Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Using Learning Styles To Spur Innovation

Honey & Mumford's Experiential Learning Styles via

There are many (frequently disputed) theories of learning styles. For example, Experiential Learning Theory tells us that the ideal learning process engages four modes: having an experience, reviewing it, making conclusions, and planning next steps.

Different individuals may be stronger on one of these steps than another (and tests such as Honey & Mumford's Learning Styles Questionnaire can help individuals determine where they sit). Additionally learners are frequently broken down into Auditory, Kinesthetic, or Visual learners depending on what sort of stimulation they prefer: seeing an image, listening to a presentation or physically handling or manipulating objects or information. Similarly learners have been labeled as social versus solitary, depending on their preferences for working alone or on a team. Regardless of what school of thought you belong to, most would agree that different stimulus will produce different results amongst members of a team.

As more focus is placed on creativity and innovation in the workplace, you may find yourself wondering how best to inspire a team to that next breakthrough idea. Could catering to different learning styles be the answer?

Putting aside the controversy between the differing theories, taking a team through the experiential learning theory process can introduce new inspirations and teach your team members new ways to reflect and observe and then turn those inspirations into actionable business concepts.

"hands on" creative learning in action at FEI 2011
At BEI: Back End of Innovation we're working to give you concrete steps for creating repeatable, sustainable innovation programs, that's why we've taken this idea into account and separated our program out into four unique learning formats.

Find inspiration for your inner "activist" learner with sandbox sessions, engage the "reflector" with tactical, in-depth case studies in the "champion" sessions, please your "theorist" with our "classroom" sessions that recall the theory behind the practice and let your "pragmatist" out to join the conversation in "Fire Starter" sessions. Read more about the learning styles here and view video from our past events for a peek at the experience. Download the BEI brochure to review the different offerings in each area.

But you don't have to wait until the conference to put this idea to work. As varied vacation schedules force a slower pace in many offices, summer can be the perfect time to step back and re-energize your innovation team with a creative exercise.

Here's my suggestion:
1. Cater to the activist by taking the team to a different environment, have an innovation scavenger hunt in your town or just get out of the office together and experience something new, get out of your comfort zone. Work on a problem together that is not your everyday problem.
2. Have each team member play reflector by taking photos or notes based on the experience
3. Group brainstorm and share: what did you learn and what inspired you? How can we put these ideas to work? Note the differences between different team members. Ask why and probe for understanding.
4. Try something out: can you simulate one of your ideas or even put something into action? Find a way to get your hands "dirty" and try it out.

Be it bringing your team to BEI or trying this activity out at the office, something as simple as this can re-engage team members by breaking established patterns and can even be the trigger for that next breakthrough idea. Let us know your stories if you give it a go.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She tweets about innovation under the @BEI_innovation moniker, and everything else at @Leblancly.

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