How to Learn New Skills Faster at Work

How to Learn New Skills Faster at Work
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Learn New Skills Faster at Work
Being able to learn new skills faster can help both individuals and organizations to outperform their peers.  Whether it is learning new sales skills faster to sell new solutions to executive buyers or learning new management skills to lead a team for the first time, the ability to learn and apply new skills quickly can make or break a strategy.

How You Practice Matters
While most learning practitioners are getting better at breaking learning objectives into smaller components and microlearning to help learn new skills faster, we find that how you practice makes the biggest difference.  Recent memory reconsolidation studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine on recalling previous memories found that, if you alter your practice just a bit, you can reduce the time to recall and learn a new skill by almost 50%.  The key is in varying the practice sessions only slightly.

If you were trying to improve your tennis serve, for example, you could practice with different rackets, or by tossing the ball at different heights, or aiming for different parts of the court.  Josh Waitzkin, chess whiz, martial arts expert and author of The Art of Learning, puts it this way, “The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, the operating table, the big stage.”

The more present you are when you practice a new skill a little differently each time rather than mindlessly repeating it, the more quickly you will achieve mastery.

Learn New Skills Faster In the Workplace
How can this knowledge be adapted to the workplace?  Let’s say you need to improve your skills at presenting to executive audiences.  Once you understand the basic tenets of effective executive presentations, you need to start applying them.

When it comes to presentations, the most basic skills start with being able to understand your target audience and organize your ideas in a way to effectively address what matters most to them.  Once your ideas are organized in a way that makes sense, it is time to vary the way you practice presenting them.  For example:

  • Present into a video and then critique yourself.
  • Present to a colleague and get feedback.
  • Present to another colleague in a different order. Try this a few times and change the order each time.
  • Present to a group of colleagues and have them randomly select different portions of the presentation for you to share.

Each method practices your executive presentation skills but in a slightly different way to accelerate learning.

The Bottom Line
If you are responsible for talent management and development, doesn’t it make sense to build new skills as efficiently and effectively as possible?  Try changing up how people practice and they’ll be on their way to learning new skills 50% faster.

To learn more about helping people to learn faster, download Top 10 Training Best Practices for Effective Learning

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