Learning Through Experience

Published April 29, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Scholars agree that experience is a concept that is undervalued, underestimated and in some cases, even disregarded. According to Beard and Wilson (2006) experience pervades all forms of learning. Their definition of experiential learning is the process of active engagement between the inner world of a person and the outer world of the environment.  Active engagement is one of the basic components of experiential learning. It involves the entire individual, through thoughts, feelings and physical activity. Experiential learning takes on many appearances that include recreational or leisure activities, exhilarating journeys or adventures, experimentation or play. In other words, people learn new skills by doing them. A teacher who directs their students to learn rhyme and meter by instructing them to create a dance routine to a poem in iambic pentameter is one example of experiential learning (Beard & Wilson, 2006).

learning-process

A fundamental element to effective learning is the ability to reflect and review the learning process.  This helps identify which methods are effective and which are not. Root issues however, tend to remain unaddressed. For this reason measurement is an essential component to high performance, improvement, and success in any business or other area of human endeavor. In fact, Spitzer (2007) postulates the key to success is measurement because it can reveal the organization’s current position in the marketplace, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and helps in the development of new goals. For this reason, performance measures have a transformational effect on the way people and organizations examine their work, products and customers (Spitzer, 2007). During my employment in the mortgage and loan industry, I observed many formal and informal reflection and review processes that were developed as the organization grew. For example, as the organization achieved higher levels of success, the number of employees increased. This included additional loan officers, processors and administrative staff. At this new level of corporate operations, management conducted annual reviews to verify the organization was complying with policies and operating legally within the corporate framework to avoid substantial penalty fees.  At this stage, operation managers were legally required to work in compliance with labor laws and began to implement systems that offered employee benefits including health insurance and paid vacation time.

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Annual and monthly reviews were conducted with focus centered on the volume of loans and closings. This could help identify methods loan officers and processing teams incorporated and give insight to what was effective as well as pinpoint weaknesses. Weekly and monthly sales strategy meetings were also conducted to assess the volume of lead activity and identify why some transferred into sales and why others didn’t. Once the information was collected and evaluated upper management could then decide on tactics and training programs to help staffers develop higher skill levels, use them consistently, and incorporate systems that would assist to motivate them (Silberman, 2007). The founders of the mortgage company, for example, decided to seek professional assistance to help guide the company’s success and engaged the services of an elite mortgage and loan coaching company. Annual leadership meetings were conducted. The executives were assigned new tasks and set short and long term goals. Monthly calls were scheduled and each team leader was required to submit a progress report to monitor activity.

Leaders that actively work to improve themselves and their organizations, seek new opportunities to learn. Those who are wise enough enlist the guidance of successful mentors and coaches. These trailblazers do not underestimate the value of experiential learning and are able to make adjustments based on methods of trial and error. These are the bosses and organizations employees are proud to be a part of.

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References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

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