“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”
– Brian Herbert, U.S. author
Do You Want To Learn?
Some people are always learning. Continuous learning is likely a core value for such individuals – they’re always looking for opportunities to absorb more knowledge, and to spot the lessons in everyday activities.
People learn in a multitude of ways, so what are some “left-field” sources of learning? I’m an “eternal student,” and what I share here is based on my own experiences, and also on talking to and observing other people who are also forever learning.
1. Talk to children: as adults, we often think we know much more than children. However, every now and again, a child will surprise us with an interesting perspective, or with wisdom that seems beyond his or her years. Get into the habit of asking children their opinion on different topics. Ask them what they think friendship is, or what they think the most important things in life are. Their answers might surprise you!
2. Watch yourself: look at yourself a little more objectively. When you’re confronted with a new or difficult situation, think about how you react. Reflect on why you reacted the way you did, and whether you could or should have acted differently. You’ll be surprised how much you learn by tuning in and being present in your own life.
3. Observe nature/pets: nature is full of answers and lessons, if you have the opportunity to enjoy and observe the outdoors. You don’t have to go on extended or expensive trips – simply switch off your devices and sit in your garden or a park and look at the birds, the flowers, the trees, and wildlife. How does everything intersect and interact? If nature had a voice, what would you ask, and would you expect it to answer?
4. Read: I could never write a list about learning and exclude reading! Read, read and then read some more! Books can be a magical source of knowledge. And things you’ve read often have the weirdest way of popping into your mind at a time that you need them.
5. Bake bread: or cake! Or learn a new language, a musical instrument, or cultivate bonsai trees… Whatever it is that you’re learning, the process teaches you more than just that particular skill.
Let’s Talk L&D
During last Friday’s #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed learning and development. Many participants shared how they learned from different sources. Here are the questions we asked, and a selection of the responses:
Q1. What are your emotions around L&D (for yourself, your team members, your organization)?
@PeculiarBeastie I’m passionate and enthusiastic about learning and growing my skill set. I try to promote different avenues of learning and share what I’ve discovered to get other people excited and interested in learning too.
@BrainBlenderTec It’s a constant. I’m a perpetual student so it’s often about getting others excited to step out of their bubbles and try new things, and in the process learn a thing or nine!
Q2. What do people in your organization think of L&D, and why?
In some organizations, people are excited about L&D and eager to learn. In others, not so much. However, the following participants reminded us of two important truths:
@carriemaslen L&D budgets are often the first to get cut, since it’s so hard to show a direct ROI on training. But that sends exactly the wrong message!
@KansasSBDC When we experience push back to learning and development, we have to ask ourselves what is causing it before we can proceed.
Q3. When is L&D most/least effective?
@goiuby I think L&D is most effective when it is done willingly. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” It’s least effective when it is a micromanaged task. No one likes to do things they’re forced to do!
@GodaraAR It’s most effective when L&D “understands” the business and programs are created accordingly. It’s least effective when learning programs are created that aren’t in sync with the business.
Q4. What are the pros and cons of self-directed learning, compared with formal face-to-face learning?
@SayItForwardNow Self-directed learning has the advantage of enabling individuals to learn at their own pace. The disadvantage is that we miss the opportunity to learn from peers while we are learning together.
@PG_pmp Self-directed learning helps you learn anytime, any place, when it’s convenient and you have time. Cons: you may miss hearing other people’s views when learning alone, compared to learning in group/classroom sessions.
Q5. How much self-directed learning do you do, and what methods/sources do you use?
As it turned out, almost all our participants like self-directed learning, but they use various methods and platforms.
@amber_bando My self-directed learning includes e-learning courses, reading and gathering information on topics that interest me. I find that I work better as a self-directed learner, as I can make mistakes and learn from them.
@TheCraigKaye Short answer: lots… I learn from movies, television, Twitter, journals, articles, books, news, conversations, role observations. We can curate literally anything into practical, resourceful learning.
Q6. Sometimes, employees hear one thing in training but see managers doing another. Why is this, and what’s the solution?
@MarkC_Avgi Too often, those in management do not take the time to do the training themselves, or have not bought into what the training taught. Management must be part of the learning process, as well!
@GenePetrovLMC There is a definite theory/practice disconnect, especially in an operational environment. There has to be a reconciliation. Either update the theory or make sure that the operations understands the importance of doing it that certain way.
Q7. How does your company measure the impact of L&D programs?
@sittingpretty61 The simplest and more reliable measure is a pre-test and post-test of results and measures over time. I believe quarterly and yearly post assessments and metrics tell you what you really need to know. Social ROI as well.
@Singh_Vandana Every organization has different parameters of evaluation. By and large, the impact is measured by ROI/growth in business.
Q8. How can the impact of L&D programs be improved?
@MicheleDD_MT Complete a thorough analysis upfront. Involve key stakeholders. Is L&D the solution? Oftentimes it isn’t. Leverage L&D where it has the most potential to achieve results.
We like that @JoynicoleM used the word “mastery,” because it’s not just about learning, but about knowing how to apply new skills. She said, “Capture pre- and post-measures. Set long-term impact goals and follow up. Not just three days later, but three months and three years as well. Mastery doesn’t happen immediately, and follow-up (even with refreshers) keeps the information relevant and engaging.”
Q9. How honest are you when giving feedback about a course/L&D activity?
A number of participants said that they are brutally honest. And @MarkC_Avgi asked the interesting question, “Are you brutal if you have to sign your name to the evaluation? Many people are less brutal when their comments can be identified with them.”
We really liked @ZalkaB’s approach. She said, “I know some people have issues with giving feedback if it’s not anonymously. They fear how it’ll be perceived if feedback isn’t positive. I like getting feedback from people, because it enables me to reach out and chat to them for further info and explanation, if needed.”
Q10. Think about the best L&D program or workshop you attended. What made it so memorable?
@Yolande_MT Some of the most memorable sessions were great simply because I was ready to learn.
@snowarriors_lou The programme that springs to mind made me become more self-aware (to the point of being very self-critical, positive and negative, tears at times). Reflection was key, and working in collaboration with the rest of the group.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
Many people would like to improve their goal-setting and time management skills. During our next #MTtalk we’re going to talk about the things you want to start doing NOW. In our Twitter poll this week, we’d like to know what you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but you’ve been putting off starting. Please vote in our Twitter poll, here.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to effective L&D. (Please note, some of the resources listed below are only available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.)