O'Reilly logo

Apprenticeship Patterns by Adewale Oshineye, Dave Hoover

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Share What You Learn

I can not overstate how much a generous spirit contributes to good luck. Look at the luckiest people around you, the ones you envy, the ones who seem to have destiny falling habitually into their laps. What are they doing that singles them out? It isn’t dumb luck if it happens repeatedly. If they’re anything like the fortunate people I know, they’re prepared, they’re always working at their craft, they’re alert, they involve their friends in their work, and they tend to make others feel lucky to be around them.

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Context

You have been an apprentice for a little while. You know a few things and people are starting to look to you as a source of knowledge.

Problem

Up until now, you have focused exclusively on your own improvement as a craftsman. To become a journeyman you will need the ability to communicate effectively and bring other people up to speed quickly.

Solution

Early in your apprenticeship, develop the habit of regularly sharing the lessons you have learned. This may take the form of maintaining a blog or running “brown bag” sessions amongst your Kindred Spirits. You can also make presentations at conferences or write tutorials for the various technologies and techniques that you are learning.

At first this will be difficult. After all, you are not a master or even a journeyman: surely you should wait for someone more experienced to put themselves forward? However, you will find that your fellow apprentices will appreciate one of their own trying to demystify complex topics. You may know only a tiny amount about category theory or prototype-based programming languages, but the little knowledge you have is still more than most. Since you know only a little bit, your explanations will be simple and straight to the point without assuming prior knowledge. This will make them better explanations. You may find that it helps to write the tutorial you wish you had been given when you were first learning a particular topic or technology.

Being part of a community of individuals where both learning on your own and humbly sharing that newly acquired knowledge are valued is one of the most powerful aspects of apprenticeship. It makes otherwise-esoteric fields of knowledge suddenly accessible, and provides apprentices with guides who speak their language.

Furthermore, teaching is a powerful learning tool for the person doing the teaching, perhaps even more so than for the students. Thus the old saying “When one person teaches, two people learn.”

This pattern is most clearly connected to Record What You Learn. If you have recorded the things you have learned, it is easier to share them with others. On the other hand, this pattern carries the risk that people won’t always appreciate the things you share.

Some lessons should not be shared, and it’s important to keep in mind that there is an ethical dimension to knowledge. Before sharing something, consider whether that lesson is yours to share. It may be a secret, or it may harm others. Things that seem obvious to you because of your current context may in fact be your employer’s “secret sauce” and it is all too easy as an apprentice to overlook the consequences (legal, financial, and political) of sharing that knowledge.

Other lessons cannot be shared without damaging your relationships with the members of your current team or with your employer. The gains made through the application of Sweep the Floor can easily be undone if others, rightly or wrongly, feel that you are insufficiently humble in the way you share or that you are sharing your lessons due to some ulterior motive.

Be the Worst steers you toward better learning opportunities at the risk of neglecting your responsibilities to the craft. You could fall into a perpetual mode of selfishly sponging knowledge by constantly looking for opportunities to accelerate your learning without ever considering the people who would benefit were you to Share What You Learn.

Dave Smith’s pattern Prepare the Way has strong connections to Share What You Learn:

Action

Think back to the last significant lesson you learned. Write a blog post about it. Provide the information you wish had existed and that would have helped you learn.

Having written the blog post, imagine you’re being asked to prepare a workshop for a conference that will teach other people the same lesson. Sketch out that workshop. See if the act of thinking about how you would teach others in an engaging way causes you to rethink the lesson and the blog post.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required