Jane Nichols, COO of CITI, explores the concept of "learn faster, learn smarter" for people either studying best practices such as PRINCE2® to obtain a certification or qualified people continuing their professional development journey.
People studying best practices, such as PRINCE2 for the first time or engaging in continuing professional development should not see qualifications as their end game but simply as important stages in their journey.
Gaining qualifications is commendable, but to be effective these should be accompanied by sharing and using the knowledge; otherwise, you risk both losing what you’ve learned and the opportunity to become increasingly more professional.
The AXELOS PPM Benchmark Study: 2017 Edition PPM Benchmark Study 2017 identified that project managers have an active interest in continuing professional development, but is this interest and effort channelled in the most effective way?
So how much do you currently think about the way you learn new methods and knowledge, gain new techniques or share that knowledge?
The 'show and tell' approach of formal learning
Formal learning is often about “show and tell” (how you might have been taught at school). Yet we all know being told something doesn’t necessarily mean you understand how to, or do, apply it. This is why you should think about what, and how much, you need to know and what is your learning style/type. Ask yourself: how do I learn? What do I enjoy? How do I learn without getting bored? What combination of learning works for me?
From the survey it seems the majority of us are either ‘Pragmatists’ (we prefer to put our learning into practice in the ‘real world’) or ‘Activists’ (we prefer to learn by doing – being fully involved in new and challenging practical activities).
But what does that really mean? How does your learning style change your “faster, smarter” learning approach?
Matching learning types to learning approaches
Recently, CITI matched learning types to learning approaches and, believe me, you have lots of choice. We found each learning type matched between 13-16 learning approaches! So, there is definitely something for everyone.
To be effective, smarter and faster learning doesn’t just mean online studying. And face-to-face learning doesn’t have to be all ‘show and tell’! In the past face-to-face learning was always ‘show and tell’ – but it’s smarter when it’s as experiential as possible by discussing and working through real-life or relevant case studies; seeing how you can apply and make your learning relevant.
For example, when studying PRINCE2 you can attend a classroom-based, qualification course. However, that time commitment away from the day job might be difficult for some.
So perhaps instead consider online learning, which allows you to study at your own speed, using some of your learning time to consider how the guidance aligns and would be useful in your workplace (suiting the ‘Theorists’ and ‘Reflectors’ amongst us). Then continue and expand the learning by using the knowledge you have gained in your current work and/or sharing it with your colleagues so that you and they experience it in their work (more suited to ‘Activists’ and ‘Pragmatists’).
Applying faster and smarter learning
So, what are my top tips for applying faster and smarter learning?
- Learn at the best pace for you: Think about what’s most important and start there. Where possible, break your learning into bite-sized chunks – trying to learn everything all at once means it’s less likely to stick, so learn just enough and then keep topping up
- Use the best combination of approaches to suit your learning needs and lifestyle. If you are studying PRINCE2 face-to-face spend some time looking at a webinar, using the knowledge in your work, or something else that suits your learning and helps you become more effective. And do keep in mind you may need a different combination of approaches each time.
- Don’t be afraid to try different approaches to find the one that best suits you: It could be with either a physical or digital book. It can also involve a combination of online learning, gamification, webinars, MOOCs (Massive open on-line courses), sharing with colleagues, feedback, face to face; seminars, workshops, conferences – there are so many ways to supplement and enhance your professionalism
- Share with a trusted colleague and learn from their ideas: when you encounter something new to you in your day-to-day work talk with a colleague, ask their advice, and learn from their mistakes
- Find a mentor: test your thinking, get feedback and suggestions; that’s fast and smart learning! And then share your new-found knowledge with your friends and colleagues.
And, of course:
- Read a blog: as there’s often learning to be had – as in this blog post!
Fast and smart learning is a mind-set and an attitude: if you’re a professional, in my view, it’s a necessity as your learning should be ongoing.
Right now, what will make your life easier and your project/programme management more predictable and safer is to put extra thought into your learning and how you can use it in work.
Pick the best learning approach for your learning, professional and lifestyle needs. It really is the smart thing to do.
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Jane Nichols
The agile imperative for project managers
5 winning ways with agile and programme management in 2017
Qualifications – something for the CV or a long-term career plan?
Making day-to-day use of knowledge gained through your best practice qualifications
Which PPM qualification is right for you? A guide for practitioners and employers