Experiential Learning – A Step Ahead

Business Communication 20th March 2017 Neeraj Deshpande

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Experiential learning, according to Wikipedia and Association for Experiential Learning, is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. It is a process that involves engagement in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. While most organizations in India support the classic 70/20/10 model, they rarely follow it. The 70/20/10 principal suggests that employees learn 70% through experiences, 20% through relationships and only 10% through formal training methods. An experiential learning approach is better than a classroom approach because it is:

  • Cost-effective
  • Customized
  • Scalable
  • Practical
  • Retentive

Let me share an example to understand this better. While I do follow a lot of health blogs, read health magazines and watch health videos on YouTube, I still don’t have the physique I desire. I know this is the case with many of you. Why do you think this is so? There is a big difference between subscribing to an idea and actually putting it into practice.

According to a report by 24×7 Learning, Grant-Thornton & IIM-Kozhikode, 89% organizations in India are expected to increase their efforts in Learning & Development for their workforce in the near future. In August 2012, the Indian L&D industry stood at $3.5 billion and is expected to grow even faster due to the increase in demand for skilled professionals. Though the expenditure on L&D in India stands at par with China, we still are far behind when compared to the amount spent by developed nations.

These figures are not mind boggling but another report by CLO suggests that 80% of learning in India is still instructor-led and follows the ages old classroom approach, which is in complete opposition to the 70/20/10 model. The increase in expenditure on classroom style L&D by organizations cannot possibly produce effective results since studies by various research organizations have proven that experiential learning is a far better and much more effective approach. Organizations must streamine their efforts and take the steps outlined below:

What and why?

As a principle, all trainings should have some objective behind them. For experiential-based learning, however, it is absolutely mandatory. Organizations should cultivate an atmosphere where leaders and employees engage in an open discussion about the objectives behind trainings and learning opportunities. Desired development cannot take place unless everyone is clear about ‘what’ should be learned and ‘why’.Identify experiences and activities

Identify experiences and activities

Once you have a clear picture of your competency level and capabilities and the objectives you want to achieve, you can then collaborate with leaders to determine activities that will deliver the learning. The organization should not lose focus of the objectives at any point of time during the engagement as it may lead to participants engaging in work that does not hold much value. The bridge between objectives and experience should be continuous and smooth.
For example,

Need Experience
If employees need to be prepared for Leadership roles Make them go through leadership level roles and responsibilities to help them understand complexities.
If employees need to work better as a team Put them through scenarios which require contribution as a team.
If employees need an understanding of the market they operate in Make them prepare an extensive competitor analysis.

Related: Ways To Engage Your Audience During a Training


Completing the experience is one-half of the cycle. Leaders or trainers have to drive people to step back, reflect. In fact, they should be made to consciously decide how to apply new insights, skills, and abilities to work. This is where the real learning will happen. As an organization, you also need to make sure that the effect of the L&D engagement is very well carried out in day-to-day work.


While what we have discussed above focusses on a more employee-centric organizational approach, does it make the role of a trainer obsolete? The answer to that is No. To execute the steps necessary to successfully create an experience requires specific skills. Leaders and employees should be able to engage in meaningful discussions. And, not just that but also decide experiences, carry them out successfully, and make a note of the lessons learned. Whether you succeeded or failed or faced certain challenges, keep a record anyway.

No one is better equipped to help you execute your plan successfully than trainers. To conclude, I think it’s time to put experience-based learning into practice and adopt the 70/20/10 approach.  After all, we need to do is widen our perspective and look for more effective ways to engage our people. Time to say goodbye to classrooms.

Related: 360-Degree Solution in Executive Education Space

It is only appropriate to end with this quote:

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” ~ Confucius

The author of the article is Team Building Manager at Work Better Training. Work Better Training is one of India’s fastest growing Executive Education and Training firm. The views expressed here are personal.


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