The Best Way to Learn at Work

I was asked by a young colleague on what's the best way to learn. I know it depends on the person but I actually have a suggestion for the most effective way, bearing in mind the learning style is adapted for the working environment.

My question was what is your end goal with learning this piece of knowledge?

Learn Knowledge for Client or Internal Training

Would your goal be to improve the quality of client / internal training? If yes, then you are measured based on how effective you are in articulating the information.

I'd say the best method to learn is to 'output' - pretend to teach someone or pretend to do a presentation.

Let's say you have 2 hours. My suggestion is to invest 1 hour digesting the information. Then use the remaining hour to teach yourself out loud.

Eventually your job is to articulate those knowledge out loud anyway. It will be very awkward. Maybe you'd realize that your explanation is too clunky or too academic. Either way, you are investing time in learning how to output in the way that you are supposed to.

Learn Technical Skills

The second scenario is you are picking up the knowledge to do a technical task better, like writing cleaner codes.

I have seen some younger colleagues who would spend hours reading a programming book but before they know it, three months have gone by and they are still disappointed because they haven't reached the level that they want. They fail to understand that we all have limited energy and mental capacity after 10+ hours of working.

If you are required to pick up a technical skills in the workplace, bear in mind that you'd be evaluated based on how well you execute that skill.

I'd say the best method is to work by doing. If there is no structured learning guidelines, then identify a project to work on it.

The goal is to practice, apply, repeat.

Social Learner

The social learners are those who feel that they should learn something to improve. They see colleagues around them improving, they don't quite know what to learn but they don't really want to be left behind. They created a working group to improve together.

Back in my university days, in one of my Social Psychology class, I learnt about the concept of Jigsaw Classroom. For example, the entire class has to learn about the brain. We would divide up the materials such that Group A has to be an expert in Frontal Lobe, Group B has to be an expert in the Cerebellum and Group C has to cover Temporal Lobe. Instead of the Professor teaching us, we are responsible for teaching each other. It makes the learning fun because we all get to be a subject matter expert in one portion of the curriculum.

We have to teach our peers so we learn how to articulate the concepts.

And because we are learning from peers, there were more open discussions so that nobody is ever "left behind".

This works very well if there is a well organized learning curriculum. For the Social Learners, this could be a very good idea but you'd need to clearly identify what skills you want to pick up. Some ideas are technical knowledge, project management skills or communication skills.

That said, these are just my suggestions. I highly encourage you to explore and find your own style. What's your current favorite learning style?