What do you do after you learn something?

At some point over the last week, I’m willing to bet there was a time – even if only a fleeting instant – in which you said: “huh, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that.”

Maybe you read something in the last week. Or listened to a podcast. Or attended a workshop. Or spoke with a colleague.

What did you do with that new piece of information?

Did you pass it along to someone else? Did you tweet it out to the universe? Did you try to do something new or differently or better at work? Did you say to yourself: “I learned something new, my day is complete” (and then promptly forget about it)? Did you file it away, thinking: I should do something with this later (and then perhaps forget about it)?

When I have downtime, I read a lot of articles and blog posts and links I’ll find on Twitter or LinkedIn. I try to stay up to date on the latest trends in learning and development by attending a webinar or two each month. I’ll engage in Twitter chats a few times a month. Looking back on all this “learning”, I realized that I don’t often do much afterwards.

With this in mind, I declared in late December that my 1-word resolution for 2015 would be “execute” – spend less timeĀ in the act of learning and more time acting on what I’ve learned.

Earlier this week, when I read an article by Jane Hart entitled The Modern L&D Dept requires other skills than instructional design, I grew excited immediately. I’d been looking for a new way to frame the learning and development strategy on my team and this image from her post struck a cord with me:


I spent some time with a colleague thinking through how we might apply this to what we’re trying to do (here’s an image of today’s flipcharting session):

Learning Strategy

It’s nice to stay on top of industry trends. It’s fun to share ideas on a theoretical level with colleagues at the water cooler or in a Twitter chat. But the magic happens when there’s an opportunity to apply this self-directed learning on the job.

Monday, I’ll share a second example of a way that I’ve been able to implement something I learned into my work. If you’re looking for a fresh way to conduct post-evaluation training and derive meaningful feedback from such Level 1 “smile sheet” evaluations, be sure to tune in.

In the mean time, tell me: what’s one thing you’ve learned so far this year… and how have you put it into action on the job? I’d love to hear it in the comments section.

4 thoughts on “What do you do after you learn something?

  1. Great blog and I have enjoyed reading it thus far. It is my personal belief that true learning happens when we are able to comprehend the concepts taught and apply those concepts to everyday life. Take the concept of driving/walking: can you say that you have mastered the concept if you are not able to execute the process? I recently started my Master’s Degree program in Instructional Design and one thing I have learned was the importance of following through to institutionalize change.

    I had the opportunity to read Lee R. Beach’s Leadership and the Art of Change in which he explains that in order for change to be institutionalized, there are four tasks involved: communication, document updating, realigning reward structure and ensuring culture change. The task that stood out to me more was that of communicating. Although I do not currently hold a position in the Instructional Design field, reading through these tasks has helped me understand why each one was vitally important. The task that stood out as the most important was that of communication. The text explains that constant communication builds assurance with employees that change is necessary and that the new organization’s culture will be beneficial and better for the company overall.

    From the view point of the trainee, I can see how communication is important as constant reassurance is needed to explain how new processes will be more efficient now that the change has been enacted. This text provided a valuable information on the change process and while I am unable to use this knowledge posthaste, it will certainly resonate as I continue on with the goal of becoming a trainer.

    • Natoya – Yes! Learning happens when we understand the concepts… I think magic happens when we’re able to find ways to apply it.

      I’m a pretty strong believer in the idea that an instructional designer plays a pretty big role in getting people interested enough in a topic to use new practices and content that they are fired up and excited to try it out and/or can see just where this new content fits a need.

      Good luck in your studies!

  2. Good question, Brian. The secret sauce of application is when you learn something when you have a pressing need for it. I facilitate a peer-learning group on village savings and loan (VSL) and oversee an application process for grants to start VSL programs, in addition to my learning and development day job. I’ve recently experienced push-back on our no seed funding policy. It just so happened that our peer-learning group met and talked about this same topic: when is it appropriate to use seed funding and when not. Not only did I learn that there are situations when it is appropriate, I was immediately able to apply the results of this discussion to a “performance support tool” for staff in applying for funding to start VSL programs: a list of 5 questions to answer when considering seed funding.

    • That’s a great example of application in the “moment of need”, Laura. Thanks for sharing it.

      If L&D in general is viewed through the lens of the 70:20:10 model, this really illustrates how hit or miss the “10” part to that model (formal/scheduled learning) can be.

      This is one of the reasons I *really* like the visual aid that Jane Hart offered in her post. There’s a whole world of learning that happens outside of the classroom!

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