How do we learn new business skills?

pyramidI stumbled on this diagram whilst watching a youtube clip on how to get better at poker.

It really resonated with me as a new business trainer. How are the best ways to digest information and learn?  What methods end up with the student retaining the most information and improving?

The interesting bit for me is that the most powerful ways are the ones that people in agencies tend to not want to do.

Teaching others – you really have to know your stuff to do this, as someone is listening intently to the way you see an idea or a situation.  And guess what, they might not agree, God forbid they might even come back at you, gulp, it’s risky, but this is where real learning is.  If you can explain something, you know it.

Trainers often say they learn more by teaching than their students do. There is some quote isn’t there from Einstein isn’t there, that if you cant explain it to a 12 year old you don’t understand it yourself.

As you know, I like the metaphor of poker to new business. In poker your tutor will ask you to explain your choices i.e. teach me – Why are you folding or why aren’t you? Why are you raising? Why are you betting so much or little? Why are you checking and so on.

Embarrassingly you find you do things with lack of reasoning or hoping to get lucky against the odds and that’s where our old friend Mister Time Wasted is hanging out.

Similarly in new business, why are you meeting, why are you doing a proposal, why are you presenting, what are you going to ask and why? What is your mind-set and why? Explain to me the fit?  Embarrassingly we get caught up in “We just always do it that way” or “Dunno?”

Practice by doing – risky business again.  You have to go and put into action something you learned.  Could all go horribly wrong. In fact in all likely hood probably will,  especially the first few times.  Can you handle it? As my 8-year-old daughter told my teary 6-year-old daughter this very morning, “A man who makes no mistakes doesn’t learn.” she did it in that patronising voice too – ouch!  Of course she got corrected with, “Well I am not a man.” Why are there so many smart arses in my house?

Discussion groups – still carry some risks. You may be asked by the person in charge of the group, what do you think? And then you may be wrong. You may have not been listening. You may get corrected or even get into an adult to adult debate, scary stuff for some.

Or you may get it right or learn something new or find that you enjoy debating an issue that nobody really knows the answer to. You may have to role-play scenarios to show your thinking, double gulp. My thoughts on the effectiveness of role-playing here.

Demonstrations – well we can all sit and listen to demonstrations can’t we. Like the stewardess on the plane explaining how to inflate your buoyancy aid post impact. Imagine if she asked you to come up and teach it?  You’d look at it differently then I bet.  Who hasn’t sat through a cookery demonstration these days and yet…

In terms of new business, it is a great way of learning to go with someone more experienced than you to new business meetings.  I quite like demonstrations as a learning tool but they don’t touch the previous two in effectiveness. But could be combined with the other two for sure.

The remaining three, audio video, reading and lectures – the main way used in the education system. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? In new business training too many trainers have a simply lecture style (Didactic methods) over  participation and discussions (Socratic methods).  To be fair quite often the two are used lecture followed by seminar style.

There has  been a huge growth in lectures in today’s world for marketing perhaps based on the success of TED maybe.  And I enjoy them as much as you.  But how much do they change me? How much do I go and implement? How much do I remember? Not much I venture.

Please, please don’t get me wrong, reading books and blogs are helpful, I read a lot and encourage other too, but you’ll only retain 10% according to the NTL and that seems very low, too low perhaps.. And who hasn’t watched an awe-inspiring lecture before?  But when did you last teach someone something or practice doing something differently or take part in a discussion group? Nothing ventured nothing retained?

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