A recent Harvard Business Review article titled “The best leaders are constant learners” focuses on a topic that we think is incredibly important: To be a great leader you must be a great learner. We make this statement in all of our programs and people have come to believe it.
The article makes an excellent case for why being a great learner is so important in our complex and fast-paced world. The pace of the world means that you have to absorb and apply new information much faster than even a decade ago.
The author goes on to present the Professional Knowledge Mastery (PKM) model as a means to becoming a good learner.
PKM consists of three behaviors:
- – Seek out new knowledge
- – Sense changes
- – Share with others
While all of these behaviors are excellent, they are essentially tactics. They don’t account for the need to unlearn past attitudes and behaviors or provide a long-term system for developing the ability to be an excellent, self-directed learner.
So much of traditional educational experiences teach us to be passive learners that it’s not enough to simply say, “do these new things” and then expect people to become great learners. People have been very socialized to being passive learners.
Our programs systematically teach participants to become self-directed learners, including the importance of taking personal responsibility for learning and systematically using reflection as a core approach to rapid, continuous learning.
However, this is not achieved overnight. It does take nearly three months of consistent, dedicated practice before people can actually internalize self-directed learning behaviors. At the end of our five-month program, the participants have fully adopted and internalized a comprehensive set of self-directed learning behaviors. This is incredibly beneficial for the participants and ultimately for the organization, but it causes shock waves throughout most training departments.
People who become great self-directed learners have very little tolerance for the passive learning found in most corporate training programs. It’s now time for learning and development functions to ask: “Are we creating self-directed learners or passive learners?”
Unfortunately, most corporate training teams will fail this test. Will you?