Spa Francorchamps. Fast cars on a beautiful track. Engines revving.
If you are there, you are likely fond of fast cars and F1 racing. Certainly, you know how to drive… more than certainly, you are in a seat, but not on the track.
I love to drive. I love to watch Lewis Hamilton drive. I love cars. But I will never be an F1 pilot… Most of us have learned to drive and by adulthood have developed a high level of competency in driving, we can say we have mastered ‘car-driving’. But we will not become F1 pilots. That is reserved to the experts, to the drivers who have gone beyond mastery by practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect. Because practice is the ultimate learning.
On a sunny afternoon, in conversation with Christian De Neef, we shared his “learning beyond learning” concept: going beyond the basics to a level of expertise that can only be reached with practice, outside of formal classroom learning, through experiential learning, through sharing of knowledge, …
Take the example of driving where initially you have to pay attention to every single thing you do, an adult is sitting with you guiding you through the motions of shifting gears, changing lanes, braking, looking both sides and in the rear-view mirror, using your signals, … breathing and merging into incoming traffic on a busy intersection. Sweaty palms! You get the picture, you are learning to drive.
You move from awareness (and the anxiety of it all) to understanding and slowly applying it all together as in a sort of ‘dance’, it all flows together and you drive the car. Soon, you don’t even have to think about the simultaneously push of the clutch, looking in rear-view mirror, shifting gear, merging left to pass a slow truck. Soon, you master driving, and you even have your kids screaming in the back seat. You are a driver.
OK, you are no Lewis Hamilton. Perhaps you don’t wanna be. But, just out of curiosity, do you ever wonder how can a driver become a pilot? How does a master become an expert? Practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect. Your learning continues after you get your driver’s license, every time you drive.
This is what we mean by learning beyond learning. This is what goes on in the second part of the learning curve. The first part of the learning curve being formal education, in classroom or e-learning, currently the focus of most education/learning efforts.
The Learning Curve, in broad strokes can be described as an horizontal axe of Time and a vertical axe of Competency, the first half of the learning progression takes place in a formal setting (classroom, e-learning); the second half takes place in informal settings through Communities of Practice (other drivers, conversation tables) Knowledge Management (and sharing), Workshops. Learning in the second part of the curve is experiential, operational, it takes place by doing. It is in that section of the curve that mastery can be achieved, and potentially the expertise of F1 pilots…
Unfortunately, the vast majority of investment is focused on the formal section of learning, what can be readily measured with evaluations that test competency when knowledge, the result of learning, is applied… this only takes us from Awareness to Understanding to Application, it doesn’t reach Mastery (excellent drivers after many years) or Expertise (Lewis Hamilton, F1 pilot) levels.
What can be done to improve the evolution towards Mastery? Why are companies reluctant to invest in this second, “informal”, section of the Learning Curve? Are we ready to promote Learning beyond Learning?
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