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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 1
    Episode 4
    Duration 39:33

    Orienting Towards Courageous Community

    When I was coming out of my PhD studies, I was wandering in my own wilderness, trying to find my way. Wondering what else I could do besides clean my house to avoid my dissertation, I enrolled in the Coach Training Institute. And that’s how I met Karen Kimsey-House, who eventually became my personal coach, teacher, and dear friend. Karen helped me see how I could amplify the power of learning through the experience of my academic world filled with books, papers, and expertise. In this conversation, we discuss the power of reinvention, how to hear and heed your own truth, and the importance of creating spaces to craft understanding.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 3
    Duration 40:03

    The Scariest Book I Have Ever Read

    I got to know Parker Palmer because I reached out to him after reading his classic book Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. He is an educator and activist who has penned over a dozen books. He is also one of the gentlest and kindest people I know—but the ominous relevance of the story he tells in his book scared me. Come learn why in this episode.

    Like me, Parker was a University of California at Berkeley graduate student at one time. That felt like reason enough to call him up, but there were so many other reasons as well. The wisdom and perspective he gained through his learning journey resonated with me deeply. I wanted to bring his insights and willingness to speak about his personal expereince to this podcast so that we could usefully wrestle with some of the crucial topics he takes on. In this conversation, we discuss the intersection of spirituality and education and why creativity is about working with what’s possible.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 2
    Duration 36:47

    Learning Outside of the Classroom

    Not everything we learn in college comes from the classroom. When you think about learning and insights that have mattered most to you, you may find that the most powerful associations include people, events, feelings and places.

    Barbara Tannenbaum and her living room came easily to mind for me when thinking about when and where I learned through experience. Barbara taught one of the most popular courses on campus. So why the living room image? Barbara would invite some students into her home for gathering circles in her living room — and I feel lucky to have been one of them. Her living room — outside the walls of my college classrooms — is an important marker in my ongoing learning journey.

    I love how we all have the chance to learn outside the classroom (because that’s most of life). In this episode, we discuss power talk, removing linguistic anchors, and why when we have more voice, we welcome more beauty.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.

  • Podcast
    Season 1
    Episode 1
    Duration 09:10

    Introducing Dr. Heidi Brooks and ‘Learning through Experience’

    We are overloaded with so much information that we become full of ideas but too often lack the time to reflect, practice, and enact wisely. Ideas are not enough—we cannot run life by syllabus and read our way through—we have to learn our way through much of the experience of life, and integrate information as sensemaking to help us get better as we go.

    I’m Dr. Heidi Brooks, host of Learning Through Experience. I believe that we could upgrade life and face an unknown future with more confidence if we had the capacity to learn our way through experience. So I want this podcast to offer some ways to learn our way forward.

    Given the podcast format, it might be challenging - I can't simply tell you what learning through experience is, I want to show you, to offer you an experience. I am certainly doing that myself as I learn through experience how to podcast on this topic. I am hopeful that we will experience it together.

    In this first season, we looked at the experience of mentorship, an experience based on relationship. This was a set of conversations with the people who mentored me (oh so long ago!) with an eye to this question: How do we apply what we learn through experience with mentors?

    Key Topics:

    00:00 The WHY behind the podcast: Why do we need to learn from experience? Why experience in itself isn’t enough?

    05:51 Learning through the experience of teaching: Discovering what people are hungry for through one of my first experiences as a teacher at Yale.

    07:42 The paradox of Learning Through Experience: These episodes aren’t about teaching, they’re about experiencing something together, reflecting, noticing what resonates, and learning from within.

    Read an automated transcript of this episode.