Are you the reason your learners aren’t learning?

sparksPay-off: remove YOUR constraints to effective learning
Investment: 4.5 mins (1.5 mins if you’d learned to speed read)

Here’s a joke for you:

What’s the biggest constraint preventing your learners (say, in your team, business, family, course) from learning precisely what they need to improve their performance, results and rewards for the greater good of everyone around them?

Well, I can’t tell you for sure,

but it sure as hell had better not be you!

If it is, then that’s the joke.

I still feel that the way learning is tackled in many businesses, educational institutions, and dare I say it families (I’m not perfect, I’m being provocative to get some movement here), is unfortunately an absolute joke.

Often the very people who want others to learn more effectively are part of the problem.

Revenue-limiting blindspots

I always remember watching a senior leader attempt to sell the idea of “learning as much as you can from this course” because, he said, “it’ll do wonders for the business”. Whilst everyone kept their arms crossed, blinked slowly, and mouth-breathed themselves a little closer to their death.

How can you so seriously misunderstand what makes people tick?

Learners need to be led, inspired, supported, given choices – not controlled, or put at the mercy of an inflexible process (marketed for the benefit of JUST the business). Am I really having to say this?

This is worth chewing over

Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt said:

“People are going to do what they are going to do, and you’re there to assist them. They don’t need me, they are going to do it anyway. They are going to do it for their whole lives. Maybe they could use a little help from me”

Now, I agree that works when you’re employing the right people. But let me shout it out: If you’re trying to get people to learn what they don’t want to learn, then are they in the right job?

Or are we pushing the wrong things on them? Where’s the disconnect?

If it needs to be learned, it needs to be learned for the benefit of the employee (as well as the business!)

If it doesn’t, then why the hell are we making them learn it?

If they don’t undertand the relevance, then clearly they don’t understand their job. So why aren’t we helping them to do that?

Can our good intentions hinder learning?

I think we all occasionally destroy the true magic of learning that could have happened if we didn’t impose our own preferences, solutions on ‘our’ learners (often we’re so head over heels in love with our own solutions (which, hey, we also get paid for!) that we focus just on their upside.

Who gets to learn, and who doesn’t?

To think that our own expertise, learning tools and solutions are the panacea to learning challenges is surely the learning equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb on our learners?

You might enable some people to learn, but you’ll bomb the rest. When you prescribe for the many, you’re going to get collateral damage.

Two vital components to learning

We mustn’t forget the two most important components to learning:

  1. The learner and their goals, desires, fears, beliefs, worldview – basically the ‘stuff’ between where they’re at and where they could be
  2. The sparks and connections that occur within their mind and nervous system (which ultimately reaches the tipping point into useful actions and behaviours that move them towards their goals)

Here’s some thoughts to consider:

What learners don’t need
(for high quality learning to take place)
  • us
  • trainers and performers
  • e-courses
  • technology (it delivers, it doesn’t necessarily score)
  • Powerpoint (yeah, I’ve picked on it too)
  • me
  • you
  • that book you recommend so dearly (even though it is good!)

These things, tools and resources which we tend to impose on learners can indeed amplify the effectiveness of learning delivery on a larger scale, but they sit outside the magical zone where learning truly takes place, in the mind of the engaged learner.

Effective learning delivery doesn’t mean effective learning

Unfortunately, we focus on what we feel we can control – the learning delivery. But it doesn’t mean that the learners will catch the ball. Let alone run, shoot and score.

What learners need
(for high quality learning to take place)

What if we went out of our comfort zones and helped our learners to learn how to catch, run, shoot and score?

What if they didn’t even need to catch, but instead could efficiently seek out what they need?

Here’s what learners need to create sparks and magic:

  • clear purpose
  • desire
  • growth mindset
  • accountability
  • options (and an ability to intelligently discern between which to use)
  • guidance and support to think efficiently and make effective use of resources
  • autonomy
  • each other – human interaction and connection

And ‘magic’ is often created via:

  • personal and informal conversations
  • stories
  • reading, reflecting, talking
  • experience (on and off the job)
  • critical thinking
  • observing and visualising
  • sharing, explaining and persuading

With these, learning is more emotional and occurs at a more visceral level.

Social learning, informal learning and self-directed learning

Surely then, we must all create more space and support for social learning, informal learning and self-directed learning? The sparks and magic of learning frequently occur under these conditions, and this is being realised now more widely (I wonder if we all secretly knew it already but were too busy being taught how to teach others?).

These are within the control of the learners themselves, and not in our control. But we can help them, if we choose to.

We can accelerate our learning by applying various thought and action processes to create more connections and sparks. Better still, we can help others to help their learners learn more effectively, connect them to the right options, and help them equip themselves.

The question is, are you helping others to learn, or are you hindering their learning?

If you want to explore helping people in your team or business learn more effectively, and if you want to equip your team leaders with useful ‘L&D’ capabilities to maximise performance in their teams, then check out my site and contact me here.

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