Experiential, Hands-on Learning for Business Leaders
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Now That You’re a Grown-Up, What’s Your Learning Style?
As humans, we learn best by doing. We have taught that way—by observing, doing, then showing others—for far more centuries than an alphabet has existed. The move toward a text-based approach was profound in its ability to communicate across greater numbers, but, for most humans, it has rarely, if ever, proven to be a permanent way to gain and retain new knowledge.
When you were in grade school, were you the kid who could learn rote concepts (times tables, historical dates and places, etc.) easily or were you the student who had to find a creative way to memorize them? Did you excel in spelling and keep your assignments organized and always turned in on time or were you the kid pulling wrinkled papers out of the bottom of your backpack? Would you have rather spent the day solving puzzles, playing sports, or building with erector sets and Legos?
Whatever your memories of those elementary years, how you responded to learning new information was largely a function of your preferred learning style. And research shows that whatever your learning style was as a young student, it likely hasn’t changed much in the years since.
Research also shows that most of us are visual learners. Despite decades of lecture-only classrooms and text-based curriculum, most humans learn and retain information more efficiently when it is presented visually, especially using hands-on techniques.
If you are a visual learner, you may have learned to adapt to various school and work environments that did not favor your preferred learning style. But the most efficient way for you to permanently remember new information likely hasn’t changed since you were in grade school. Just as someone who has broken their dominant hand or arm can learn to write using their non-dominant hand, it never fully replaces the ability they had with their dominant hand. Even if you aren’t a visual learner, you likely remember new information better when you can apply it immediately.
A business simulation provides just such an environment. Online, web-based simulations give adult learners an opportunity to witness the outcomes of their decisions without delay. The effects of specific decisions can be seen immediately and within a safe environment that doesn’t affect the bottom line.
Business Simulations Provide Safe Testing Ground
Business simulations allow participants to absorb and approach complex business concepts in an easily digestible way; one that can be recalled weeks and months later when actual on-the-job events require those skills.
Hands-on, experiential learning – like that from an online business simulation—is the most powerful method of acquiring and retaining new skills and knowledge. That’s true no matter your learning style preference.
How might business simulations improve your leadership development programs?
1 DeVries M. & Golon, A. S. (2011). Making education relevant for gifted Native Americans: Teaching to their learning style. In J.A. Castellano & A.D. Frazier (Eds.), Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds (pp. 47-72). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
2 Sousa, D. (2016). How the Brain Learns, 4th Ed. Corwin.