It’s no brainer that reducing friction leads to perfect efficiency. Since 1995, when Bill Gates first proposed the idea of “friction-free capitalism,” the endeavour has been to reduce friction across all business processes. We’re not there yet. But we’re on the way.
However, one area where friction is largely reduced is information. Sample this: Every minute, Google conducts 3 million searches, Reddit receives more than 2 thousand comments, more than 4.5 million videos are watched on YouTube.
Quite clearly, there seems to be no real need for experiences to learn from when there is so much information freely available. And so, the argument that we are making about experiential learning reducing learning friction doesn’t really hold any water.
Right? Not exactly.
It’s absolutely true that information is so democratized today that it can easily be acquired at the click of a button. But does this information always provide the answers a user needs to resolve his/her query? Most probably not. Which is why employees in enterprises spend nearly 1.8 hours each day just searching and gathering knowledge. This was Mckinsey. IDC goes further saying the average worker spends 2.5 hours a day looking for answers.
That’s a hell lot of time employees spend just to find answers.
And that’s one area where learning friction lies. Information is not adequately available now but it overflowing so much so that searching for knowledge feels like navigating through the Amazon rainforests with no guidance.
Learning is Still Heavily Siloed and Riddled with Friction
This is exactly why there is a clear case for enterprises to adopt experiential learning methods. Learning from experiences might seem like an archaic idea when you think of it in the context of the digital age that we live in. Why need experience
But is that the end? Not really. Employees search for knowledge to learn and apply that knowledge. Finding answers doesn’t mean their query has been permanently resolved. They still need to absorb that knowledge, learn from it and apply it in their workflows.
Learning isn’t a zero sum game. Friction lies in how information is absorbed and applied by learners. It doesn’t matter where users are getting their information from. What matters is that the information should be in a consumable and readily applicable form. Learners within organizations have access to more targeted training content but the friction still remains because they still have to absorb, learn and apply the knowledge they gain.
That’s the exact problem implementation of experiential learning can solve. By removing the friction in the different stages from knowledge acquisition to application. Easier said than done? Let’s see.
What is Experiential Learning and How Is It Different from Current Training Techniques?
Experiential learning is all about learning from one’s experiences on the job on a daily basis. Which means no expensive and time consuming training classes outside of employees’ work environment.
Experiential learning guides employees on how to perform the different tasks they are expected to do as part of their daily workflows and then continuously learn from the experience of performing those tasks without eventually requiring any guidance at all. Unlike current training mechanisms, experiential learning is not a one time standalone event but happens continuously and in realtime.
In the sense, experiential learning is a hash of both continuous and realtime learning.
And, more importantly, there is no external trainer or intervention but guidance is automated and integrated into employees’ workflows completely eliminating the need for a human trainer.
That makes experiential learning all the more efficient.
Experiential Learning: Knowledge Acquisition to Application
The idea of a “friction-free capitalism,” as Bill Gates proposed it, is about reducing the figurative distance between the the vendor and customer. To allow them to do business directly. Experiential learning applies the same principle to learning reducing the gap between knowledge acquisition and application.
When employees learn from their experiences, they are acquiring knowledge that is available right within their workflow environment and applying it right back in the same environment. New experiential learning methods would make this loop even simpler by guiding employees on how to perform tasks within their workflow environment and then helping them apply that learning immediately.
But this isn’t the only problem experiential learning solves. There are many more benefits that experiential learning can deliver.
The biggest problem training managers have today is getting employees to make time for learning, according to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report for 2018.
Employees typically can spare just 1% of their time for learning. It’s entirely understandable.
If employees spend more than 20% of their time searching for knowledge, how will they make time to learn? And in either case, learning outcomes are not exceedingly great.
Experiential learning attacks this specific problem by making knowledge available on-demand and specific to employees’ context. If answers employees need are available to them right where they need it, why would they spend time searching on those many, many channels that democratized information provides.
Now, this means they can save on that 20% of work time, they can learn faster, they get more productive because they are not spending a lot of time learning. Imagine the aggregate productivity organizations can improve on with this. It’s beyond any training regime.
Experiential Learning is Leading the New Wave of Training
In a way, it’s ironical that the very teams L&D departments train have progressed so much over the last few decades adopting new business processes while training methods themselves have stagnated and languished.
Sample this. CRM giant Salesforce still offers “face-to-face or virtual instructor-led training, on demand or blended learning, and Train the Trainer” as part of its end user adoption services. This is a platform which sells the Artificial Intelligence based Salesforce Einstein. And yet, its end user training is legacy.
But not anymore, experiential learning is leading the new wave of digital on-demand training and it’s going to be disruptive. It’s akin to the advent of digital in marketing practices moving from the spray and pray methods of last century to the targeted measurable techniques of today.
Sometime ago, Geoff Colvin made a great point about how General Motors creates just about $1.85 of market value per dollar of physical assets while Tesla creates about $11 of market value per dollar worth of physical assets (that has reduced to a certain extent now). Of course, Tesla sells a more future insured product. Still, that alone can’t account for the difference.
The difference comes from the fundamentally different ways in which GM and Tesla approach automobile manufacturing and sales. That’s exactly the difference that legacy training techniques and new age experiential learning methods have.
Like Tesla, experiential learning is removing friction in learning and getting closer to learners. Like Tesla, experiential learning can generate much more value and returns on the time that employees invest in it.