3 Must-Have Skills for Experiential Learning Strategies to Work

What Are Experiential Learning Strategies?
In short, experiential learning strategies involve learning by doing using four steps:

  1. Deciding what to do
  2. Doing it
  3. Reflecting upon what worked and what did not work
  4. Connecting those key lessons back to your next decision

Similar to prototyping or piloting a concept or a project, experiential learning invites failure and explicitly encourages learning from relevant and meaningful actions.

Double-Loop Learning
Also called double-loop learning, experiential learning allows for deeper and faster learning and progress because it helps learners challenge and think more deeply about their own assumptions and beliefs as they move to action.

Single-Loop Learning
Single-loop learning on the other hand, involves individual, teams or organizations only going through half of the experiential learning cycle.  Examples include:

  • Analysis Paralysis: When people continue to talk and think and do not actually get anything done. “If you see a snake, discuss what you should do about it and why.”  Some individuals, teams and organizations naturally gravitate more toward reflecting and connecting.
  • Ready, Fire, Aim: When people act quickly and reactively without thinking deeply about their own assumptions, beliefs or longer term consequences. If you see a snake, kill it.  Some individuals, teams and organizations more naturally gravitate toward action.

The Advantage of Double Loop Experiential Learning
While it can be helpful in certain situations to take immediate and concrete action, double-loop learning strives to address the underlying causes by incorporating feedback and thinking about actions and operating assumptions.  In general, the more complex or systemic the problem, the more valuable experiential learning becomes.

Three Skills Required for Experiential Learning Strategies
If you want to make experiential learning strategies part of your talent management process to develop top talent, make sure you model, teach, measure and reinforce:

#1.  Self-awareness
Self-awareness is capability to monitor one’s own emotions and reactions.  When we have a solid and accurate understanding of ourselves, we are better able to reflect and make changes to improve ourselves and those around us.  Without self-awareness, it is difficult to challenge the assumptions and beliefs required for change and growth.

#2.  Authenticity
Let’s start with some data.  Based upon the results of over 500,000 employee engagement responses per year over the last 15 years, one area stands out as having the highest correlation to high levels of employee engagement compared to any other – the ability of Leaders to Build Trust.

Honesty and candor happens to also play a critical role in learning and performance improvement in terms of being able to recognize and discuss mistakes, assumptions, beliefs and root causes.  It is difficult to learn and improve without truthfulness.

#3.  Accountability
It is also difficult to learn, improve or change without creating responsibility for actions, beliefs, assumptions, behaviors and methods.  Does your culture make it easy or difficult for people to take responsibility?  Are your leaders accountable?

The Bottom Line
When you are simply looking to pass along information, the old-style classroom setting can suffice. When the task or issue at hand is simple or isolated, single-loop learning may be all that is required.  But when you want employees to learn new skills, behaviors and ways of doing things in a broader context, use experiential learning to get the job done.

If you want to learn more about experiential learning strategies for leaders, download How to Fast Track Your Leaders with Just-in-Time Action Learning

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