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036: Methods of Learning for the Entrepreneur: Assimilation and Accommodation

podcast May 28, 2021

As an entrepreneur or self-employed business owner, how are you continuing to learn and grow your business 

Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget is responsible for developing much of our modern theories of cognitive development. Back in the 1920’s he was studying children and how they learn and came up with two processes at work in cognitive development: assimilation and accommodation. 

He believed that what you currently know has developed slowly over time.  

We learn and grow through constantly interweaving assimilation and accommodation.  

Assimilation happens when we modify new information to fit into what we already know. It takes the new information and experiences and adds it to what we already know. 

Accomodation on the other hand, is when we restructure what we already know so new information can fit in better. This happens a lot in our constantly changing environment of unpredictability and chaos.  

Entrepreneurs need to be very open to Accomodation. We live in worlds where we are constantly evaluating new information that doesn’t fit in with what we know or think. 

As business owners we do need to strike a balance between Assimilation and Accomodation, but we develop them in different ways.  

When we are in a flow state we are more open to Accomodation by taking in an enormous amount of information without judging it. Awe also occurs in the Accomodation phase. It happens when we experience or see something new or novel that just doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen in the past, so we need to alter the way we think and make room it.  

In this state our sense of self is gone, the prefrontal cortex shuts down all of the self-criticism and we are free to just be overwhelmed and take in all of the information, mouth wide open and everything.  

That’s not to say that Assimilation isn’t necessary though. At a later time we can take the time to analyze and evaluate that new information and fit it into what we already know. I also liken this to how my wife Satomi and I stay in touch with Japanese trends and certain business practices, and see how we can apply them to our Japanese restaurants in the States. We are taking new information into our pre-existing cognitive schemas and business models, using what we know works here and applying that new information to it.  

I want you to think about how you interweave assimilation and accommodation. Both are essential ways of learning and growing, and as entrepreneurs and self-employed business owners, maintaining this cognitive balance is a way of staying refreshed.   

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