What Are Your ‘Barriers To Learning’?

green arrow jump over wall

As a trainer and educator I’m in the learning business and in one form or another I’ve been in this business for over thirty years. During that time one thing has always puzzled me and I still have no definitive answer, so I wonder if you can help?

My view of learning is very simplistic, if I want to learn something I read about how to do it, I observe other people doing it, I try doing it and find it hard, I practise and get better at it, I get good at it and I then perfect it. Then I look for something new to learn.

The above is based on the Four Stages of Learning model by Maslow. You know, the one that starts with ‘unconscious incompetence’ then ‘conscious incompetence’ then ‘conscious competence’ finishing with ‘unconscious competence’. It’s all pretty straight forward so where does it fall down? Or put it another way, where do people find the barriers that stop them?

I spend a lot of time observing people at work when designing bespoke learning programmes. It is clear that some people are highly competent at what they do in both understanding and execution. These people are often surrounded by colleagues that observe this great work BUT they don’t appear to learn from it themselves and that baffles me!

Imagine if you gave an amateur footballer the chance to spend the day with David Beckham. Would he want to spend the day chatting or be out on the pitch with him? Talking allows some knowledge transfer but to learn effectively you have to practise. Out on the pitch Beckham could take some free kicks and then coach the amateur as he tried to reproduce the ‘bend’ in flight that Beck’s is famous for.

Any keen footballer would chop a leg off for that kind of opportunity and yet at work we are surrounded my people that are experts at what they do and how they do it, but we don’t learn from them in the same way?

So what are the reasons or barriers? Here are a few of the negative ones that I observe:

  • Lack of confidence – they don’t think they could ever be ‘as good’ as the other person, so they don’t try
  • Fear of failure – not wanting to be seen to fail
  • Ignorance – they just aren’t aware of the learning opportunity that exists
  • Stupidity – they are aware of the learning opportunity but choose to ignore it
  • Individuality – not wanting to appear to be a clone of someone else
  • Too busy – doing the job to actually think about doing the job better
  • Apathy – they just can’t be bothered
  • Lack of direction – no one is guiding, coaching or leading
  • Arrogance – they do not see the other person as ‘doing things better’
  • Jealousy – can be a motivator but for most it is a negative influence

Because there are so many factors that can ‘block’ the learning process, the educator must first understand the motives and barriers that exist. As most delegates are SENT on training, rather than it being ‘their choice’ most arrive in a negative state of mind.

I try never to start teaching the ‘how?’ of anything until I can get the delegates to understand ‘why?’

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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