The Art and Science of Learning


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While reading various articles in industry magazines, I was struck at how many of the articles addressed similar areas and topics. I also found similarities to my own “mantra” on the value of strategic planning and the importance of a learning roadmap to outline organizational direction.

For those of us in HR and L&D we know the theories around learning. We understand why change is difficult and recognize the challenges of integrating new learning into the core of the organization. What we may not know is the how – that is - what will work best for our organization and employees.

What determines organizational readiness for learning? What sets each of us apart individually? What are the differences in why some solutions work for one organization but not another?

The first part of the answer is the art and science of it. Like other areas of study organizational learning is a combination of art and science. The science is the fact-based, data-driven understanding of how we learn, and when, why and how we change. It also includes (and maybe more importantly) the systems and processes that surround and support day-to-day business activities. It is from this foundation that we build our plans for implementing organizational learning. The art piece is the human side –the intangibles – the emotional intelligence of both learners and those who set the course of how to learn or implement change. This is where the challenge is.

Confronted with so many variables in different environments and situations, it’s easy to see that science alone won’t work every time. Other variables – mostly the human factor – play a role. That’s how business and learning needs assessments help. A learning needs assessment evaluates the business and learning environment. It takes the pulse of what employees want, helping us understand the individual needs and goals of our audience.

As learning professionals there remain differences between us in the same way as learners have differences. Our personality, our approach, our style, who we are and how we interact. This is the bottom line to success – finding the right mix of the art and science. This is accomplished by identifying the best approach for your organization and employees based on the collective temperature around change, learning, knowledge and individual and organizational success.

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