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NIëL STEINMANN PRESENTING LESSONS FROM LIONS 8 | February 2016
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Lesson 8: Taking learning seriously

Young cubs have a remarkable journey before they eventually become hunters in a pride. Females give birth to up to 4 cubs only 3 months after conception. Cubs are usually hidden in dense bush for approximately six weeks. During the six weeks the cubs rely entirely on their mother’s care and feeding. The females of bigger prides normally have what is called synchronized estrous. This is an excellent survival mechanism. It allows for communal rearing and raising of the cubs. It also provides an opportunity for the young ones to learn in a pride community by playing and interacting with lions their own size!
Cubs are normally introduced into the pride at around seven weeks and this is usually carefully timed to coincide with a large kill and abundance of food - typically after most of the pride have finished eating. Females will start to appear from different directions, bringing their cubs out of isolation into the safety of the pride. This introduction gives the cubs an opportunity to meet their relatives in a more relaxed and placid environment.
Cubs begin eating meat at about the age of eight weeks but continue to nurse until they are 6 to 7 months old and remain dependant on their mother for up to 16 months. Mothers in a pride often nurse each other’s offspring.
I have had memorable moments witnessing the interaction of cubs and how they learn. Cubs play with anything that arouses their interest, including ostrich eggs, turtles and their mothers’ tail. They sometimes try to play with adults but mostly play with each other. Most of their play imitates behaviour they will use as adults including stalking and fighting. Play is an important way for cubs to learn these adult skills as well as to form strong social bonds with their companions. Learning is taken seriously within a pride. Cubs that learn will become powerful individuals that one day will contribute to the future success of the pride.

Photo credit:  Neal Cooper (CNP Safaris)


Just like the lions we should also take learning serious. In our rapidly changing world, experience can be a curse. Careers stall, innovation changes the requirements for success and strategies grow stale. I often see how experienced employees discover that their knowledge and skills become obsolete and irrelevant.
This means that being new, naïve, and even clueless can be an asset at times. For today's knowledge workers, constant learning might be more valuable than current mastery. It is therefore vital that we should even after decades of experience, look at ways to “stay in school”, recapture the enthusiasm, curiosity, and fearlessness of our youth to take on new challenges and understand that we should “take learning seriously”
When we take something seriously, we profess it and for learning to happen we should create a scholarship of teaching – like the lions do.
What do we mean by learning? I would argue that learning is far more than bringing
knowledge from outside the person to inside. Indeed, learning is basically an interplay of two
challenging processes–getting knowledge that is inside to move out, and getting knowledge that is outside to move in.

Leadership expert Liz Wiseman explains in her latest book how to reclaim learning and cultivate the curious, youthful mind set called “Rookie Smarts”.

When we create “a scholarship of teaching” we should act like

  • Backpackers: These are imaginative individuals that are more open to new possibilities, ready to explore new terrain, and don't get stuck in yesterday's best practices.
  • Hunter-Gatherers: Individuals who seek out experts and return with ideas and resources to address the challenges they face.
  • Firewalkers: Possibly needing confidence in specific situations, these individuals take small, calculated steps, moving fast and seeking feedback to stay on track.
  • Pioneers: Keeping things simple and focusing on meeting core needs, pioneers improvise and work tirelessly while pushing boundaries.

Make 2016 a year of learning!

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