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Learning through Experience

How can we learn from the experience we have to create a future that we want? This is the realm that much of Dr. Heidi Brooks’s work explores. As we navigate through life, she invites us to cultivate the capacity to learn through experience, and to apply the wisdom gained to co-create a future that is worth fighting for.

In season one of the Learning through Experience Podcast, Dr. Heidi Brooks focused on one of the most impactful ways to learn through experience: learning with mentors. She spoke with some of her mentors and they reflected on what brought them to where they are today in their own work, life, and play.

But in a podcast that proposes that learning can not only happen through conventional exposure to concepts and theories but also through what we experience in life, this second season is all about the HOW.

How do we learn through our own experience?

Dr. Heidi Brooks talks to artists, authors, professors, and even yoga instructors about four practices you can lean on to learn through experience. These four practices are: How to challenge your perspective, how to stretch yourself and build range, how to direct your own learning, and finally, the importance of reflection.

I hope you follow along and join us for season two of Learning Through Experience.

Learning through Experience show art

Heidi Brooks

Senior Lecturer in Organizational Behavior
Heidi Brooks

Heidi Brooks teaches and advises on the subject of everyday leadership: the everyday micro-moments of impact that shape our lived experiences. Creating more courageous communities—especially within organizations—is a particular passion of hers. Dr. Brooks specializes in large-scale culture change projects focused on individual and collective leadership effectiveness in organizations.

Interpersonal Dynamics, the MBA elective she has taught for 15 years, is one of the courses most in demand at Yale School of Management. Dr. Brooks pioneered the Everyday Leadership course at SOM, where she first taught the Principles of Everyday Leadership. She has also taught Emotional Intelligence, Power & Politics, Managing Teams and Groups, and Coaching Skills for Managers. Dr. Brooks received her doctorate in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. She is a lifelong experiential learner; you can find her as a student in classrooms as far-ranging as improvisational theater and immersion language lessons.


  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Episode 6
    Duration 23:02

    Learning Is A Superpower When Change Is Constant

    How can we change and transform the education system through leadership? The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management fosters the ideas, policies, and leadership to help all students in K-12 public schools — particularly those from underserved communities — to learn and thrive.

    Broad is a stellar example of the unique mission of Yale SOM: educating leaders for business and society. Since I feel connected and inspired by the mission, I appreciate how much the presence of Broad in my experience at Yale keeps me particularly connected and inspired by the noble and meaningful work of transforming the school system.

    In March of 2024, the Broad Fellows were part of an immersion learning experience with me. I love Broad and was inspired by the way they engaged in learning through an immersion intensive. This episode is a window into their learning experience in the interpersonal and group dynamics course.

    Hanseul Kang, the executive director of the Broad Center, began her journey as a Broad Fellow. The Fellowship for Public Education Leadership is a program for public education leaders dedicated to strengthening public school systems and the communities they serve.

    In this episode, we also hear from current Broad Fellows: Xiomara Herman, Andrew McRae, and Jorge Robles.

    Key Topics:

    01:48 Challenging our understanding of leadership: How the current definition of leadership is too narrow to change and transform the education system;

    03:21 The limitations of defensive interpersonal dynamics: Managing complex interpersonal dynamics from a place of defensiveness or self-protection can limit leadership effectiveness;

    04:49 Why the education system needs to be transformed: In addition to individual agency, there are structural forces that play a large part in the reality of many learners;

    09:59 Building range and expanding leadership capacity: The hope and challenge of learning through experience;

    13:30 Directing your learning as a leader: When you need to change and transform people, systems, and possibilities, it's not just about pedagogy, transaction, or expertise- it’s also about your aspirations and how you show up;

    20:35 Transforming the education sector: Reflecting and inquiring about the education sector and ways of learning that hold individuals as capable of growing as human beings.

    Additional Resources

    The Broad Center

    Hanseul Kang

    Xiomara Herman

    Andrew McRae

    Jorge Robles

    A drawing of the four interviewees
  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Episode 5
    Duration 34:19

    Reflective Practice Through Writing

    This podcast season is all about the HOW of learning through experience. We learn through experience using four core practices: challenging your perspective, stretching and building range, directing your learning, reflection and inquiry. The core practice that we are paying attention to in this episode of Learning Through Experience is reflection and inquiry.

    In this episode, I spoke with reflective writing practitioner and teacher Stephanie Dunson about reflective practice through writing. We cover the practice of reflective writing, including the struggle of writing, and she offers some prompts for you to use in your own reflective writing practice.

    Stephanie is a renowned facilitator who uses writing as a tool for problem-solving and collaboration in both the academic and corporate worlds.

    Key Topics:

    04:24 The challenge of writing: The limits of writing towards an outcome in contrast to writing for the reflection and exploration of our own thoughts and feelings;

    08:33 The meander of writing: Writing doesn’t work in a straight line, rather it follows a natural sort of meander. By meandering through a piece, we get to know the writer’s mind;

    15:18 Reflective writing: The concept of using writing as a tool for deep thinking and developing relationships with complex material;

    21:15 Reflective writing in groups: Engaging in the moment of making new ideas as a group and combining the strengths of the individual with the power and diversity of the group;

    23:03 The practice of writing: Developing the capacity to reflect, notice, and meander as a practice in life and writing;

    30:48 Prompts for reflective writing: What have you considered writing about but abandoned? Explore the places of resistance and write into that space.

