Monday, April 30, 2012

Experience based learning

When we buy a new device for personal use, wether it is a computer, a lawnmower, drill or car, we LEARN by pushing buttons and observe what happens. Almost nobody reads the manual and certainly nobody attends a training how the new device works. This "pushing buttons method" is a typical example of what is called experience based learning. Every time we push a button, we learn more. We learn from our mistakes and Return on Investment is HIGH

If, on the other hand, the IT department at work releases to a new version of office, we demand a classroom TRAINING to know all features. Research shows us that at the end of the training we probably remember only 10% of what was told. Return on investment LOW

How comes we use a different approach at work and in private life, although we know the outcomes are poor ?
  • are we afraid to screw up in front of colleagues ? 
  • are we afraid we might destroy the new IT system and our company goes bankrupt because we pushed the wrong button ? 
  • do we think "the boss" will fire us if we use the wrong button on our computer ? 
I don't think any of this will happen. 

But ... 
  • We are programmed to be trained in a classroom. Before the age of 18 we spent about 32hours a week in a classrooms, listening to what the person in front tells us and we try to absorb as much as possible to reproduce it during an exam. 
  • We are afraid to do wrong at work and fail, and perhaps even lose our jobs
  • In a business environment we only consider classroom training as a training.  Experience based learning  is not to be considered as training by many. 
Luckily today many new learning methods enter the professional market ; peer group interventions, e-learning, coaching, ... and even training on the job are only some examples. 

In an interview by Seth Godin, Richard Branson explains that learning from our mistakes is the strongest way of moving forward. Do ! Act ! Take initiative ! Learn from your mistakes and move on, even if you fail hard !

In my career as recruitment manager I interviewed thousands of candidates. When candidates told me about an experience I always asked them what they learned from it. Unfortunately often, they couldn't answer me, or found it a strange question.

Experiencing is a free university. It is a personal choice. If you do learn from your experiences, you'll grow faster.

Lessons we learn from this :
  • dare to try 
  • failure is not a bad thing, it is a learning opportunity
  • learn from what you do, : do - observe - analyze - improve - redo = formula for growth
  • there are more ways to learn outside the classroom 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Assumptions (2)

In my previous blog I wrote about the effects of assumptions in organizations. Recently I ran into this picture on

At first sight we see a very brave lady and her husband sitting in a jeep and we start assuming things. 
  • Maybe we assume they are on a safari trip and they've put a nice steak on the hoot of their jeep. A lion jumps on the hoot to eat the steak and the couple smiles, because they will have the greatest picture of a lion in the world. 
  • Maybe she lives in Serengethi and maybe the lion is her pet, so she doesn't have to be scared of the king of the jungle. 
  • Maybe she is complete insane and doesn't understand the danger of it allMaybe she played the role of Jane in the movie Tarzan and she is used to play with animals
  • ...

This is exactly what we do in organizations. We see something and we build a story around it, without gathering the necessary information to get the correct story. We assume ... and assumptions are most of time incorrect. 

So next time you observe something in your organization, don't jump to conclusions, dig deeper and ask the people involved in the action for more information to obtain the right information. 

And about that lady, 

It is a fantastic real-life video projection in a zoo. She was never in danger and both lion and the lady survived the confrontation. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


In logic an assumption is a proposition that is taken for granted, as if it were true based upon presupposition without preponderance of the facts. (in other words it leaves a lot of room for (mis)interpretation)

Many interpersonal problems in organizations find their roots in assumptions.
Some examples :
  • A boss tought he explained well, but the associate misunderstood him and didn't ask for more info.
  • Two colleagues working together on a project and both tought the other one would do a certain task within the project and in the end it turns out none of the two did what the other one expected
The list of examples is endless and they cause a lot of problems, inefficiency (time & money) and can be the start of conflict.

There is only one place in the world where assumptions can rather make profit than loss and that is Hollywood. In movies filmmakers make you asume things, which create tension in a movie, and don't we all like that in a movie ?

But in real life, we don't live in Hollywood, and we are already under enough pressure because of our job. We don't need extra tension !.

So next time if something is not clear enough, ask for more information to make sure you understood the question well.
Next time you explain something to a colleague, let him rephrase what you told in his own words to make sure he understood it well and you talk about the same.

Usefull tip : you can be more clear by using "what, why, who, when, ..."