See one, do one, teach one. Using the Generation Effect to improve your memory

A few weeks back Dean Pearman and I had the great pleasure of interviewing Steve Glaveski on the Design and Play podcast. Steve is an extremely successful person and our chat with him provided an incredible window into his ability to optimise his learning. In fact, there are so many amazing insights on this episode that it is well worth a listen or two.




Towards the end of the podcast, Steve was asked the question “What future skill do current students need to double down on?” His answer, ‘Learning to learn’. Steve shared some of his metacognitive strategies and one I want to talk about is called the ‘Generation Effect’.

The Generation Effect

By definition, the generation effect is “that we remember information better when we have taken an active part in producing it, rather than having it provided to us by an external source”. Our ability to remember something is enhanced when we have to produce something to remember it. Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke discuss the generation effect on their fantastic podcast, “Two guys on your head”. The podcast is two cognitive scientists explaining in simple terms how the brain works. Each episode is typically 7-8min long and well worth the subscription. During the episode on generation effect, Markman and Duke explain the core strategy that Steve Glaveski uses to learn anything new. The strategy is “See one, do one, teach one”.

See one

Seeing one gives you the gist of how something is put together. When we learn something new, we may start with YouTube clips or by watching a teacher demonstrate. Seeing one also covers listening to someone talk. Whether that is during class giving an explanation or while they are providing a demo. During this phase, Steve is listening to podcasts, reading books, taking notes and highlighting key ideas. This is a strategy that I also use and swear by. Don’t just read and forget. Take the time to make notes, capture the essence and then distil it later to develop your understanding. Ryan Holiday is one of my favourite authors and he writes all over his books. Following his lead, I have started to purchase more books and then write in the margins. Check out this great post where Ryan explains his strategy.

Do one

Do one is our first attempts at giving it a go. This is where we start to notice the areas we do understand and where the gaps are. The action is key to this. Steve’s strategy during this phase was to collate his notes into a Google doc and then to produce a one-pager that broke down the topic into an easy digest resource.

Teach one

Teach one is where you teach the concept to someone else. On our podcast, Steve talked about how he became a BitCoin and Crypto-currency expert by following this process. He ran a huge workshop for banks and other interested folks on BitCoin and became known as a leader in the space. Teaching others is the key. Markman and Duke highlight the error making as pivotal to building bridges between our understanding. Teaching someone is not just about relaying content. It is about relaying why the content is worth something. For Steve, his workshop would not have been a BitCoin 101 but a deep dive into the impact that BitCoin and Crypto-currency could have on the current financial market. Bridging the gap between the worlds is the key part.

Now we all don’t have to set up workshops to develop this. A conversation with a staff member or colleague would work. Blog posts and podcast episodes are all pathways I use to develop my own understanding. Often my blog posts are just wonderings out loud. It is me trying to make sense of new knowledge.

For a deeper dive into the way Steve works, check out his great blog post.

What will you see today that you can teach tomorrow? Take the first steps. Find the errors and watch how the generation effect can help you develop their learning.

Image source: Unsplash


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