    Additional Resources from Stephanie Dunson

    Podcast: 100 Mistakes Academic Writers Make …and How to Fix Them


  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Episode 4
    Duration 39:40

    Find A Way… Letting Life Experience Call You in

    This season we've been taking on HOW to learn through experience which fundamentally challenges the brain-bound assumption that learning starts and stays in the brain. We aren't so great at honoring the wisdom, expertise, and leadership that emerges from lived experience, but our own life may guide us – especially if we tap into learning practices, like reflection and challenging our perspective.

    My guest on this episode is a shining example of widely acknowledged wisdom and leadership gained primarily through powerful life experience. You will hear how he came to take risks without the fear of failing, and a good dose of learning through reflection in the company of others.

    Erik Clemons is co-founder of the Connecticut Community Outreach and Revitalization Program (ConnCORP) designed to explore and implement opportunities for economic development and investment in New Haven.

    In all his work creating systems and community change, he has found that before any transformation of others takes place, you need to be personally transformed. Erik Clemons is a natural storyteller- and his story of transforming himself and creating transformation for and with others is a joy to experience.

    Key Topics:

    03:49 Becoming through experience: Learning the world and teaching yourself – Erik’s story of learning and becoming through experience;

    10:56 From mail handler to executive director: Knowing who you are and understanding who you want to be;

    15:33 The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology: How Erik’s lived experience equipped him to understand and serve his community;

    18:47 Failure as part of learning: To be truly innovative and able to create change, you need to be willing to take risks;

    20:22 Transforming a major artery in New Haven: Listening to community members to create service, beauty, and dignity in a community that deserved it;

    27:02 Unconscious competence: Believing in your own capacity and using all of your lived experience to find a way;

    29:10 Changing systems and supporting communities: We can’t transform community unless we are willing to be transformed by community;

    36:04 The power of hope: Hope is what allows striving to happen.

    Additional Resources from Erik

    Podcast episode: Building Community Wealth and Power



  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Episode 3
    Duration 53:02

    Learning through The Extended Mind

    Since this season of the podcast is all about the HOW of learning through experience, I wanted to talk to Annie Murphy Paul who basically wrote the book on learning outside the brain.

    She’s the author of several books, and I love to talk with people after they have had a chance to learn through the experience of their book being out in the world. In this episode, we focus on The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. Her book challenges the perspective that brain-bound cognition is the best way to learn.

    There are so many great nuggets in this book and in this conversation with Annie. She adds quite a bit to the conversation about HOW to extend our learning capacity beyond the brain. The brain evolved for survival in a very different era to the one we live in today, and the tasks our brains evolved to solve are so different from the tasks we are expected to do now. To more fully utilize our learning potential, we can extend the mind by utilizing the body, physical spaces, relationships with other people, and material objects.

    Key Topics:

    00:45 Challenging our perspective regarding social and emotional learning: As children, we are encouraged to learn from and through our environment. However, we are expected to put this kind of learning aside as we get older;

    07:05 The limitations of the human brain: Understanding that the brain evolved for survival in a different era is crucial to changing the education system and preparing students for the modern world;

    09:58 Bringing the body into learning: Moving the body to build range and enhance our cognitive abilities;

    17:34 Restoring our attentional resources: We have a finite supply of attention, we can restore this by spending time in outdoor spaces;

    24:41 Designing interior spaces to support effective thinking: We can use certain objects, symbols, and signs to extend our thinking, evoke a certain version of ourselves, and direct our learning;

    33:34 Extending our thinking through experiencing people: Learning again as adults how to experience people around us as an individual and as a group.

    Additional Resources from Annie:

    Book: The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul


    Linkedin: Annie Murphy Paul

  • Podcast
    Episode 2
    Duration 24:19

    The Power of Art to Cultivate Joy

    I love how art can take us on a journey to another way of seeing things. And, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the human condition is a little rough and rocky these days — so I feel drawn to opportunities to cultivate joy.

    In my role as Chair of the Art Committee at Yale School of Management, I have the chance to impact the space through the iconography on the walls. I wanted to do something real and uplifting. Then I met Clara Nartey and experienced her work. I am delighted to welcome her to this podcast so others can hear about her perspective and process.

    In this episode, we speak about art as a reflective practice, the impact of art on education, and the power of art to encourage discussion and change minds. Clara encourages us to explore art as a means of reflection and a way to navigate difficult topics and conversations that we may have otherwise avoided.

    The Joy of Living Exhibit at the Yale School of Management is a permanent exhibit by artist Clara Nartey. Clara is a textile artist and former management consultant, her exhibit at Yale is a reflection of her experience of the pandemic, and it has become a part of the context and fabric of the experience of this building.

