Saturday, November 20, 2021

How do we learn?

Learning is a lifelong process. We always keep learning by observing, through experiences, reading or listening to others. The person who stops learning is irrelevant in the world; those are the people who are always suffering in life. There are people who observe, read, experience, and listen to others, but never learn. Those are the people who go for bathing in the river without getting wet. They are faking the learning. They take feedback but ignore that.

David Kolb published his learning style model in 1984. He says, “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).

Learners’ internal cognitive process decides how the learning is effective. When you get any experience, encounter any situation, your mind is conditioned, and programme is created in the mind. It is used when similar types of situations occur. First time is experiencing the situations, responding to those situations, demonstrating the behaviours which the person thinks right. In this process the person learns, and that learning is replicated in similar circumstances. According to Kolb “learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations.”

Kolb's experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases':

Concrete Experience - a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience.

Reflective Observation of the New Experience - of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding.

Abstract Conceptualization - reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept (the person has learned from their experience).

Active Experimentation - the learner applies their idea(s) to the world around them to see what happens

The learning is effective when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages:

  • Having a concrete experience followed by
  • Observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to
  • The formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then
  • Used to test hypotheses in future situations, resulting in new experiences.

This can be shown in a graphical way as under.

However, effective learning only happens when a learner can go through and demonstrate the behaviour in all four stages. Therefore, no one stage of the cycle is effective as a learning procedure on its own.

One interesting point we should note is that whenever we approach the task or experience, we have certain approaches and attitudes for the tasks, this is called, Processing Continuum. Another dimension is while experiencing the situation or approaching the task, we have responses in terms of our emotions. Situation triggers emotions, we respond emotionally, this is called Perception Continuum.

Based on these continuums, there are 4 different styles of learning which are described in the following model.

We need to create learning initiatives based on the different styles as above. Those 4 styles are as indicated in above graphic are:

Diverging (feeling and watching with Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation)

These people can look at things from different perspectives. They are sensitive. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They are best at viewing concrete situations from several different viewpoints.

Assimilating (watching and thinking with Abstract Conceptualization and Reflective Observation). These people are concise, have a logical approach. Ideas and concepts are more important than people for them. These people require a good, clear explanation rather than a practical opportunity. They excel at understanding wide-ranging information and organizing it in a clear, logical format. People with this style are more attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical value.

Converging (doing and thinking - Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation)

People with a converging learning style can solve problems and will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They prefer technical tasks and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems.

Accommodating (doing and feeling - Concrete Experience and Active Experimentation)

The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on,' and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans.

Knowing a person's (and your own) learning style enables learning to be orientated according to the preferred method. That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a person's learning style preferences. 

(Article is based on David Kobe’s Learning Model)

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

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Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga. Income from books is used for social cause. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Learning styles based on experiences

Experiential learning is still an effective mode of developing people. 70:20:10 methodology is commonly used to develop talent. It is believed that 70% development happens when people are actually doing the job which they want to learn. This includes actual on the job training, project assignments, short term or long-term assignments, job enrichment, job rotation etc. 20% development happens when people are watching, observing the job and learning from others. This also includes coaching and mentoring, and 10% development happens through attending training and workshops. 

Hence while designing any people development initiatives, we need to focus more on 70% aspect and that can’t be effective with external agencies or trainers. Most of the talent and people development initiatives fail because we ignore the uniqueness of personalities while designing such development programmes. We all have different learning styles. Those styles are developed based on different experiences. Generally, experiences play a major role in learning and development. Based on the experiences people have, there are 4 types of learners. 

  • Learning activists,
  • Learning reflector,
  • Theorist 
  • Pragmatist 

Learners can switch or start their learning at any stage, but their dominant styles decide which learning stage they are effective at.

Learning Activists are the people who learn through experiences and have a preference for this stage of the learning cycle are always active and can't sit still. They always want to try something new. One example is the person who always seems to have a new hobby. This stage is for having an experience. 

They are usually open minded, enthusiastic and thrive on challenges. They get bored easily and are not overly concerned with implementation or consolidation.

As a manager or HR professional you can bet on them to give them more responsibilities. These learners have strong learning agility and are definitely high potentials. 

Learning reflectors have a preference for gathering data. They don't particularly like a "hands on" approach or reaching a conclusion quickly.  They think and reflect on what information or experiences they have. They are naturally cautious and like to observe rather than take part.

As a manager, you can rely on these employees. You can groom them and push them towards having more experiences. They may be in comfort zones, and you have to push them in the growth zone.

Theorists have a preference for reaching a conclusion quickly. They tend to like things which are in order. They value theories that are logical and rational. They feel most comfortable where things "fall into place". They conclude fast through their experiences. 

Lateral thinking or discussions that do not have a direction do not come easily to them

You can retain them but don’t expect more from them like activists and reflectors. 

Pragmatists are the people who are keen to try out the theories and ideas to see if they work in practice. They are down to earth and would not reflect on the merits of a theory but the practical aspects. They are attracted by what works for them. They are good planners and find opportunities to practice but if they are not convinced, they will not listen. These learners are not highfliers but then if you want to change something drastically, you will not be able to push these learners. 

Each person has a preference for one of these styles and therefore as the organisations we should always consider these aspects while designing your talent management and people development initiatives. Every individual should be aware of their own style of learning since this will influence the way in which they will build their experience and execute their learnings. 

