Why Capacity Building is Hard

We are learning a lot these days about how humans learn We still don’t know it all, but we know much more about what happens in the brain during the learning process. And this is changing the way we think about what works and what does not.

The brain is constantly reacting to information that it gains from perceptions. Sometimes those perceptions reinforce prior beliefs and when this happens, the neural pathways in a select area of the brain are reinforced. The belief then grows stronger. Similarly, when we practice a given skill, neural pathways involved in the activity are reinforced. It gets easier for the brain to do the activity in question.

From this perspective, capacity can be seen as the degree of neural reinforcement that is built up in anticipation of what will be needed. Capacity building, therefore, is a strategic challenge. t marries anticipation and preparation. Preparing for something that will not happen wastes time and effort in useless preparation. Worse still, it detracts from our ability to anticipate what will happen.

The next time you are overloaded in dealing with crisis, you might keep the above in mind.


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