    Key Topics:

    04:10 Finding your way through experience: Challenging our perspective around difficult experiences and allowing them to become learning opportunities that lead us to courageous leaps.

    10:02 The journey of becoming an artist: Learning through and from opportunities as they come to you in life, stretching and building range from them.

    14:50 Creativity and self-reflection during the pandemic: Reflecting on what life means and creating art and joy from that place of reflection.

    17:25 Art as a reflective practice: Being in a relationship with the creative process, directing your learning, and letting the work speak to you and evolve.

    19:19 The power of art to change minds: There is a stretching of mind, heart, and spirit that happens through perceiving human issues through the arts.

    Learn more:

    See Clara Nartey’s Collections on her website.

    Drawing of Clara Nartey
  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Episode 1
    Duration 40:48

    What Legacy Do We Want to Leave Behind? Practices To Access The Best of You

    In this first episode of season two, I talk with Tracee Stanley about how to have an experience of yourself through skilled and intentional rest, self-inquiry, and aligned learning.

    This season is about how we learn through experience using 4 core practices: Challenging your perspective, stretching and building range, directing your learning, and reflection and inquiry. Tracee’s way of working is a deep way to learn through experience—listen to hear how our conversation touches on all four of these practices that might just change your life.

    Tracee Stanley, a yoga teacher and bestselling author who transitioned from a successful filmmaking career in Hollywood to teaching Yoga Nidra and self-inquiry, challenges conventional ideas surrounding work culture and productivity by emphasizing the need for balance, rest, and reflection so we can leave a greater legacy behind us.

    Key Topics:

    01:24 Learning through experience to honor a less conventional path: From successful Hollywood filmmaker to yoga teacher;

    08:03 Experience can offer a thread to yourself: There is a difference between knowing the self and coming into the self. Certain practices can help us peel back the layers of who we are not.

    10:17 Experience opens a door: How the experience of rest practice opened new possibilities

    16:30 Challenging your perspective: Understanding yourself, experimenting, and learning what you truly want;

    19:11 Stretching and building range: Asking questions that allow you to learn through experience and make shifts towards what you want;

    25:27 Directing your learning: Using intentional rest and the space of the liminal to capture what you already know;

    28:45 Reflecting and inquiring: What legacy do we want to leave behind? How attachment, aversion, and fear are keeping us from intentionally resting and leaving a legacy of exhaustion behind us.

    37:09 The group is more powerful than the individual: How community can help support you as you shift old patterns and learn through experience.

    Additional Resources from Tracee Stanley

    Practice: Grounding Deep Relaxation


    Books: The Luminous Self: Sacred Yogic Practices and Rituals to Remember Who You Are | Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation & Awakened Clarity

  • Podcast
    Season 2
    Duration 05:22

    Introducing: Season 2 of Learning Through Experience

    I’m Dr. Heidi Brooks. Last season of the podcast, Learning Through Experience, I focused on learning through the experience of mentorship and the guests were all my mentors in one way or another.

    In a podcast that lifts up that learning can not only happen through conventional exposure to concepts and theories but also through what we experience in life, the second season is all about the HOW.

    How do we learn through experience?

    I’m talking to artists, authors, professors, and even yoga instructors about four practices I decided to focus on in learning through experience.

    These four practices are: How to challenge your perspective, how to stretch yourself and build range, how to direct your own learning, and finally, the importance of reflection.

    I hope you follow along and join me for season two of Learning Through Experience.

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 10
    Duration 08:27

    A Reflection on Season 1

    Ok, Season 1 of Learning Through Experience is a wrap. (Woohoo!) I am learning a ton through the experience of podcasting- it’s much more fun and definitely more work than I expected!

    This short episode is a check-in. One of the core practices in learning through experience is reflection, so this short podcast episode is a check-in on my own learning through the experience of podcasting.

    It’s a way to share my learning in public, which feels slightly rebellious in a world that seems so committed to presenting finished products and hiding the human process.

    In this episode, I talk with a key partner and internal staff member Valerie Belanger about Season 1. We talk about what fun and ease and connection might look like in the podcast production process; learning in public, space-making and impact.

    Thanks for listening to the first season—just love your wonderful company and encouraging words. I hope you will stay subscribed and stay with me as we welcome new guests and topics in the next season, which is focused on the how we can learn through experience. Happy new year!

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 9
    Duration 26:31

    Maybe You Can Go Home Again

    I love this episode with Rhona Weinstein! It’s about coming full circle, working for what you dream about and how all people exist in context. Part of that context can include the experience of inspiring mentorship.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 8
    Duration 37:55

    The Power of Creating Learning Spaces

    I have a very clear memory of chasing Robin Rose down the hallway at college and asking her: “How can I be like you when I grow up?” I was fascinated with the way she invited people to step into learning through personal experience. Since most of my idea of learning involved lectures and assignments, this approach was refreshing and evocative. Discovering the power of learning through reflection on experience was a fundamental shift for me—and I never turned back. In this conversation, we discuss learning laboratories, the need for risk, and how leadership is, at its core, an art form.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.