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4 steps organisations can use to promote experiential learning An experiential learning approach is better than a classroom approach because it is cost effective, customised, scalable, practical and retentive.

By Neeraj Deshpande

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Experiential learning, according to Wikipedia and Association for Experiential Learning, is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as "learning through reflection on doing." It is a process that involves engagement in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. While most organisations in India support the classic 70/20/10 model, they rarely follow it. The 70/20/10 principle suggests that employees learn 70 per cent through experiences, 20 percent through relationships and only 10 per cent through formal training methods. An experiential learning approach is better than a classroom approach because it is cost effective, customised, scalable, practical and retentive.

Let me share an example to understand this better. While I do follow a lot of health blogs, read health magazines and watch health videos on YouTube, I still don't have the physique I desire. I know this is the case with many of you. Why do you think this is so? There is a big difference between subscribing to an idea and actually putting it into practice. According to a report by 24x7 Learning, Grant-Thornton & IIM-Kozhikode, 89 per cent organisations in India are expected to increase their efforts in Learning and Development (L&D) for their workforce in the near future.

In August 2012, the Indian L&D industry stood at $3.5 billion and is expected to grow even faster due to the increase in demand for skilled professionals. Although the expenditure on L&D in India stands at par with China, we still are far behind when compared to the amount spent by developed nations.

These figures are not mind boggling but another report by CLO suggests that 80 per cent of learning in India is still instructor-led and follows the ages old classroom approach, which is in complete opposition to the 70/20/10 model. The increase in expenditure on classroom style L&D by organisations cannot possibly produce effective results since studies by various research organisations have proven that experiential learning is a far better and much more effective approach. Organisations must streamline their efforts and take the steps outlined below:

1. What & Why? As a principle, all trainings should have some objectives behind them. For experiential based learning, however, it is absolutely mandatory. Organisations should cultivate an atmosphere where leaders and employees engage in an open discussion about the objectives behind trainings and learning opportunities. Desired development cannot take place unless everyone is clear about what should be learned and why.

2. Identify Experiences & Activities: Once you have a clear picture of your competency level and capabilities, and the objectives you want to achieve, you can then collaborate with leaders to determine activities that will deliver the learning. The organisation should not lose focus on objectives at any point of time during the engagement as it may lead

3. Debrief : Completing the experience is one half of the cycle. Leaders or trainers have to drive people to step back, reflect and consciously decide how to apply new insights, skills and abilities to work. This is where the real learning will happen. As an organisation you also need to make sure that the effect of the L&D engagement is very well carried out in day-to-day work. Employers must put proper checks in place to ensure everybody is driven towards improving and becoming professionals.

4 Trainers: While what we have discussed above focuses on a more employee centric organisational approach, does it make role of a trainer obsolete? The answer to that is: No. To execute steps necessary to successfully create an experience requires specific skills. Leaders and employees should be able to engage in meaningful discussions, decide experiences, carry out experiences successfully, and make a note of the lessons learned from the successes and challenges encountered on the way. No one is better equipped to help you execute your plan successfully than rainers.

To conclude, I think it's time for us to put our thoughts into action and follow the 70/20/10 approach and put experience-based learning into practice. After all we need to do is widen our perspective, shift our focus and look for more effective ways to engage our people. Time to say goodbye to classrooms.

Neeraj Deshpande

Head of Team Building, Work Better Training

Neeraj is one of the founding members of Work Better Training & Development. He spearheads the Team Building vertical at Work Better. His responsibilities include conceptualizing new activities and developing business.
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