The Number One Way To Learn

Generally it is considered that there are three ways people learn: through observation, by reading, or by experiencing. Depending on what it is that you’re trying to learn, any of the three methods could be number one. However one method has proven itself consistently to be without a doubt the best method — experience.

Each week we put a thought of the week our company web site. It is always some motivational saying to give people something to think about throughout the week. One attention getting quote came from James Joyce. “Misstakes are the portals of discovery.”

Some people may have missed the whole message because they didn’t pay enough attention to the picture that accompanied the saying. It proved to be as thought-provoking as the saying itself. A picture below Mr. Joyce’s words showed a forklift that had driven off a loading dock. What many people may miss is the cargo being hauled by the forklift – a missile lying precariously in a broken crate.

This forklift driver could have read manual after manual to learn how to operate the forklift safely. He or she may also have watched video after video designed to teach them how to maneuver and operate the forklift without incident. However it is doubtful that any lesson had as big of an impact or will live in his memory as long as the day the forklift went off the end of the dock.

When people invest in their employees they’re making an investment in the only asset the organization has that will appreciate. Equipment will depreciate, inventory will sustain carrying costs, and even though the property may increase in value there is no way to capitalize on the gain without costly new financing.

Fortune 500 companies have realized the importance of developing their employees through training programs. Many individuals have discovered on the own the necessity of investing in themselves to expand and update their skills. However as with any investment, research shows that there is a right way and a wrong way to make the investment.

Safety videos, textbooks, manuals, online training, and other modes of education do not deliver a return on investment by themselves. On the other hand, statistics show that experiential learning has a 42:1 return on investment.

Regardless of the lesson you’re trying to teach someone, it is possible to find an instructional method to allow for experiential learning. Sometimes it takes creativity. However my experience is that a method is always available. Take for example the forklift driver. We would not think of handing the car keys to a teenager without first having them start learning how to drive on a test course or deserted road. Yet normal training for forklift driver is usually done by video and manual alone. What if the forklift driver were first asked to gain experience in a remote corner of the warehouse using empty boxes? Perhaps even including test scenarios, such as a stack of empty boxes on a pallet that was too high for the bin it needed to occupy.

For maximum results, be sure to review your training programs to constantly increase the level of hands-on personal experience to facilitate the best learning with the highest return on investment.



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