By Rob Zell:

Note: This is Part 2 of 3. Read Part 1 here.

How do we increase the longevity of a learning solution? In Part 1 of this series, I challenged the learning organization to examine some basics in their processes and create more effective solutions. However, an effective learning intervention relies on three elements: the solution, the learners and the environment to which the learners will return.

In this post, part 2 of 3, I’m going to challenge all of us to rethink how we as learners should prepare for the learning and apply what we take from our learning experiences. I’m going to challenge you to think about your own behavior and re-invent yourself as a learner.

Prepare Yourself

As learners we have an obligation to show that the investment of time and resources has a payoff. That’s right, I said obligation. We also have to own our development plan and look for ways to incorporate what we learn into our daily activities.

    1. One critical element is knowing how we best learn and apply information. Are you a visual learner? Be prepared to create mind maps and take notes as images of what you see. Learn best by listening? Maybe you want to record the session to listen to later. If you are a kinesthetic learner, keep a small squishy ball handy to fiddle with and be an active note taker. Armed with some basic knowledge regarding how you best process new information can help you plan ways to apply new information and get the most from the experience.

 

  1. Learning is not an event, so quit thinking about it that way. As learners we owe some due diligence to the process. In your favorite journaling tool (notebook, binder, Outlook) jot down some thoughts on why you have enrolled in the learning experience, what you hope to gain, how it benefits your current work, and how it might improve your performance. What knowledge or experience do you have that relates to the topic? When you enter the learning with your own point of view you engage in the content as an active participant rather than a passive one.

Enjoy the Experience

Think about the learning experience as a chance to reinvent yourself. How often do you have the chance to try and fail without repercussions (not a good example if you are engaged in food or workplace safety training mind you)? A quality learning experience should give you the opportunity to explore the content, roll it around your mind and apply it to build skills in a safe environment.

Close the Loop on the Experience

Once the session is over, it’s time to start applying and sharing what you learned. Here are some things you can do to add permanence to your new knowledge.

  1. Take your new knowledge and skills and purposefully apply them to the work. One basic tenet of adult learning is that we learn by applying our prior experiences to new information.
  2. Blog about your experience or share it with the team over lunch.
  3. Build a new process map and post it in your work space as a visual reminder.
  4. Involve your manager or peer group.
  5. Ask others for input. Ask others to respond to what you have learned and give them a chance to weigh in. When we broaden the experience pool by involving others we come to a more robust understanding of the content.
  6. Plan your own follow-up. Most of use some type of software that allows us to plan to-do items and create checklists. Create some personal items and schedule them 30, 60 and 90 days out. Schedule time with yourself to check in on your progress. Think about what you recall and what you have used.
  7. Consider previous challenges and obstacles. How could you have used your new found knowledge and skills to overcome them?

The learning activity itself is rarely the magic bullet that fixes everything. It can be a very powerful experience that adds to your productivity and effectiveness if you participate in the right activities and take an active role in your own experience.

What do you think? How are you owning your learning experiences and making them practical and powerful?