replicas of adult artifacts like Tonka trucks and Barbie’s kitchenware. This is the beginning of role-play, which gets to be very serious business in teenage life. Play in adolescence takes on an experimental quality that revolves around friendships, career fantasies, ideas, music and the big “S” word. Idea play reaches its peak for many in the college years. Just recall the endless hours you examined the world with friends until the first rays of dawn.
Novelty seeking underlies much of the desire for learning in the early years. It’s what promotes experimentation and thrill-seeking behavior. Young people generally pursue novelty with greater vigor than older people. Cravings for the dramatic, the extreme, and the different draw young people into new experiences that broaden and deepen their learning.
The stronger appetite for novelty among the young makes them more prone to faddish behavior. Fads replace the routine and are valuable for presenting one’s self as being IN.
In midlife and later, people are increasingly inclined to follow the routine. This serves growing desires for a simpler and more balanced life. It is why in our aging society the “retro” has become increasingly appealing.
Though experiencing novelty for learning purposes is less prominent in the second half of life, it does
remain a force in behavior because novel experiences help to maintain a sense
Learning for vocational purposes dominates the knowledge acquisition behavior of people in the first half of life. Learning for personal growth and for the sheer pleasure of
learning tends to be stronger in the second half of life. This is why colleges and universities across the country have been aggressive in putting together learning opportunities for older people.
Marty Knowlton and David Bianco of the University of New Hampshire established Elderhostel in 1975 as a program that integrated travel and education. With more than 400,000 members 55 and older, Elderhostel works with participating institutions of learning and other organizations in every state and many nations abroad to offer the developed world’s burgeoning older population with continuing education and travel opportunities.
When AARP offered travel, Hal Norvell who was director of AARP’s travel programs told me that he once developed two brochures for the same destination. He focused on catered services features of the tour in one brochure, and on educational opportunities in the other. The second brochure drew the larger response.
Messages promising people that a given product will help them be smarter, stronger, and more effective are often A-Valued centered (they can be I-Value or R-Value centered, as well.) A-Value centered brand taglines include Apple’s “Think different” and also its “The power to be your best”; New York Times’ “All the news that’s fit to print; the U.S. Army’s “Be all you can be”; and Forbes’ “Capitalist tool.” They are all about becoming more competent.
Next: A Sampling of A-Value Motivations