But how do you assure that your investment in learning pays off and produces measurable results? You can’t just send people to a seminar or give them an online course and hope for the best. Our research at Blanchard reveals three best practices that turbocharge learning.
Best Practice #1 – Use Spaced Repetition to Make Learning Stick
Spaced repetition is a learning technique where you don’t learn something in just one sitting. You’re exposed to the information periodically over time, so that the learning sinks in.
My friend John Haggai calls spaced repetition “the mother of all skills” because it’s so effective. Advertisers use this technique all the time; they call these repetitions “impressions.”
To be learned, information almost always requires repetition over time. But why? It’s sort of like putting something away in your garage—it’s not very useful unless you’re able to retrieve it! After your brain stores information into memory, you need to revisit that information a few times, so that you can recall it when you need it. This is how short-term memory becomes long-term memory.
To make your learning stick, take notes and review them within the first 24 hours of taking them. Be sure to think about what you’re reviewing. Don’t just re-read your notes; try to recall the main points without looking at them. Then—within a week—teach what you learned to someone else. This will force you to recall what you’ve learned.
Best Practice #2: Tap Learning Power with Cohort Groups
Learning flourishes in a social environment where conversation between learners can take place. Several studies examining group learning have shown that people learning in a collaborative environment acquire more knowledge, retain that knowledge longer, and have better problem-solving and reasoning abilities than people working alone.
At Blanchard, we’ve seen hundreds of instances of the power of group learning in our Master’s in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program at the University of San Diego. Every year our students are amazed by how effectively their cohort groups help them learn to become great leaders through role-playing, assessments, presentations, and collaborative projects.
By learning in groups, people develop teamwork, communication, and decision-making skills faster and more effectively than they would learning alone. The social aspect of group study helps people keep their commitment to learning. Accountability to the group keeps procrastinators on track. People learn faster by drawing on one another’s knowledge of the subject.
Group interaction is a key strategy for learning that works. As I always like to say, “No one of us is as smart as all of us.”
Best Practice #3: Design Learning Journeys to Drive Results
The best learning experience isn’t a one-time thing—or even a one-methodology thing. Our research shows that optimal learning is more of a process than an event. Such processes are called learning journeys.
We define a learning journey as “a training and development experience that unfolds over time.” These learning journeys can be customized to the needs of a business, department, or person.
For example, a person might begin their learning journey in a classroom or with a webinar. Their next step might be to engage with a discussion group. Next, the learner might go back to their workplace, apply the new concepts, and see how they work. The journey might continue with a return to the group, where the learner would share their real-world findings. From there, they could continue with follow-up classroom or e-learning, then take their new knowledge and skills back to the workplace for more real-world application.
By blending theory with real world experience, learning journeys are highly effective in driving sustainable business results.
An Organization That Learns, Thrives
In the long run, only smart organizations survive. Leaders in high performing organizations understand that knowledge exists in knowledgeable people; they know that unless its employees continue to learn, even the smartest organization will not say smart.
So, be smart and apply these learning practices. I guarantee you’ll be making a wise investment in your organization’s knowledge capital.