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How Do People Learn Best?
Use real-life scenarios to turn learning into a more powerful engine. When leaders make all the decisions, those decisions aren’t always the best.
Top MBA programs don’t load their students down with books of rules and abstract theories that may or may not have any bearing on the real world. Instead, their central tool is the case study method: real-life examples with all the complicated push and pull of the actual business world. Case study learning puts the next generation of leaders in the driver’s seat with skin in the game as they work to answer the foundational question in business education: how would you make this decision?Case study learning is the best tool in business education. The only place people learn better is the real world itself. But out in the real world, few leaders make use of the incredible opportunities that real-life cases of day-to-day business offer their team members to learn and develop. That’s because, in most organizations, a handful of leaders make the vast majority of decisions. After all, isn’t that a leader’s job?But when leaders make all the decisions, those decisions aren’t always the best. Leaders aren’t closest to most situations. They don’t always understand all of the factors and personalities at play. They aren’t the most affected by the consequences. When leaders make all the decisions, the organization loses a great deal of the perspective and creativity of the people who understand the situation best. Perhaps even more important, when leaders make all the decisions, the organization misses out on the opportunity to develop team members through on-the-job, skin-in-the-game, case study learning.During my tenure as co-founder and CEO of AES, a Fortune 200 global power company, and then as co-founder of Imagine Schools, one of the largest nonprofit charter school networks in the U.S., we pioneered pushing decision-making down deep into the organization. The approach served as a massive learning and development initiative. We didn’t just pass off decisions to people and then leave them unsupported. We implemented all the best elements of the case study method into our day-to-day business. As a result, we developed leaders and experts at all levels of our organization.Our crucial tool for learning and development is the decision-maker process. It’s based on a set of basic assumptions about our people: that they’re unique, creative thinkers who like a challenge, want to contribute and are able to learn. But it’s got one more assumption: they’re also fallible. That’s true of everyone in the organization, both leaders and team members. Just because you’re on top doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. And in the decision-maker model, leaders still lead. Here’s what it looks like:
• The leader chooses someone to make a key decision.
• The decision-maker seeks advice — including from the leader — to gather information.
• The final decision is made not by the leader, but by the chosen decision-maker.
5 Learning Strategy Essentials for 2014
April 22nd 2:00pm - 3:00pm ET
2014 CLO Breakfast Club, Philadelphia
May 1st - 1st, 2014Hyatt at The Bellevue
Fall 2014 CLO Symposium
October 6th - 8th, 2014Park Hyatt Aviara
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