the ceo magazine, training,
Phil Geldart, Founder and CEO, Eagle’s Flight

A CEO’s primary responsibility is to produce results. Whether these are financial in nature, linked to social responsibility, R&D, the environment or shareholder value, they all have one thing in common: they are the results of the behaviors of people.

Every aspect of every organization flows, to a greater or lesser degree, from individual behaviors. To change or improve results, behaviors must change.

CEO’s don’t want to pay for just “training,” but will willingly pay for the results of training, especially when those results drive true behavior change. Experiential learning is one of the most powerful ways to change behavior, and therefore should be very much on the radar screen of every CEO.

We remember what we do far more than what we hear.

Experiential learning, which is learning by doing, can produce sustained behavioral change by creating immersive experiences that enable participants to learn new skills that are directly applicable to their jobs. It addresses the four key elements necessary for behavior change to occur.

  1. Heart – Conviction to change must be created.  Individuals adopt new ways of behaving when they have conviction around the value of doing so. Without personal conviction, daily work pressures will quickly cause employees to revert to old habits, despite the training received. Experiential learning instills conviction by demonstrating the power of a different approach. By personally experiencing the failures and successes that result from their behaviors, participants gain a deep-rooted understanding of the consequences of their actions, as well as what could be possible.
  2. Head – Knowledge must be transmitted.  After conviction, individuals must then learn the “how.” Knowledge transfer and teaching new skills are a core component of any type of training, but with experiential learning the emphasis is on learning by doing. While learning by hearing results in a lower retention rate – people generally remember only 10% of what they hear – when coupled with learning by doing more information is retained and the results are more permanent.
  3. Hands – How to apply the knowledge must be made clear and relevant.  After learning how to perform a new skill, the next steps are to practice it in a safe environment, and then connect it to the workplace. Experiential learning provides this opportunity. This is not a case study, or role play; rather it is an actual situation where new skills can be practiced, applied and developed. When a significant proportion of time is spent on practice, within a facilitator-led environment, individuals can then safely learn from their mistakes, and hone new skills.
    A critical element of this step is a facilitated debrief that links the newly learned skills to practical application. Connecting the dots between training successes and improved performance in the workplace provides the confidence needed to then apply those new behaviors on the job.
  4. Harvest – The impact must be expected and observed.  When participants attend training opportunities it should be with a mindset that they will be expected to learn and apply new behaviors; then that those behaviors should lead to improved results. The attitude must be “How can I improve my performance as a result of what’s being taught?”; rather than: “You better have something important to teach.” Experiential learning encourages this attitude by showing a direct link between personal behavior and consequent results.

Experiential learning can be a key tool for creating long term behavior change. It empowers participants to reach their own conclusions, engages learners, and aligns Heart (conviction), Head (knowledge), Hands (application), and Harvest (measurement) to drive performance. The result can be transformative for both the individuals involved, and organizational results. 

About the Author

Phil Geldart, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Eagle’s Flight, is a recognized authority in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development. He pioneered experiential learning in the training and development industry and has created numerous experiential learning programs which are now used around the world and translated into over two dozen languages. He is an author of 7 books, most recently Experiential Learning: Changing Behavior to Improve Performance.

[Image courtesy: MiroAlt/Pixabay]


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