Thursday, 18 August 2016

Learning and the business: how one can revolutionise the other

Often learning is seen as an academic activity – maybe a hangover from our school days or just some misunderstanding about what learning is.  Common descriptions used when describing learning include education, schoolingtuitionteachinginstruction.  We often see learning as a separate activity, remote or distant from the reality of work / life.   

But in fact learning is all around us every day.  Sometimes we just don’t call it that.  Learning is a part of life and business.

Learning takes place in many ways: when we are thinking, doing, experimenting or reflecting on what has occurred. Some really fundamental learning can take place as you start to question “Why is this like that?”  “What would it be like if it was different?” “How do we make this work better?”  Reflection is one of the most powerful forms of learning.  To make the most of your learning, end each day by saying to yourself: “What have I learned today?” and “What does my business need to learn to be even better?”

 For learning to be effective it needs to be both active and meaningful:

  • Active learning occurs when a person takes control of their learning experience. Since understanding information is the key aspect of learning, it is important for learners to recognize what they understand and what they do not. By doing so, they can monitor their own mastery of subjects.
  • Meaningful learning is the concept that learned knowledge (e.g. a fact) is fully understood to the extent that it relates to other knowledge. It’s making sense of things combined with taking action - such as doing something about it.
For those people who like formulas, sometimes learning is described as L=P+Q+R where L= learning, P= programming (knowledge) Q =questioning and R = reflection

Or to put it another way: What, So What, then Now What?

Many research studies from large organisations and international consultancies like McKinsey’s have shown time and again that learning on-the-job, coaching and mentoring provide the best return and most significant learning for organisations.  For example:

·        Cisco found in their employee development strategy that 70% of effective learning came from experience, 20% by exposure and only 10% by education.  This demonstrates the importance of relevance, timing and being able to relate to the learning.

·        Hewlett Packard found in their strategy for development that the use of stretch assignments and applying experience gave the most significant learning gains, supported by effective reinforcement through mentoring.

In these examples the use of effective coaching and mentoring helped to embed the learning and promote the active learner approach to business improvement.  The same principles apply whatever the size of business.

Relevance of the learning is of the upmost importance: Just-in-Time as well as  The Right Time learning create both immediate and long term gains. Immediate gains are how business problems are solved when reflecting on our learning.  The long term gains are the lessons learned, that change our business habits, thinking and beliefs to form new insights and awareness and create new directions and fundamental shifts in thinking

As you reflect, try using a simple recording system to encourage a little and often approach.

Six key questions for this are:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What needs to start happening?
  4. What do we need to do more of?
  5. What do we need to do less of?
  6. What do we need to stop doing?
If you’re running a small business, this is how you can create a learning environment to really benefit and grow your business.  Start with small ideas, learning in small chunks, making learning easy to do and rapid to understand, encourage everyone to reflect more and gain real insight. 

 Businesses of all sizes that learn the best survive the best - and thrive the best.

The is a guest blog by Peter Mayes, a development coach who helps organisations, teams and individuals recognise when and how to collaborate for success, through Leadership Coaching, management development and Performance Coaching for teams and individuals.

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