Kids, Kanban and Learning Plateaus

Keeping our family organized – particularly the kids –  has been the major motivation for my continued use of innovative Kanban techniques at home. Our first foray was a simple dining room table kanban, followed by the household fridgeban and thereafter our very successful and hugely popular checklist kanban.

We used this last incarnation very effectively with the kids for almost nine months to teach them their morning and evening routines for the school week. However, by the first quarter of this year I noticed that its allure seemed to have faded. Unless prompted by a parent, they were hardly ever using the checklist kanban anymore.

At first, I thought this was simply because of the oft-repeated parenting truism that you have to keep things “interesting and fresh” for children. In my Personal Kanban podcast with Joe Dager a couple of months ago, I specifically raised this as an important aspect of Kidzban to keep in mind when designing and using kanban for and with children.

Over Easter break, I consequently took time out to reinvent the checklist kanban in a bid to re-engage  the kids in a fun way. As I was doing so, I was reminded of the fundamental theoretical underpinnings of this change.

All learning hits a plateau at some point

It’s not that children are inexplicably “different” to adults. What is really at work here is the plateau effect. Ask any athlete and they can tell you all about it. After weeks of hard training, your body stops responding to the training regime. Your times stubbornly refuse to get any better. Those centimetres just won’t budge. This is the point where your trainer usually tells you to try something new, to change the regime in order to trigger a new learning curve. Your body simply has learnt all it was going to with the initial regime.

Children learn more, faster

The human brain and mind respond similarly when learning new skills, knowledge and behavior. In children, this effect is amplified as the rate at which they acquire new learning far exceeds that of the average adult, when exposed to a rich learning environment. This is why it’s possible for them to acquire the rich symbolic system that is language with little to no overt instruction and with such apparent ease.

Keeping things “fresh and interesting” for children is therefore an intrinsic requirement for continued learning. It’s not a parent’s pandering to “bored” children. It’s not a failure in the way you have created your Personal Kanban.  It’s simply that the tool has outgrown its cognitive usefulness as a learning mechanism.

Fix it, when it’s broke

Too often, we cling to old tools and techniques well past their sell-by date. We apply them more rigorously. We train harder. We train longer. We become frustrated with ourselves and our lack of “discipline”. We become demotivated – a surefire way to stop all further learning in its tracks.

As parents, educators and kanbanistas we must recognise plateaus as early as possible so that we can respond proactively with richer learning experiences – well before the drive to learn stops.

Do you have a learning plateau story to share? I would love to hear examples of how others have dealt with the plateau effect in the context of learning and process improvement.   You can check back here in the coming weeks for more about our “new and improved” Kidzban.

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One Response to Kids, Kanban and Learning Plateaus

  1. Patty says:

    This is an excellent post and I concur with what you have discovered. You must keep things “fresh and interesting” if the child is not excited it will not hold their interest.

    This is why I believe that Personal Kanban in my classroom is a great fit- it evolves with the children. While the abc’s kanban we used this year was highly successful, it will not be done the exact way it was this year, it will change and evolve with each new class. We discovered that it changed and evolved with every new letter we learned each week.

    So many kaizen moments and great retrospective conversations grew out of that Personal Kanban we used this year.

    As always, you post is spot on and gives me so much to think about as I continue to use Personal Kanban and evolve as well. Thank you.

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