People of the Dialogue: Dr. Jonathan T. Mall
This week we present Jonathan Mall in our People of the Dialogue series. He was a speaker at the 22nd World Business Dialogue and shares his thoughts on learning in a world full of distractions from smartphones and social media. To join the 23rd World Business Dialogue, apply until November 15th!
In February, you visited the 22nd World Business Dialogue – a student-run conference. What did you think of it?
I liked the event a lot and felt very much cared for. The conference was very professionally organized. The people I’ve had the great pleasure to talk to were eager to learn and to interact. Later at the Party of Nations there were some fantastic conversations regarding new world and marketing issues. Overall it was a very pleasant experience.
The topic of the last conference was: ‘Digital Zeitgeist: Time to rethink learning’. Do you think that an intrinsic motivation is a necessity when it comes to learning something?
Whilst I do believe that intrinsic motivation is a key factor in learning, it is not the only crucial aspect to consider. I think the extent to which we allow ourselves to be distracted is of great significance when learning. For example, the internet bears several possibilities for distraction rather than learning, especially through communication platforms. I believe that although the means of communication have changed, our brains process information in the same way. The mechanisms used online to capture attention have been greatly improved – YouTube and Facebook are good examples of this. We are highly susceptible to having our attention diverted by such means.
“The extent to which we allow ourselves to be distracted is of great significance when learning”
When considering learning soft skills, what do you think is a better way to teach people what soft skills are and how to use them properly?
I believe soft skills develop with experience in interacting with people. The more often people are exposed to diverse situations in which they have to cooperate with people, the more they will develop their soft skills. You can consolidate that with additional materials such as workshops and teachings. They provide the theoretical background information on why certain methods work. That can help. In general, however, it is experience that allows for accomplished soft skills. Hence, if you only stand at home the whole day and all you do is swipe to find a match, then you do not learn how to have a relationship.
“In general, however, it is experience that allows for accomplished soft skills.”
Do you think that due to technology we are becoming less adept at using soft skills?
I believe technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, technology can help you find people who share your interests. This can enable you to develop soft skills in interacting with people who share similar interests. Nonetheless, if you only text people and do not call them, the recipient often cannot read between the lines to grasp the full meaning of your words. This often leads to misunderstandings and disappointment when the outcome is not as you intended. Phones can actually create more distance rather than bringing people together. The only scenario I can think of where technology can actually help is in very challenging situations that – if it were not for the technological means – you would not otherwise participate in. For example, if you afraid to speak in front of a hundred people – you do not get that chance every day – AI can be used to simulate the experience. You can practice dealing with the stress of such a situation to better cope with it during the actual event.
We are surrounded by media, by marketing and different sources of entertainment. How can we know what is truth and what is fake when we have so many – sometimes contradicting – sources of information?
Always consider the motivation that drives the people giving you certain information. Developing a sense for skepticism is the answer and I think this is a mandatory skill that needs to be taught in school, at home and continuously throughout our lives since methods and mechanisms of manipulation are getting more and more advanced. Confronting new information with skeptical caution helps in deciding whether to accept or reject this data.
“Confronting new information with skeptical caution helps in deciding whether to accept or reject this data.”
What is your message to future participants of World Business Dialogue?
Talk to people. That’s my message. Talk to people more!
Author: Dr. Jonathan T. Mall
Jonathan Mall is a speaker and a Co-Founder of Neuro Flash. Neuro Flash uses artificial intelligence for market research.