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Learning styles affect business efficiency

We are so caught up in the day-to-day struggles of growing or maintaining our business, the thought of taking time out for just a few minutes to think about how our staff learn is not something that typically comes to mind. Do you know and understand how you learn?

One could be forgiven for thinking this might be another academic exercise, but a lack of awareness here would almost certainly negatively affect your bottom line.

Most people have probably heard of the term “perception is reality”. If we have an appreciation of how others as well as ourselves perceive our environment and how we each have a preference in terms of our learning styles, then we can start to systematically develop our organisation’s learning and communication strategies to align our resources most efficiently and effectively.

At a high level we can think of a learning cycle as having four distinct stages:

  • We take some form of action (act/acting);
  • We consider what we feel about what occurred (reviewing);
  • We construct new ideas based on those considerations (construct);
  • We experiment with new thinking and approaches (experiment).

If you think in terms of learning styles, you can identify four where each one is well aligned to one of the four segments (in-between the stages).

These are ‘activators’ (A), ‘clarifiers’ (C), ‘innovators’ (I) and ‘explorers’ (E). Some individuals are good ‘all-rounders’, and can work just as effectively whatever task confronts them. However, what is more ­typical is someone having a bias - they work more effectively in one style than another.

Activators are drawn to act, clarifiers are drawn to review, innovators are drawn to construct and explorers are drawn to experiment.

By understanding if someone is a good all-rounder or has a particular preference to learn in a certain manner, then by taking this into account when assigning activities within the organisation (learning or otherwise), one is likely to create a more rewarding exchange between you and your staff, which in turn also benefits the whole organisation.

Is there any problematic behaviour associated with a learning style preference? This relates to phrases such as ‘too much firefighting’, ‘not another post-mortem’, ‘too much theorising’ and ‘paralysis by analysis’.

Each of these behaviours can be loosely mapped to one of the learning styles, which creates organisational short-circuits.

So what can we do about this? The first step in any learning activity is to become more aware of what is actually going on rather than the often oversimplified process (because we are rushed).

This is where we create for ourselves a view that we take as ‘real’ - but it’s not the whole picture really.

Rod Willis is chief consultant and founder of Assentire