Managers and HR professionals need to be aware of the preferences or learning styles of those who will be developed for the future roles. 

Learners can pick up the learnings at any stage and can switch the style based on the experiences as under: 

(This article is inspired from the Learning States Theory developed by Dr Alait Mumford and Peter Honey.)

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga. Income from books is used for social cause. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Anxiety at workplace

Anxiety & Stress at workplace
Image: nami.org

Last week one of my friends collapsed while he was visiting a customer for inspection. His colleagues rushed him to the hospital. Doctor said that this was because of anxiety. 

Anxiety is the inevitable part of professional life. Highly demanding jobs are creating stress at work. Pandemic and work from home has added another dimension into the stress. Long working hours and increased screen time, wrong postures are creating issues. Anxiety in the workplace is at an all-time high and is rising in professionals. Anxiety in young talent is the bigger issue for organizations. As per one of the research, there has been a 67% rise in the number of employees who reported they feel anxiety at work over the past two years. Employees are leaving jobs not only for monetary gain but also to explore the things which they have not explored in the past. However, one of the reasons is stress and anxiety. Employees are feeling that they are not taken care of enough. 


In spite of having this all, employees are not willing to discuss the anxiety at the workplace because they feel that employers and managers may  take it negatively impacting their performance and career. 


Stress is defined as a biological reaction when changes occur, to which the body responds physically, mentally, or emotionally. Anxiety involves the body and the mind and can be serious enough to qualify as a mental disorder when allowed to become chronic. The fundamental difference between stress and anxiety is stress is typically short lived and event-based where anxiety is a sustained sense of stress, fear, or worry that can interfere with life when left unaddressed.


Positive side of the stress


Psychologists are in the opinion that optimum stress is required. Positive side of stress is called “eustress” (Dr. Hans Selye). When focused on the positive, stress enhances motivation, builds resilience and encourages growth, promotes belonging among peers and is part of a meaningful life (It is the challenge that creates the moments of accomplishment and feeling of self-worth)


As leaders, we need to recognize and appreciate that a certain degree of anxiety is essential for driving performance. The goal for leaders is not to eliminate anxiety but rather manage the degree of anxiety a workforce feels. 


When challenges and high demand are inversely proportional to the confidence and competence, the chances of anxiety are more.  When confidence is low and challenges are high, then anxiety is the outcome. 


Emotional intelligence and empathy are the antinode for stress and anxiety. To address anxiety in the workplace and transform anxiety into performance, leaders need to demonstrate empathy. It is actually quite easy to do. All it takes is to ask, “How do you feel, and what do you need?”; actively listen to what they say, and then act upon it. Transforming anxiety into performance starts with caring enough to ask the question. 


One of the consultancy firms (the culture think tank) which extensively works in the area of stress, anxiety and wellness, explains three Dimensions of Anxiety:

  • Security is the sense of confidence employees have in their position within the workplace and their ability to accomplish their assigned responsibilities
  • Understanding is the sense of confidence employees have in knowing what is going on within the organization and how their duties support the organization
  • Acceptance is the sense of belonging employees have within the organization 

Understanding and addressing anxiety in the workplace is not complicated nor difficult to manage. Managers need to be trained on how to respond to the above dimensions of anxiety. 


Organizations need to come up with key metrics to measure the stress and anxiety at the workplace. Health and wellness initiatives has to be considered as a one of the people agenda focusing on Physical, Psychological, Social and Proper Employee Assistance Programme. 


Managing anxiety is not something leaders need to actively address everyday; but it is something they need to address frequently. However, asking employees “how do you feel and what do you need?,” once a year during the employee engagement survey or performance appraisal is not a good idea to actively manage anxiety in the workplace.

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga. Income from books is used for social cause. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Human needs during the new normal

The pandemic has shifted the workforce to different levels considering human needs. We all know Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Those needs are physiological needs which are basic needs, safety needs, belonging & love needs, esteem and then self actualization needs. During the pandemic employees lost their jobs, they were worried about their and family’s health and hence basic needs like physiological, safety and belonging, love needs became more dominant. However, there was another need which we never thought of and that was cognitive needs - knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability. Employees wanted to be aware about the situation, they wanted more information, and a clear understanding of the impact on them. 

Cognitive need is the new need of the new generation. We all know that the future has already arrived and considering the disruptive trends and pandemic the future will be different. In this whole process people are more concerned about their identity. The human being is becoming more smarter, explorer, curious and want to experiment in his own career. 

In any case, you will find five fundamental needs of human beings at new workplaces. 

Identity: They want the identity in the organization. Each human being is different; however, they want what is their role and how they are uniquely contributing to the larger purpose of the organization. 

Image: Atharva Bidwaik

Inclusion: They want to be part of the team. Each member of the team needs to feel part of the team. They want to be included and hence creating inclusive culture is very important. 

Clarity: They want clarity of everything. They need clarity and the impact of different changes on their life. They are curious about what is happening in the organization and how they are engaged in different things.  

Contribution: They want to contribute to the larger purpose of the organization and expect that their contribution to be values and respected. 

Respect and trust: They expect respectful treatment. Organization needs to create the trust capital in the organization.  

Image: Atharva Bidwaik

Employees in the new normal want to be productive and engaged members of the team. They want to accomplish things together. Once leaders start taking care of the above five needs, teamwork will flourish, and your organization will excel towards the best place to work. 

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga. Income from books is used for social cause. 

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