by Aviv Shahar
Every episode, I will explore ideas and insights that can awaken and inspire you to the opportunities you have to create new futures for you, your family, your teams, and for your business. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram or visit avivconsulting.com to hear the latest episodes.
This post will bring focus to another game-changing insight into how you can accelerate the transformation to produce breakthrough results when, typically, 80% of learning value is lost.To understand these questions let me put the focus on the four stages of adult learning and why we must engage these four stages to complete the learning loop. This insight is about how you enable leadership teams to innovate in whole new ways and accelerate the transformation of business by compressing months of work into just a few days.
To achieve such audacious goals, we must understand and deliberately apply the complete learning loop and put the four stages of learning to work. My most critical job as I lead the strategy and innovation process with a senior team is first to help them discover and enter the learning zone. Once we enter the learning zone we enable the team to take ownership of the future they imagine. I do this by designing a series of conversations that help the team engage their learning muscles. We build the energy and enthusiasm needed to create and sustain forward momentum and we codify the ABC: the actions, behaviors, and communication and conversations we will create.
These are audacious goals and the imperative we face is that we must facilitate a shift from merely learning new information to internalizing, applying, and teaching it to others. This work requires focus and effort. We must engage people’s self-interest and capacity for personal growth. To truly effect personal growth and transformation change, we must rely on and actively engage the four stages of learning.
Here are the stages we incorporate in our process design: in stage 1 you receive; in stage 2 you understand; in stage 3 you apply; and in stage 4 you teach and own the learning. So here is the way it works. Stage 1 is the receive stage. That’s when you take in new information. Stage 2, the understand stage, is when you internalize the information and validate its implication. Stage 3, the apply stage, is when you run water through the pipes to use and test learning in specific situations. Stage 4, stage for the teacher, is when you model the new learning for others and take the responsibility for the continuation of the learning cycles in the broader ecosystem.
Here is an example of how I applied the four learning stages in the design of a leadership summit with 120 managers for an organization going through rapid evolution.To help managers accelerate their personal and collective learning, we created a series of experiences that quickly guided participants through the four stages. First we introduced new information about the future operating model of the organization and identified the behaviors and mindsets critical for success.
Second, we enable the 120 managers to internalize and validate the new operating model by discussing the implications for each one of them in groups of three.
Third, we addressed a series of real life problem-solving situations we had participants engage in breakout groups. These experiences enabled participants to see the relevance of the workflow in the new operating model, run water through the pipes, and help them move from internalizing the learning to applying it.
Fourth, we activated the teaching and co-owning outcomes stage by developing the solutions to these challenges and presenting their recommendations to senior leadership. This step-by-step process in the summit enabled managers to test their new knowledge and skills by practicing and coaching each other in new behaviors made the experience fun and energizing. By the time they returned to the office, the managers had applied a new set of behaviors. They felt they owned the new strategies and were ready to teach their teams what they had learned.
The key insight here is simple. When people are given an opportunity to shape the wrong destiny and future what becomes possible is nothing less than miraculous. Working with leadership teams in this way to design innovation and transformation efforts can save six months of precious time as well as tons of organizational calories. By recognizing the window of opportunity and guiding the organization through prototyping solutions for real business issues, leaders develop new capabilities and build commitments to end ownership of the desired change. The point is that before the learning cycle is complete, with and through the fourth phase, people will take ownership to teach and coach others that learning is not integrated and the transformation is not moving forward.
Let me discuss the critical breaking points where the learning cycle gets broken and aborts. The first breaking point is when the cycle aborts on the second phase, you receive new information and knowledge and you even validate it. But you never move forward to apply it. The knowledge remains intellectual and never gets to be tested in action. That’s the first breaking point of the learning cycle: failing to move from information and ideas to action.
A second breaking point occurs when you skip the second phase. This often happens in a team situation when people come up with a new solution idea and approach to an opportunity. They get excited to quickly move forward into action, going directly from the first to the third stage before validating deeply that they share the same understanding about the future state and the way to get there. A week later they find themselves on a divergent path that produces conflict and potentially system breakdown. Often the breakdown is not the end of the world and truly represents an opportunity to pick up the learning cycle by de-briefing what happened and validating deeply that there is a shared understanding.
The first breaking point is a failure to move from idea to action. The second failure occurs because of premature action, skipping mission critical validation. The third breaking point occurs when people are not empowered and supported to take ownership of the learning and the transformation. As a result, stage 4 never gets fully activated and the new method, approach and or practice permeates the organization only partially. Instead of enjoying a broad embrace and implementation, my observation is that even in some of the most admired companies in the world, the learning cycle gets broken every day. In fact, reaching the fourth phase, taking ownership to teach and coach others, is more the exception than the rule.
Let me be more overt about this. This may be shocking for you, but based on my observation, not more than 20% of learning incidents truly and fully reach the 4th stage of learning where people take ownership to teach and model the new learning to their people on the team. That means that 80% of learning value or more is lost which is quite a catastrophic loss of learning impact in our life.
I’ll discuss some of the other reasons in another post. For now, take ownership of your planning and share this insight with your team. Put the four stages of learning to work for you to accelerate your growth and your team’s development. Make learning count by modeling the behavior.
First, you receive new knowledge. Second, you validate to make sure you understand. Third, you apply and run water through the pipes. Fourth, you take ownership and teach it to others. Here is what I recommend: find an opportunity to practice this new learning right now, today. See you on another episode of Create New Futures next time.
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Aviv Shahar is president of Aviv Consulting, a strategic innovation consultancy. Fortune 500 companies hire him to help their senior teams create purpose-inspired visions and innovative strategies that drive growth.
Follow Aviv on Twitter at @avivshahar .