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Improving Employee Performance through Experience


‘Real’ Learning

We now know that ‘real’ learning is best defined in terms of behaviour change. Like other animals, human learning occurs as a consequence of interaction with our environment.  In humans we can distil the conditions for real learning as being the outcome of a combination of four activities:

  1. Exposure to rich experiences
  2. The opportunity to practice
  3. Conversation and exchanges with others
  4. Space and time to reflect

Experience, Practice and Reflection – An Active Process

‘Experience is a hard teacher...she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards’. Anonymous

Learning is fundamentally about sense-making and ‘constructing’ knowledge rather than simply transferring information. We test our inbuilt or previous knowledge and theories through action and experiences, and then review the results. If there is discrepancy, we adjust our understanding based on these new experiences.

We also know that the human brain generally learns better through exposure to new experiences and active participation than it does through either hearing about or seeing something, although stories and images that elicit strong emotional reactions are also effective inputs to the learning process.

Experiential learning is represented within the ‘70’ of the 70:20:10 framework although, as with social learning, it occurs in the other areas – across social and formal learning processes, too.

Rich Conversations – Learning is Essentially a Social Activity

‘Our world is others’. Jerome Bruner

By our nature and culture, humans learn extremely well through and with others.

Jerome Bruner’s work has shown us that we experience our world with and through others, and much of our learning is the same way.

Our increased understanding of social learning as a vital activity outside of structured or directed learning has led directly to a better grasp of what we need to do in order to effectively support individual, team and organisational development from a social learning standpoint.

Social learning is represented within the ‘20’ of the 70:20:10 framework, although, of course, it occurs in the ‘70’ part through experiential learning and the ‘10’ part as well, reinforcing the fact that the different types of learning in 70:20:10 are neither ‘neat’ nor discrete.


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1 comment

I really think the idea of 'constructing knowledge' rather than transferring information is a powerful interpretation of how learning occurs. Giving people information, breaking it down into simpler parts, making available additional tools or resources, and encouraging people to use all of this information and tools, allows them to build a system of learning that best suits them.  This allows even the most experienced person a pathway of learning and development, and not just new people to learn. 

Having a tool box of resources, information, displays, notifications, and structured learning will be a great motivational force for many people.