Natural Learning – a new approach

Rajeev Roy - Nathural learning new approachI shared the new challenge organisations are facing to accelerate growth, followed by the Monday Syndrome related to behavioural training, and finally the flaws with the current approach used for such training. Now, let us look at a fresh approach to learning. An approach that is very simple, very intuitive, almost hiding in plain sight. It was a revelation for me when I saw it for the first time.

Let me step back a bit before I get into it – to revisit the challenge of behavioural training. When we put people through a program intended to cause a behavioural change, it is seldom that they do not realise the need and benefits of changing their behaviour. In fact, their behaviour may also alter for the moment and continue to be in an altered state for a few days. Then, it all goes back to how it was before. So, the challenge is not to have people see they need a behavioural change, the challenge is how to have that change be permanent, become a part of who they are.

So, where do we look to find a new approach to learning? An approach that leaves us with whatever we have learnt as part of us, as part of who we are? We never forgetting what we learnt or better still – we never even realising we learnt something new but it always remaining with us? When and where have we experienced this in our lives?

Go back to when we were born. What did we know at that time? What skills did we have? What behaviours did we have? None, except maybe to cry. Than we started learning, one by one. We learnt language, emotions, meanings, interpretations, and behaviours. We also learnt how to talk, walk, run etc. Were we ever aware that we are learning these things? Did we ever forget what we learnt? Isn’t this the kind of learning we are looking for? This is what I call “Natural Learning”.

“Natural Learning” is the way nature designed learning, the way we learn as a child, a way which is natural for us. Observe the way a child learns to walk. Here’s a child surrounded by people who somehow magically move from one place to another very quickly while the child is practically immobile. It starts observing the environment to get any clues about how it can also move from one place to another. It tries numerous experiments and as it fails, it tries another move. Finally, it somehow starts crawling. It does not give up and one day is standing, then surfing, and then walking. No one told the child to walk, no one taught the child to walk (the instructions we gave were of no use, if you really get what I am saying), and no one had to keep reminding the child why walking is such a fantastic thing and it should keep practicing walking lest it forget it. None of this was required and the child will never forget it because the approach used was “Natural Learning.”

How about bringing “Natural Learning” to behavioural training? Imagine a program where we do not tell the participants what they are going to learn, do not give them any instructions about how to build the new abilities, do not test and debrief them that they have developed new abilities – they just develop a new ability naturally without them even realising it.

As discussed before, this is how we have learnt out whole lives. It’s time now to bring this type of learning to leadership programs. It’s time for “Natural Learning”.

Natural Learning” will require designing programs in a very different manner. We will dig deeper into it tomorrow.

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