Van Gogh as a source of inspiration

Starry_Night_Over_the_RhoneThe opening quick-fire ignite presentations at this year’s Business EDUCA will highlight how shifting work priorities reshape the delivery of learning in the workplace. A common thread running through the presentations is the need for adaptability, and to relinquish steadfast adherence to habitual learning methods, in favour of blending with the new.


by Pauline Bugler


Whether the inspiration stems from Vincent van Gogh and how his lust for learning can be applied to a work situation, or from role models such as programmers and medical doctors, this session prompts a rethink of the incentives, methods and objectives of learning.


Ger Driesen is a consultant at Challenge Stretching Talent in The Netherlands, which specialises in leadership development programmes. Based in Nuenen, the southern Dutch village where Van Gogh spent two years of his working life and created his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, Driesen has researched over 1,000 letters from the artist to his brother, Theo.


Van Gogh had no formal education as an artist, rendering his oeuvre of more than 800 paintings and over 1,000 drawings, produced in just 10 years, unique and inspiring. His letters are key to understanding him: and they have proved a wealth of inspiration for Driesen, whose research led to the discovery of seven underlying principles to Van Gogh’s lust for learning and motivation.


They are principles which are still applicable today, including, for example, “think inside the box”. Van Gogh chose things close at hand and ordinary people as the subject matter for his paintings. Applied to L&D, management should first look at what’s available in a company for the best mix of expertise and skills, says Driesen.


Van Gogh, whose technique and speed varied greatly, exemplified another principle: “after mastering a level, change the rules”. “At first, he produced one painting in two days but later quickened his pace to one painting a day using different perspectives and colour,” Driesen notes.


These learning principles are both timeless and universal – and show that the inspiration for e-learning ideas can come from the most unusual places.


Uwe Spangler, a Senior Learning Consultant at DNV GL Oil & Gas in Norway, will also be sharing the inspiration he has gleaned from personal experience. He proposes two role-models for learning methods: programmers and medical doctors, and highlights their approach to personal learning.


Programmers are hyper-connected and have to solve problems on the go. They give immediate feedback and use internet websites like stack overflow to achieve their goals.


Doctors, on the other hand, approach learning differently. Similar to programmers, they have to stay abreast of the latest developments. But unlike programmers, no-one can practise medicine without qualifications and permits. Doctors serve as profoound examples of personal learning and have cultures of lifelong learning in their DNA.


The challenging question is how they adapt to the information (over-) flow on the web. Spangler will query the dialectic approach to learning – individual versus social – and the psychology of meta-learning. “People have to share their learning moments,” he says.


This is exactly what the Business EDUCA Ignite presentations are designed to do.


The session, entitled Learning Moves in the Corporate Sector, will also feature Ashwin Mehta of the Medical Research Council Unit Gambia, speaking about his work delivering blended learning to field-workers in West Africa, and independent international consultant Andrea Kuhn-Senn, offering a helping hand to those who are lost in mobile learning. More information on the full range of Business EDUCA presentations can be found here – and of course there’s still time to register for the conference on our website – just click “Register Now!”

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