“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin –
Back in the old days, learning was tediously predictable. Every now and again, employees attended a session conducted by an expert. They would sit, stare at PowerPoint slides and listen to the expert for a few hours.
Then they’d return to work and forget all about it.
Today, many organisations recognise that people learn best by experience. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is getting it right. In fact, when it comes to creating learning experiences, the same mistakes occur time and again.
In this article, we explore 7 of the most common mistakes and share the secrets of how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not seeing the bigger picture
Learning experiences are all about the bigger picture – the long-term strategy, rather than short-term gain.
Therefore, start by asking yourself why you want to create a learning experience. What is its purpose?
Only once you have defined a long-term goal can you start thinking about the type of learning experience you want to create. It could be any of the following:
- An event such as a workshop, conference or summit (either in-person or a virtual event)
- Hosting a live or virtual study and learning tour
- A networking event
- Creating a resource database – how-to guides, online courses, examples of best practice, a new service or product presentation
- A well-designed mix of the above
Mistake #2: Failing to engage
Think back to your schooldays. Which lessons were the most exciting and memorable? And which ones left you counting the minutes until playtime?
One of the biggest mistakes made by organisations is to create one-way-only learning. It’s a pretty dull experience. Participants will be counting down until playtime.
It’s a fair bet that during that memorable lesson, you felt actively involved. This is probably why you remember it now. Rather than being a passive recipient of information, you felt engaged and connected.
Learning experiences are not a one-way street between teacher and learner. Participants must feel a 3-way connection:
- With the experience itself
- With each other
- Between what they know and new ideas
People crave human connection, now more than ever. To create engagement, get a conversation going between participants during the build-up to the event itself. Keep that engagement alive during the experience, and make sure the conversation continues afterwards.
Mistake #3: Focusing on employees
When we think about corporate learning, we tend to focus on just one group – employees.
What’s more, most organisations separate their employee learners into silos. Each department sits in a separate space to learn niche facts related to their departmental area.
This is a crucial mistake because more often than not, the result is an organisational stand-off.
Following their learning, one department may be champing at the bit to move forward with a new concept. They struggle to understand the concerns of another department who can see no further than the potential challenges.
A shared learning experience brings a shared vision. You find fast solutions to problems that would otherwise leave innovation dead in the water. Right from the start it creates enthusiastic buy-in and momentum for change.
The new idea is brought to life and everyone starts working towards the same goal – your internal colleagues as well as external stakeholders… which brings us on to the third common mistake.
Mistake #4: Cutting stakeholders out of the process
When you include targeted stakeholders in the learning experience, you gain a direct line of communication with current and future customers, new partners, resellers and suppliers – not to mention the general public and, of course, your employees.
You are providing space to generate useful and relevant information, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
By looking outside your own industry walls, you get a fresh perspective – how others deal with mutual challenges, how they learn from failures and build on successes. You learn from each other, gain fresh insights, collaborate, test new ideas and explore new markets.
Let’s give you an example:
Do you need a supplier, reseller or manufacturer to get a new product or service up and running? With a multi-stakeholder learning experience, your potential business partner is already in the room.
You have provided common ground on which to engage and exchange knowledge. You’re connected, on the same wavelength and thinking with fresh perspectives on the best ways to move forward with the new idea.
And then there’s the market research. What’s the market overview? What are your competitors doing in this field? How are they making their decisions?
This research would normally cost your organisation a fortune, yet through a multi-stakeholder learning experience, the answers are right there at your fingertips.
Mistake #5: Asking the wrong questions
The reason why many organisations provide poor learning experience is because when creating them, they are asking the wrong questions – or sometimes, no questions at all.
There is no one-size-fits-all learning experience – so, go back to the basics. What are your main challenges? What do you want to achieve? Who are your target stakeholders? And, most importantly, what will these people gain from the experience?
The answers will determine the type of event you create – whether it’s a learning tour, a networking event, a conference or an online learning resource. Whatever decision you make, the needs of your stakeholders should remain top of mind throughout.
For instance, a live event offers fantastic opportunities for stakeholder engagement and networking. It brings everyone together in a shared space where they can brainstorm ideas, solve common problems and gain fresh perspectives from a variety of relevant industries.
There are obviously a number of practical considerations:
- Will your content be live or pre-recorded? Each option has its pros and cons although, in our experience, the best events include a mixture of both.
- What content should you include? Ask your stakeholders what they need to learn. What will be most useful to them in the long term?
- What is your budget? Consider splitting the cost with one or more of your stakeholders. They are likely to agree because their organisations will achieve the same long-term business benefits as yours.
- Who will contribute? Most contributors see the value in expanding their following. If speaking to an audience of potential customers, they may even contribute for free.
Find out more about how to host a virtual event (that isn’t boring).
Mistake #6: Squandering the learning material
These days, we live in an always-on world. People expect instant access to informative, relevant content at their moment of need.
Why use your material just once? Done well, learning experiences give you a ready-made, reusable library of world-class content – a pool of knowledgeable insights that can be shared with anyone you choose.
It could be video presentations, how-to guides, online courses, examples of best practice, information on new products or services… There are numerous benefits to sharing the material generated by your learning experience:
- You become recognised as innovative thinkers. Your organisation is seen as a trusted source of information
- It increases brand awareness
- It increases awareness of the issues you wish to highlight
- Your database acts as a reference manual to maintain momentum for change
- It can be used as training material
- You can include discussion forums where stakeholder groups are brought together to learn from each other, support their learning and do business
- It maintains stakeholder loyalty
Make sure your resource database is easy to access and navigate. It should be user-focused, with no barriers to entry. To keep users engaged, don’t forget to update the content with fresh ideas and new thinking.
Mistake #7: Failing to support the learning
How can you tell if the learning experience has been truly engaging? Your participants will leave the event feeling inspired, energised and bursting with new ideas.
It’s a mistake to leave things there. The experience itself is important, but you can’t sustain new thinking with a one-off event. It must be supplemented with ongoing support as they apply their learning in the real world.
This is where your learning resource comes into its own. Give participants the opportunity to contribute to it. Allow them to share their experiences, support and educate each other as they explore new ideas.
If you’ve done it right, your learning experience could be life-changing. They will need time to reflect and evaluate. The more help you can give them, the better.
What kind of learning experience could your organisation create? What would bring the greatest rewards for your organisation and its wider stakeholders? For advice and practical guidance, get in touch with the Cosaris team here.