Need a way to move your ideas forward faster?

Most of what we need to know comes from experience and informal learning, not from a classroom or e-learning courses. As individuals, our brains work pretty well when it comes to learning from our own experiences. But in teams and groups collective learning is not a natural act…and it takes time.

Most people would agree that if you learn before, during and after the things you do, you cannot fail. In fact, you will likely exceed expectations. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In reality on-the-job, doing this in a timely and effective manner is what keeps most teams and companies from trying.

Hope is not a method!

Proven, practical methods exist for learning from experience before, during and after team tasks, events and projects. We call these fast learning processes. It’s one of the main services our clients seek us out for because they want immediate results from their knowledge management efforts.

Through hundreds of applications in both the public and private sectors, we have figured out how to do these fast and effectively. And they don’t require a knowledge management strategy or major corporate initiative to make them happen. They only require a team that wants to learn fast to improve.

Learn Before Doing

One of the most effective tools for sharing and transferring knowledge before you need it is a technique called a Peer Assist. This proven approach moves highly relevant knowledge and experience from your peers to your team before they embark on a task or project. It works because people are more likely to use knowledge they gain from others if they get it before they finalize their plans and start implementing.

Use this guide to learn more about the Peer assist technique. If you have experience facilitating group learning sessions, then you should try this with a team that has an upcoming challenge in your organization.

However, if you want to maximize your initial use of this method to ensure a demonstrable result, then we are here to help. We have facilitated hundreds of Peer Assists that have resulted in immediate benefit to teams and groups. In fact, if you are looking to demonstrate early impact through knowledge management, there’s probably no better way than holding a Peer Assist that will way more than pay for itself.

I’m thinking this next piece could be a special highlighted section next to the main body of text, since it’s sort of a special case of learning before doing:

Learning Fast in a Meeting

A really cool and simple technique for quickly gathering good practices and ideas in a meeting is the Mini-Peer Assist. It’s a scaled-down version of the Peer Assist that is designed to work in a group, community or team meeting setting. It requires no preparation time or external facilitation. This is informal learning at its best!

Learn While Doing

Striving for perfection is not always the answer, but learning fast is. In under 30 minutes, you and your team could use an Action Review to ‘learn in the moment’ and improve your performance during a task or activity.

We used the principles of simplicity and speed from the US Army’s proven After Action Review (AAR) technique to create a tool that is transforming operational performance in the business world. Try these simple 4 questions with your team…what have you got to lose?

Learn After Doing

This is another one of those things we all think is important to do and think we know how. As individuals, our brains do this almost without thinking. But, who ever taught us to collectively reflect and learn together as a group or team?

Most teams do some sort of hot wash or debrief when they have completed a major task or project. But how effective is this in really changing their behavior about what they want to repeat and what they need to do differently? The key in learning after doing as a group is getting to the ‘why’, not just list ‘what happened when.’ We use a proven, facilitated method called a Retrospect to not only do this effectively, but do it fast enough that teams will actually spend their precious time to participate. It only takes 1 to 4 fours, depending on the size & duration of the task or project.

Here’s more good news: there are 2 other benefits from using this approach. One is that teams often create new knowledge from the collective reflection process in the Retrospect method. The second benefit is the process is designed to deliberately capture and document the learning and knowledge from the session future use. The output is something that can be easily stored and searchable online.

We have facilitated hundreds of Retrospects for clients in the private and public sectors. Imagine if most of your teams routinely performed a Retrospect after each major task or project…productivity and effectiveness would go through the roof, and knowledge retention would be automatic!

Communities of Practice

One of the most common is a community of practice. These are groups of people that form around a common need, practice, subject or domain, regardless of their place or position in organizations.

Some companies take a formal approach to their formation and participation, requiring guidelines and specific deliverables. Others take an informal approach, encouraging people to form groups with people that simply have a common desire to share their knowledge and experience. Determining which approach will be successful is usually a function of the organizations culture and the practitioners themselves.

Based on our experience establishing and facilitating hundreds of communities over the last 15 years, we lean toward using an informal approach, providing guidance through experienced facilitation that meets a group “where it’s at.” This includes enabling connection and collaboration using social media tools to find and accelerate the flow of knowledge and ideas across boundaries and time.