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Leading from the front and middle

How People Learn Differently 

People learn differently, both in terms of their preferred learning style and how quickly they are able to take on board new concepts and skills. You’ll need to understand how you and your team members learn so that you spend your development $$ on the right training and opportunities. 
The GeneSys Abstract General Reasoning Test (ART) assesses an individual’s ability to understand complex concepts and assimilate information that is outside of their previous experience. This test is designed to provide a measure of a person’s ‘potential’, independent of education levels and achievements to date. Tests such as ART (and others such as Ravens Standard Progressive Matrices) are good indicators of how quickly someone will understand and assimilate new information and be responsive to training. 
With ART, individuals are assessed against a chosen reference group, such as General Population, Australian Managers and Graduates, to identify their relative performance. If, for example, a team member scores at the 85th percentile when compared to the general population, they would be said to have an excellent (well above average) level of ‘natural’ ability. As a result, this team member should have a good ability to grasp new concepts and ideas outside of their previous experience and should be able to learn complicated, intellectually demanding material much more quickly than other general level staff. This individual should put further training and development to good use.
On the other hand, a team member scoring at the 10th percentile (well below average) is more likely to struggle to understand things outside of their routine experience. They will gain most benefit from training and development programs that are well structured and skills focused, rather than theoretically based.
While natural ability may determine how quickly someone is able to learn new skills, and in what general format, knowledge of individual learning styles will also allow you to tailor your development and training approach.
Different people have different ways in which they prefer to learn: some prefer to read while others prefer direct experiences. If you want to learn something easily and maximise your learning potential it’s better if you are taught in a manner that is consistent with your learning style. For example, if you want to learn to coach, do you do so by reading about it and memorising coaching questions and models, or would you learn best by experience; by practising coaching in a real setting such as role plays, listening to other coaching sessions, being asked questions about what you have just heard?
The GeneSys Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) tool identifies the following 3 pairs of dichotomous approaches to learning:

While no style is considered either right or wrong, this information provides individuals, and their leaders, with strong clues as how best development opportunities should be delivered.
This tool also enables the individual to consider the strengths of their preferred style, and what may be some skill gaps given their preferences. A team member who profiles as highly Serialist vs. Holistic may tend to focus on the detail rather than the bigger picture. They are more likely to prefer learning material presented in a well-structured, systematic manner and will want to plan ahead, rather than be flexible and adaptive in their approach. Someone who is more Activist vs. Contemplative may enjoy participating in experiential work groups and brain-storming, and could become bored if placed in a classroom style format. They will also probably enjoy short bursts of learning, and discussions with others rather than operating on their own.
It is important to recognise that everyone can learn something new. How quickly and effectively they develop can be determined by a combination of their natural ability + their preferred learning styles. Understanding these components will allow you, as an emerging leader, to be better equipped at providing the right development opportunities in the right manner.
Note: Motivation will also play a key part in this equation.
Send us your feedback - at the FASTLEAD Forum - on how you’re building learning with your team.
Alistair Gordon
FASTLEAD Coaching Team



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