Our team attended a conference a couple of years ago. Usually, at trade shows and conferences, you can find me at our booth in the expo (side note: please come by our booth at ATD National May 6-9 in San Diego). This was a rare occasion where we were lucky enough to take in a session – as long as we promised to bring the learning back to the group. One of the sessions contained “Experiential Learning” in the title, which naturally intrigued me. The speaker who opened the meeting stood up, introduced herself by name then said, “…and I have 42 years of experiential learning experience.” My reaction, along with the rest of the room, was stunned silence – and then we laughed as she went on to say something like, “When I learned to roll over, I learned by doing. When I learned to crawl, I did through experience.” The speaker was 42 years old.
In our early years, we learn through trial and error. Have you ever seen a baby try to roll over? It can take her a dozen tries. Somewhere along the way though, learning is mostly replaced with “being taught” through lecture and assigned reading, especially in school. In his best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad (20th Anniversary Edition), Robert T. Kiyosaki posits that as the world becomes more complex and change occurs faster than ever before “learning by making mistakes through trial and error is more and more important.” He cites Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning, reminding readers that “we learn best through action – the real thing or a simulation.” Basically, the rate of change in the world is picking up and we need to learn more and more quickly to keep up.
Think about the learning landscape in your business. Which kinds of training dominate? If your organization is focused on lecture and reading, how much of the information are your learners retaining? According to Dale, the answer is somewhere around 10% and that means you’re getting very little return on your investment.
The opposite is true when learning through action. Kiyosaki might even take it a step further and say that games are the best kind of action learning, thus giving you the best return on your training investment. When he mentions games, he points out “they are instant feedback systems. Instead of the teacher lecturing you, the game is giving you a personalized lecture, one that is custom-made just for you.”
To see how experiential learning impacts knowledge gains and retention, check out our eGuide HERE.