3 Must-Have Skills for Experiential Learning Strategies to Work

3 Must-Have Skills for Experiential Learning Strategies to Work
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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 reflection and action.

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.  It is most often employed during action learning leadership programs that must get critical business results while simultaneously developing leadership capabilities.

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. 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. 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 the 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 data from workplace culture assessments and 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 workplace culture make it easy or difficult for people to take responsibilityAre your leaders accountable?

The Bottom Line
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, new behaviors, and change the ways of doing things in a broader context, use experiential learning strategies 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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