Today I'm joined by Ely Apao.
We talk about breaking knowledge down into its fundamental blocks, making evergreen notes in a Zettelkasten and a way to get into your flow state instantly.
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Hello, and welcome to the first episode of super learning professionals . Today, I'm joined by Eli. Eli is one of my course creator, fellowship friends and he's working on a visual, personal knowledge system, which will also be his course. And next to that, he is working professionally as customer experience head of one of the largest conglomerates based in the Philippines, and he founded a 5,000 member UX design community. So maybe we can start talking about your work in UX design, Eli, like why, is knowledge management important in your area?
Yeah, thank you dom. Knowledge management I think it's pretty important in my area, because it applies quite well in the design field, in the UX design field, in particular, there is the concept of atomic design patterns, which was introduced by Brad frost. The idea is for every design element, you create a Lego block.
When you start focusing on Lego blocks, it becomes easier to, later on, construct web pages because you have the basic Lego blocks already in place. You have the fields, you have the buttons, you have the headers, and then it's easy to create templates. I have applied the same concept in knowledge management.
So my hypothesis is that if people are able to think the way designers think in atomic design terms, apply it to their personal knowledge management systems, then they can benefit. An example is if you're to talk about the topic that you are an expert in, for instance, You'd like to talk about design.
You have this database of notes that you can instantly build up. It would just take you five, 10 minutes to present your ideas.
Right. That sounds like a really fundamental principle that you have to reduce everything to the fundamental units of knowledge. So I'd like to ask. What role has this played in general in the learning journey that got you to your current expertise?
It's a long journey of learning myself. It's because I need it in my work and what I found with my staff mates is that a common problem when you're working in the industry, is there are a lot of things that you repeat.
Sometimes, I have all the information, but they're in various different locations. It's in my notes. It's in my personal notebook. It's in Evernote, and in Roam, so it's difficult to bring them all together. Makes sense to just put it somewhere that's easily searchable, Combine them, having some sort of common language. And I applied that to my team. I started working with my team through formulate knowledge patterns. So what are atomic knowledge elements that we can reuse with each other.
So that if a stakeholder asks for a certain template, we have the basic patterns that we can start with and don't take too much effort.
That sounds like a great approach. So of course in your field, there must be growing knowledge faster than you can possibly learn. So how do you go and choose what to learn about?
My analogy here is: imagine a fisherman and there's a sea of information. And then just cast your net which is probably the equivalent of that is just typing in Google search and you get tons and tons of information right. You get a ton of fish, but you wouldn't necessarily eat all of them. Some of them are small little fishes, so you throw them back and some of them it's too much for you. So you just throw everything back. Same with knowledge: I only get the ones that I need at the moment, if it answers a specific need, a specific question I have with the project then that's what I would work on.
So, that gives you a day-to-day learning based on what you need on that day. So how do you combine that to practice lifelong learning, looking over a much longer period of time.
That's another great question. And it happens to be exactly what I'm doing right now. I am a subscriber to a system called the Zettelkasten system.
It comes from Nicholas Luhmann, which basically believes in the idea of creating your own personal knowledge bank or your slip notes in the original context. And the idea is I'm building my equivalent of that, some people call it permanent notes. I call it evergreen notes, which is based on another thought leader, Andy Matuchak, who says basically you get chunks of knowledge, which are real for you, real concepts, again, applying the same idea of atomic concepts that stand on its own. These are things that you believe in strongly, and these becomes your fundamental knowledge blocks of who you are, what you believe in. And these become a part of my lifelong learning.
That sounds like a very principled way of choosing what to learn.
You're working as a head of the customer experience. So you have a lot of employees to manage as well. So how do you inspire them to learn? you touched upon building, this space of knowledge, how do you generally motivate and inspire them to keep learning for life?
So aside from what I mentioned earlier. Helping them find their flow state: what is it that they enjoy so much that they don't notice the time? I helped them find that by interviewing them, asking them. The other thing that I do is what's in the industry called an individual development plan.
So I asked them what's your career path? What's your interest. And then I look at what's available in the business right now, where I can put them in. And I look at the gap, where's the gap. This is what you want to learn. This is what's available in the business opportunities in the business.
