The Power of Dynamic Learning – Leaving the Classroom Behind
Humans are hardwired to learn, it is how we survive in this ever changing world. If we didn’t have the capacity to learn and adapt, we’d struggle to do any of the basic things we take for granted like walking or interacting with people; and yet despite this innate need to evolve and progress, ‘learning’ still gets a bad rap from some people, especially when it comes to work-related training.
This is part of the reason that many organisations struggle to deliver a strong and engaging L&D strategy to their employees; because staff may have misconceptions about learning e.g. it’s going to be boring or a waste of time, they revolt against it. Unfortunately, rather than trying to find ways to challenge this perception, many organisations opt for the quickest and easiest route to training delivery, usually involving a slide show, which only proves to reinforce employees’ negative ideas of what learning is, consequently leading to further disengagement. It’s a vicious circle and one that certainly presents a range of challenges, but it’s not impossible to break.
The solution to the problem is very simple in theory, but a little more difficult to put into practice. In essence the way to break the cycle of learning disengagement is to find a way to make training fun and dynamic. When people are enjoying themselves they tend to be much more engaged, and almost always learn more, even if they don’t realise it. In a non-work setting most individuals engage in a range of tasks where they are constantly learning, for example undertaking hobbies where they have to regularly update their skills to progress, and they will do this not because they have to, but because they enjoy it. The ‘L’ word isn’t even part of the conversation, but if asked to reflect on an enjoyable activity, they will most certainly describe some form of learning that has taken place as a result. Another important aspect of this approach is that people are actively participating in the process, they aren’t relying on someone else to impart the knowledge; instead they are seeking it for themselves and applying it in a way that’s useful to them. Suddenly learning becomes really simple and even becomes something to look forward to; this is the power of dynamic learning.
How to put it in to practice
There are undoubtedly some situations where the ‘chalk and talk’ approach will be most appropriate, but for the majority of topics, this doesn’t need to be the way it’s done, and in fact probably shouldn’t be if you are looking to get the maximum impact from your L&D strategy. There are a huge range of alternative options that can be employed to establish a more effective learning culture in an organisation. Of course there will likely be restraints such as time and budget, but even choosing a couple to test out and evaluate could have a huge impact on the morale, engagement and effectiveness of staff.
Some suggestions might include:
- Experiential learning – the format of this can vary wildly, covering everything from rock bands to equine learning, or anything else that will help achieve set objectives. Often the aim will be to facilitate development of soft skills such as communication, team work and leadership, but due to the extreme versatility of what experiential learning can involve, it really can be used to deliver training on virtually anything; it’s just a case of finding the right format and matching it with the desired goals. (You can learn more about experiential learning in the first issue of Enhance.)
- Practical workshops – this is a particularly useful approach when running training programmes on IT systems or software, but can be used for a range of practical tasks. People learn better when they can test things out for themselves, ask questions as they go, and seek the knowledge they actually need for their job role; thus giving them the opportunity to do so will accelerate learning and may help generate ways to make things more effective when actually using the tool for real. The ideal scenario is to create a test environment for people where they can play around, try things out and mess up without fear of bringing down the entire organisation, but even offering people the chance to use a new tool with an expert on hand to offer support will ensure learning is much more effective and implemented far better.
- Team meetings – not typically viewed as a form of learning, but in many ways it is the most organic form there is. People learn from each other, it’s a basic fact of human psychology, so whether you’re rolling out a new product, have updates to inform people of, or simply want your team to get together and explore some ideas, team meetings can be an excellent way to achieve this, as well as create a learning environment. The only caveat is that individuals should be encouraged to ask questions of their colleagues and discuss their views; and unless there is a reason for a strictly defined agenda, there should be room for topics to expand and evolve during the discussion. This natural and interactive process will be the most useful part in helping to facilitate learning as well as helping to achieve the ‘official’ objectives of the meeting.
- Shadowing – Having the opportunity to observe a colleague work allows for a more dynamic form of learning, watching the active process often throws up many more questions that wouldn’t be asked otherwise, encouraging people to absorb more of the information. This can be particularly useful if individuals are looking to move into different departments or are taking on new responsibilities, it’s far more interactive than a spoken hand over, and often more enjoyable too as people then have the opportunity to spend time with their colleagues and get to know them better in the process. Shadowing can therefore be an excellent way to encourage collaboration, greater team cohesion and, of course, learning.
Using a more dynamic approach to learning not only makes it more enjoyable, but it also makes it more effective; active learning helps to embed the knowledge more firmly than theoretical approaches, and making it fun ensures that people remember the experience (and thus the learning) more clearly. Of course, there is a wealth of other potential avenues to explore to encourage more dynamic learning, and thinking of new ways to present information or conduct training can, in itself, offer opportunities for learning. But no matter what approaches are utilised, one of the most important elements is to make it as fun, interactive, engaging and dynamic as possible. By implementing training that meets these criteria you will be creating an L&D strategy that not only helps progress the business and its people, but also one that fosters a culture of learning that will undoubtedly pay dividends down the line.