The stickiness factor of professional learning and development is the most striven-for characteristic of quality learning facilitation. It’s the difference between a classroom of nodding heads and a dynamic cohort of engaged individuals contributing as much to the conversation as the facilitator at the front of the room.
Professional development has come a long way since Frederick Taylor’s 1911 publication, ‘Principles of Scientific Management’ and since MIT set up the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management in 1914. And it continues to evolve as business schools and organizations push the frontiers of learning across the globe.
iOpener Institute provides numerous sessions at some of the world’s elite universities and business schools. We are the masters of business skills learning; presentation, negotiation, influencing and persuading, coaching, giving and receiving feedback (feedforward), business writing, storytelling, networking, etc. And that’s because we’ve cracked the stickiness enigma.
Engaging groups of adults requires a keen curiosity to find out what they need from their session, and what is immediately relevant for them and applicable back at work. It also means having facilitators who are experienced enough to be able to flex to the needs of the room. This is agile learning at its best. It has to be. “Exec education is the toughest classroom there is,” it has been said.
But, organizations and business schools are increasingly reaching out to us for programs that encompass a range of psychologically-based topics as well as the routine business skills. Clients are talking more about needing to support the emotional and mental health of their employees. They want to upskill leaders to be able to support their people’s individual and collective levels of happiness, resilience and wellbeing at work. One such program that we have been providing to one business school’s EMBAs is the ‘Achieving Your Potential’ program; a weekend of self development that requires participants to work introspectively at a depth that they have perhaps not gone to before. Another is the ‘Building Personal Resilience’ program that is a hallmark of iOpener’s facilitation capabilities.
Facilitating any of these sessions – skills based or psychological capital building – means asking questions more than ‘telling’. And the questions are often best answered by the group, which can share their anecdotal case studies of situations and experiences from work.
However, the difference between the classroom learning environment and the back-at-work context is like the contrast between a beautiful lily pond of clear, blue water and a contaminated lake full of sludge. Which is why we encourage our participants to bring their most troublesome professional scenarios into the classroom and to work through these complex issues with their co-participants. And we work to bring these issues to life through role plays (real-plays), forum theater, coaching fishbowls, action learning sets, peer consulting, etc. This is what we mean by the stickiness of learning: Because they’ve worked through these scenarios in a safe learning setting and in an experiential way, they are then equipped to conquer the real issues more readily once back at work.
This COVID-19 world crisis that we’re enduring right now is different to the 2008 economic crisis. This one is endangering lives and forcing us to reconsider our lifestyles; not only thrusting economic hardship on us all as the 2008 one did. This one, 12 years on, is different also because it’s happening in a new, virtual age. Learning, coaching and coping are happening collectively and virtually as colleagues, families and wellbeing professionals come together for regular conversations. People are recognizing the opportunity to reframe a frightening situation as a time for change, learning and innovation.
As learning providers, everything that we can do in person we can also do virtually. We know that the learning experience and stickiness of our sessions is just as effective virtually because we meticulously invite feedback from each and every participant. They themselves are pleasantly surprised that online learning can be just as sticky. It probably shouldn’t be such a surprise. After all, wonderful things happen when you bring people together.
Stay well. Stay safe. Keep learning.