Have you ever tried to learn a new skill that wasn’t applicable in the context of your day to day life? I remember a fraught few weeks right before the start of my first professional position. To prepare for my new work, I decided I would teach myself to use Excel using online video tutorials. I spent hours watching videos that left me more confused than when I started. I learned almost nothing, and just ended up freaking myself out before my first day.
However, when the time came for me to actually use Excel in the course of my work, I figured it out quickly. Each time I had to perform a task I wasn’t sure about, I looked online for instructions, and applied what I had learned immediately. When I got really stuck, I reached out to colleagues for help. In a matter of weeks I was whipping up pivot tables like a pro.
Even though I had access to a nearly infinite amount of content at my fingertips (thanks Google), I couldn’t place any of that information into my specific context, and struggled to retain it. Working with hypothetical numbers/situations just didn’t cut it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was living the 70/20/10 model of learning and development: I learned a little bit through formal training, a bit more from asking peers for help, and most of it through hands on experience.
For business consultants and coaches who work primarily at the front of the room, the 70/20/10 model presents a difficult challenge. You might be able to provide fantastic offerings that make a positive impact to your clients, but you will still come up against the limits of 10%. You have two options: double down and be the best front of room trainer you can be and hope that the value you bring to your clients justifies your fees, or think about ways to supplement your existing offerings that take advantage of the other 90% of learning and development.
Formal, classroom style training is by no means obsolete. It can provide a strong foundation for other types of learning by paving the way for peer to peer interaction and hands on learning. It can provide crucial context for the importance of developing new skills, and align those skills to organizational objectives. And it can provide the tools that individuals need to tackle new challenges, and point then in the right direction for resources they will need in the moment.
It takes about three weeks of concentrated effort to form a new habit. Declaring a change is simply not enough (think of all those new year’s resolutions that have already been abandoned). This principle also extends to learning: we can read or hear something interesting, and even think about how it could apply to our day-to-day lives, but without a strategy for implementing a change, we will stay the same.
This is the principle on which Actionable Conversations was founded: reading a business book is a good first step, and thinking about how to apply the principles from it into your business is a good second step, but without the crucial element of identifying and implementing key takeaways, you won’t see much progress.
The summaries that we provide on ActionableBooks.com embody this principle—readers can apply the lessons in the context of their work, not just read the content and move on.
Expanding your offerings to include strategies and tactics to maximize peer-to-peer and hands-on learning will allow you to clearly demonstrate the ROI of your work to your clients. Furthermore, being able to back your initiatives up with metrics that demonstrate the effectiveness of those strategies fills in the missing link for senior leadership—there is a gap between participant reaction (smile sheets, etc.), and demonstrable business impact/ROI of training initiatives that can be filled with data about how learning is applied on a day to day basis.
We’ve written before about the shift in learning from content-based offerings to a demand for learning that can be immediately applied in the context of an organization. As this shift continues to transform the learning landscape, how is your practice as a consultant or coach shifting with it?