How does one learn? Researchers have discovered that people assimilate and retain knowledge in distinctly different ways. For instance, if the solitary source of knowledge was books, only a portion of the population would learn. We could blame those who choose not to read for idle behavior and laziness, but is it really their fault? People are wired differently and no amount of finessing or harsh criticism will change what is unchangeable. In the same way, you cannot turn a linebacker into a quarterback, you can’t teach a dog to talk, and you can’t convert a lubrication specialist into a literary scholar. Different people exhibit different skills, different ways of learning and different desires.

So again, how does one learn? Do you enjoy reading nonfiction, such as books on history, biography or science? Perhaps you are more auditory and prefer the classroom environment, or even books on tape or CD. Maybe you like both auditory and visual learning such as watching a television documentary.

Many don’t like passive learning at all. They are tactile, physical and hands-on. They prefer participatory activities that engage them in the learning experience - seeing, doing, discovering and learning. Others are compulsive note-takers - you know, those people who are always jotting down things on a legal pad or spiral-bound notebook. Many don’t actually read these notes, but rather use the practice to convert new information into long-term memory.

Table 1. Ranking of Knowledge Retention Effectiveness.

If you’re like me, you might compile knowledge through teaching and counseling. You’ve heard the expression “teach a subject, learn a subject.” Teachers develop understanding through the interactive process of explaining concepts and answering questions. Academics become experts from the repetitive process of teaching, research, more teaching, more research, and so on. They keep filling in the gaps (research) by questions that arise in the teaching process, forcing them to dig deeper into their field of knowledge.

You should know by now that Noria’s sixth annual conference and exhibition, Lubrication Excellence 2004, will be held in Nashville on March 23-25. Like our past conferences, LE2004 has been structured to enable participants to gain knowledge in different ways, at different levels, on many different subjects. So regardless of your learning and cognitive preferences, you can tailor conference participation to your needs and interests.

However, there’s more to knowledge than simply being exposed to it. There’s something called knowledge retention. It seems that our ability to retain knowledge has a lot to do with how we learn. Cognitive scholars have differing views on knowledge retention, but the list in Table 1 is the most widely published ranking of retention effectiveness.

This year’s conference will be larger and better than any previous Noria event. We are expecting attendance well over 1,000, plus the largest exhibit hall in our industry. But size is not what Lubrication Excellence 2004 is about. It’s about learning. If you are hungry for information, thirsty for knowledge on lubrication and oil analysis, and want to master new skills, you MUST be in Nashville this March. I’ll see you there!