Category: Learning

Why We Don’t Need the Lights On for True Learning to Happen

An international organization had convened a group of technical experts in their specific fields to share best practice techniques with a broad group of managers of technical facilities. When the power failed sometime around day three the initial reaction was to abandon the session. Somebody then suggested: “Why doesn’t Joe just tell us about his presentation – he’s up next and he knows his stuff so he doesn’t actually need the slides.”

So what was different when the lights went out?

How did a power failure lead to better learning?

At the learning review at the end of the day, the feedback was that everyone had learned the most during Joe’s session.

How was Joe’s session so different to all the others? 

When relatively complex and/or technical content needs to be learned, the technical and subject matter experts in the business are usually responsible for putting it across to the rest of the organization. The default approach is generally a series of slide presentations.

When the focus is primarily on content and not much attention is given to the learning process, i.e. the way in which the learners will absorb the new material. we can fall into a “training” rather than a “learning” space where the trainer as the expert becomes the most important person in the room. If we want the best learning to happen, we need to focus on the learners and rather act as facilitators to smooth the way for them to engage with the content.

Some of the reasons why the best learning happened when the lights went out are the following:

  • There was a more relaxed, conversational vibe. Learning is primarily a social activity and when Joe was no longer behind a desk focusing on his slides, he was free to engage more actively with the group and they with him
  • There was more scope for questions from the group and Joe was able to pick up where information was needed and adjust his focus accordingly

Slide packs with technical knowledge are extremely useful as resources or reference guides. Offering them alongside a carefully designed learning process is a winning combination, 

If your organization experiences challenges with making complex content accessible, contact us for some ideas of how to increase the chances of true learning.

Lockdown as a Life Long Learning Lab

Right now we’re faced with a level of change and uncertainty unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

Neuroscience tells us that uncertainty is perceived as a threat by our brains. This can trigger the fight, fight or freeze response, shutting us down and threatening our sense of purpose in the world. But our brains are also always primed for new learning. 

What if we could turn this period of change and uncertainty into a life long learning laboratory for ourselves? The World Economic Forum lists life long learning as an essential competence for navigating the uncertain future.

Think for a moment of what you’ve learned in the last few days: There are many opportunities for new learning in a shutdown: mastering different technology for work and social connections, creating spaces and new routines for work and family and managing our time in new ways.

Try regularly reviewing the new skills you have learnt to cope most effectively with your current time of uncertainty but don’t stop there. Turn inwards to reflect on what changes are happening in your inner landscape that will future proof you for whatever may lie ahead. Finally, think about the impact this could have on your purpose in the world.

In summary, Coaching Café’s Life Long Learning Lab consists of reflecting on these three review questions:

  • Lockdown Landscape: What new things am I doing and learning?
  • Internal Landscape: What am I learning about myself and who i am becoming
  • My Future Landscape: How will I show up differently as I live out my purpose in the future?

Right now, the best thing you can do for the whole world is to use this opportunity to make the most of yourself.

A meeting of minds

In the Our Philosophy section of our website we mention the meeting of minds from two different backgrounds and perspectives.

How have we applied our minds to making the most of these qualities in growing a business and serving our clients over the years?

The two main areas of Coaching Café’s expertise and experience are online leadership and life coaching on the one hand and the design and facilitation of learning material and processes on the other.

Although we come from very different academic and career backgrounds, there are many bridges between our personal philosophies, experience and expertise that create a strong foundation for our work in our personal lives and in the world. Not only do these bridges connect us as individuals and our areas of interest and work; they are also the foundation of our connections with our clients.