There's a gap. I can fill that gap, usually by training or further coaching. So I have one-on-one meetings with my team every week. And in those one-on-one meetings, I have this activity of revisiting. Okay. This is our individual development, your career plan.
Where are you now, how far are we from your filling the gap? And aside from that, I asked them what have they learned this week? What is the atomic knowledge that you learned this week? Build-in our team knowledge base. And then we can question each other.
Why do you believe that, is this the first principle. So we asked those same questions, like Elon Musk talking about first principles. I ask them the same thing and it challenges them
so you are training a whole team of Elon Musk's, that sounds great.
And what I mentioned before as well, to train your employees, to get them into their own flow state. Maybe you can talk a bit more about that, and what's been your own experience with reaching a flow state where it's much easier to learn and to work in a concentrated way
so one of the books that helped me guide the thinking here is the rise of Superman. It's a nice book on how super athletes are able to do the things that they're doing.
And the hypothesis of the book is that these super athletes, these superwomen or men are able to do it because they can get to their flow state instantly in the shortest amount of time. They lived in their flow state and if they are disrupted from their flow state, they can easily go back to it.
So imagine being able to do that. And that's the challenge, that's the exercise that I give to my teammates to the students that I'm teaching on visual knowledge management. The question is how do you get through your flow state instantly? How does that work for you if you're disrupted from your flow state how do you get back to it? If it's a struggle for you, why, so, how, how can you make it faster and what they should, what's the blocker that preventing you from getting to that instantly. And then the faster you get through that, and the sooner you can get to it in the more often you can get through it.
The hypothesis is you can reach superhuman levels of learning.
That sounds exactly like, like what we are trying to achieve. So to make that a bit more concrete, do you have any specific examples of how you use the principles that we talked about in this interview? In your work and in your life?
In my particular case, since I'm a knowledge worker, my flow state is when I'm capturing information and processing it to answer specific needs.
For me, my, my biggest need is when I need to make presentations when I teach other people for presentations. So again one of the struggles before that I've had is when you make a presentation, you do a lot of research. Just like a day before the presentation or a week before a different sensation, you compile everything.
But if you are building up your evergreen notes, it becomes easy for me to just do that. And I do that with knowledge management tools, like roam research, or obsidian. If I have a thought in my mind, I can use obsidian and Alfred app. Do a shortcut type in my thoughts. I'm having an interview right now with Dom enter and it's there, and I can go back to our flow. So I'm able to throw that into my personal knowledge base and then go back to my flow. Then, later on, I can process it and spend time processing. What was my idea here? One of the most effective techniques for me is when I have something in my mind, and I don't want to bother with it right now, put it in my personal notes in five seconds and then go back to my flow state.
To make it a bit more concrete, what is the last unit of knowledge that you added to your knowledge database?
Yeah, there's this study on don't look back in anger. It's an actual study that apparently those who had regrets or anger, those who had let go of it have a better psychological and emotional state when they grow older. I made it one of my permanent notes my evergreen notes: don't look back in anger. There's an actual study that backs it up.
That sounds very profound. So looking forward in your field what do you think is needed to continue to benefit from the knowledge that's growing and growing in your field?
What tools or methods do we need to keep benefiting from that?
So I think we need to teach people more since I'm a teacher at heart. So I tried to teach more people who are in this field. That's why I created the visual knowledge management course that I'm doing right now and testing it out with a couple of people so that it can improve.
I think we need to spread the knowledge and then build up upon it. So I think that's what they need in my field in particular.
So finally, who do you think I should interview next about super learning for professionals.
I would recommend Tina Nyack, another one of our classmates and OnDeck course creators. So she's also starting to build up her personal knowledge management system.
And I think she'd be a great person to interview how her journey has been.
That sounds like a great idea. I'll, I'll get in touch with her. So thank you, Eli for this interview and the insight that you've given us in the field of UX design and how you manage knowledge in that area.
I'm sure we'll keep seeing each other in ODCC and hopefully also afterward. So we'll be in touch.