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Experiential Learning: a complex model of simplicities: vital to Executive decision making.

Are you are looking for the best form of staff learning/training? Then here is the most fundamental and the most powerful way to go about it… EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

It can be properly said that experiential learning is actually the foundation method of all learning and that it precedes didactic learning (i.e. getting taught by a teacher or book) by tens of thousands of years! It is the way we as humans learnt all the stuff that got us to be the ‘rulers’ of this planet …so it must have something going for it.

We live in a scientific world where we have come to value the stored knowledge and shared wisdom that can be acquired through books and knowledgeable teachers. Because we increasingly use interesting (but usually passive) technical media, we have lost touch with the fact that the core way we learn is through all of our senses. This is how our ancestors learnt. These techniques are not lost, we are just out of practice with them.

However we can still find it in places… babies have it… they down yet know that formal knowledge etc. is best… So they just go on doing what comes so naturally, “stick it in the mouth and see what it tastes like”. Now…“hit the floor with it and listen to it, feel it, throw it!!

This is fundamental experience based learning and it’s doing a fabulous job of getting the unformed brain into understanding what’s what and how things go.

And… if you watch a young child doing all this learning, you will often see him or her giggling, laughing, having fun! Somehow we got it into our heads as adults that learning and fun don’t go together. Well, as it turns out… they do! Naturally.

Learning is fun -it’s satisfying- it brings a feeling of self-worth and control and is absolutely a positive experience… IF we experience it!!! And that’s part of the problem. We have come to think that learning is the collecting of knowledge, a purely cerebral issue…


But true learning means:

  • understanding,
  • feeling,
  • knowing,
  • experiencing.

And this comes in its most complete form through ALL of our senses being engaged, not just the visual and audio. Experiential Learning is fundamentally a simple process and yet we don’t seem to understand it and we so often don’t use it.

The Cycle of Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning at its simplest


Hence the whole process of experience based learning has a big head start on other forms of learning because it intrinsically engages our most basic desires to understand things through engaging in action, through interaction, and exploring.

The fact that it is fun, interesting and even exciting gives it great effectiveness and value.

The issue is that in today’s sophisticated world where systems, organisations and relationships are complex, the sort of learning we need to engage in is far more complex than can be addressed by simple forms of experiential learning. However, our understanding of experiential learning is also more sophisticated and has benefitted by a mass of research and insights that informs us about the techniques and ways to utilise experiential education to achieve quite sophisticated learning. It is this process that can be of great benefit to management programs.


In summary, experiential learning is:

  • Fundamental, but different,
  • Actively engages the participants and is not passive,
  • Challenges the person to discover for themselves,
  • Takes place usually in new and stimulating environments,
  • Stimulates people to understand things about themselves.

In doing these, it provides the ideal platform for:

  • Engaging in the challenge of learning new ways of doing things,
  • Changing old procedures,
  • Grasping organisational and relationship difficulties and new futures.

And the list can go on, simply because experiential learning is the core of learning. And because… it’s fun.


Look seriously at using experience based programs. If you know what you’d like your staff to learn, then a program can be built based on new, exciting and natural ways of discovery- through experiential learning.

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