Here is a light-hearted yet serious look at some of the principles and beliefs that we believe create the bridges to connect all areas of our work:

  • Everything starts with the individual. Our coaching approach and our learning designs start where you’re at and help to position you within all the different contexts of your personal and professional life
  • We believe everyone has the innate potential to create their best life and in doing so make the impact they want and are meant to make in the world
  • We have a deep understanding of how learning happens for individuals, teams and organisations. All our interactions are designed to create inner and outer spaces conducive to learning
  • We know how to make learning enjoyable and rewarding – our learning processes are refreshing and create engagement. No more death by Powerpoint!
  • Our systems thinking approach means that we always look for the interplay between all the systems that are relevant for individuals, teams and organisations and how they impact one another
  • We believe language is a really powerful tool in learning and so we use words with care to reflect the way we choose to work and that resonate with our clients and ourselves. Some examples are: true, authentic, alignment, clarity,engagement, purpose. Be on the lookout for more of these powerful words on our website!
  • We really listen to our clients: to the words they use, their non-verbal or body language and what is said between the lines or not at all
  • We choose to view people through the lens of their natural talents and inspire them to develop these talents into strengths
  • We know that questions, especially good questions, are the key to learning. We love crafting a question in the moment that tunes into the client’s thinking, expands the way they view themselves and their world and creates opportunities for learning, reflection and growth
  • We are driven to share what we know, transferring skills and knowledge appropriately, whether through mentoring, consulting or providing support in other ways
  • We aim to be true facilitators in all interactions. To facilitate means to make things easier (facile = easy). Whether working with groups or individuals, we endeavour to clear a path for our clients to see the way forward and navigate obstacles on the way to their true selves

If you’re curious about how this approach could work for you, your team or your organization, contact us for a complimentary discussion.

Life long learning in organisations

In our previous blog, we quoted the World Economic Forum’s view that life long learning keeps us relevant in the world of work and in our personal lives.

How can we go about making this happen in practice?

Most of us tend to think of learning as something we do in the earlier part of our development in a formal learning context and in the early stages of our career.

What if we were to broaden our view of learning to include life long learning and at the same time to cover all learning in all aspects of our personal and professional lives, not just academic learning?

The fascinating TED talk by Eduardo Briceno  (view link) highlights the importance of learning in all areas of our lives where we want to improve, ranging from our relationships to our performance at work. He suggests creating “learning zones” distinct from performance zones where we can be free to practice new skills in a safe environment.

Most organisations today are structured according to teams. Teams can act as ideal learning zones that provide support and space for team members to grow and learn in all respects. However, when teams operate as completely independent units within an organization, opportunities to learn are restricted and performance may be compromised.

As an example, a company exporting fruit internationally was facing complaints from suppliers due to delayed and incorrect payments. When the operational team that liaised with the suppliers spent time interacting with the accounts team, they discovered that details which they had viewed as less important in their submissions to the accounts team were in fact critical for creating payment schedules. The teams were able to discuss the challenges each one experienced and gained a better understanding of the links between them. Payments became more streamlined as a result. The learning for both teams went beyond the processes that needed to be followed: relationships were strengthened and a climate of support was created between the two areas of the business.

They had in fact created a learning zone where they set time aside to understand their respective needs. This resulted in improvement in the performance zones for both teams and the organization as a whole.

So why does this not happen more frequently in our organisations when creating these spaces can produce such positive results?

Possibly some of our ideas and assumptions about how learning happens can actually undermine and get in the way of how we learn in orgaisations: this is understandable when we look at the main ways in which most learning is structured at both school and tertiary levels:

  • The focus is on individual performance, which can give rise to comparisons and competition
  • Although there may be some team or group work, sharing of information (“copying”) is generally not acceptable and can in fact land you in a lot of trouble!
  • Subject areas are mostly viewed as separate from one another, e.g. economics and history

It’s quite easy to become stuck in this “school” mindset or paradigm with regard to learning when we enter the world of work.

In the world of work a different learning mindset is needed:

Of course, individual performance is important in a team, but in contrast to a “school” situation, cooperation and sharing of information is critical.  Sharing individual learning within a team benefits other team members and the team as a whole.

All teams and functions are inter-dependent: everyone needs to understand the total landscape of the organization.

How do we go about creating these spaces for better understanding, learning and sharing in organisations? At Coaching Café we are experienced in designing learning processes that enhance both individual and team knowledge. We will continue to explore how we do that in the next few blogs

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