Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review: Pragmatic Thinking & Learning

Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt, ISBN 1934356050.

Yet another terrific book from Pragmatic Press, this one on the critical skill of learning how to learn.

It’s my opinion that problem solving and the ability to rapidly learn new things are the two most important skills in our industry. Andy’s book helps you boost your learning ability by walking you through some fundamental aspects of how one learns.  He uses a lot of practical examples drawn from various studies on the psychology and background of learning, and does a great job of linking findings in domains such as nursing to our own IT domain.

It would be easy to dive so deeply into complex, dry topics like the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, brain modes, etc., but Andy does a great job of keeping an appropriate level of writing. He also fills the book with small, practical tips to help out – simple things like keeping a notepad or PDA around all the time to capture fleeting ideas in order to flesh them out later.

I also love how he highlights things that don’t work, like his example of “sheep dip” training where technologists are lined up and thrown through an intensive multi-day training course which has little or no direct applicability to their environment. The training, like the parasite-killing goop sheep are dipped in, quickly wears off and has to be re-applied.

The book’s tone is clear, enjoyable, and concise. The book’s content is invaluable and mind-changing. I highly recommend you grab a copy and read it!

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