Hyper-Learning: A book review by Bob Morris

Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change
Edward D. Hess
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (September 2020)

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 
George Bernard Shaw

J. H. Flavell was probably the first to use the term metacognition when suggesting that it “refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them (e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data). For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; or if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact. That was in 1976.

In essence, metacognition means “cognition about cognition”, “thinking about thinking”, “knowing about knowing”, becoming “aware of one’s awareness” and higher-order thinking skills. The term comes from the root word meta, meaning “beyond.” Metacognition can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem-solving. There are generally two components of metacognition: (1) knowledge about cognition and (2) regulation/management of cognition.

I mention all this to create a context within which Edward Hess completes a brilliant analysis of what he  characterizes as “Hyper-Learning.” That is, the “human capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn continually in order to adapt to the speed of change.” He invested seventeen years in wide and deep research — 500 articles and 180 books — as well as his own wide and deep experience in the areas of organizational and individual performance and leadership.

In this context, here are two observations that are compellingly relevant:

Charles Darwin in 1859: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Alvin Toffler in 1984: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I agree with Hess that the need to adapt by learning, unlearning, and relearning is far greater now than at any prior time that I can recall. Hess’s objective is to help those who read this book to “walk away with a personal, implementable plan for becoming a Hyper-Learner, including a way to measure their progress and get feedback from trusted others.” That is an admirable goal and he achieves it in ways and to an extent I did not anticipate when I began to work my way through the Prologue.

Eight of the chapters explain an essential objective. HOW TO:

1. Achieve Inner Peace
2. Adopt a Hyper-Learning Mindset
3. Behave Like a Hyper-Learner
6. Humanize the Workplace
7. Create Caring, Trusting Teams
8. Have High-Quality, Making-Meaning Conversations

The others provide a mini-case study that illustrates the power of Hyper-Earning:

4. The Susan Sweeney Personal Transformation Story
5. The Marvin Riley Personal Transformation Story
9. EnPro Industries: Enabling the Full Release of Human Possibility
11. The Adam Hansen Personal Transformation Story

In Chapter 10, Hess thoroughly examines Hyper-Learning practices that range from “The Challenge/Opportunity” to “Unpacking and Stress-Testing Assumptions Checklist.” (Pages 250-275)

The best self-help books do not transform people. Rather, they help people to transform themselves. The information, insights, and counsel provided in this book will be valuable only to the extent that you absorb and digest the material, then apply effectively whatever is most relevant to each opportunity.

Learning objective #1: Eliminate your “unknown unknowns.”

You can’t have Edward Hess as your personal advisor, working closely with you in weeks and months to come. So, let this book be a magic carpet to achieve personal growth and professional development beyond your wildest dreams. You really can make that happen…with his help.


Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.