One of the ways I help my clients is by helping them set up their own Learning Clubs.
A Learning Club is a small group of people who regularly meet to focus on their own personal learning challenges, reflect on how it’s going and come up with ways to improve their own progress.
It’s a form of structured group coaching, which can surpass formal training, individual attempts at learning and even mentoring programs.
There are many reasons why Learning Clubs work so well.
Here are 7 of them.
The basic premise of Learning Club is your personal responsibility. You’re responsible for encouraging, challenging your fellow members. But more importantly, you’re responsible for your own learning and hence your own progress. Once an individual has realised that there is now magic wand or superhero who is going to come and fix things, they can start taking ownership of their own learning strategy.
Learning requires a few basic ingredients including focus, repetition and feedback. The structure of a Learning Club provides all of these. They are built in to the sessions. So even if a member forgets, the flow of each session inevitably provides the opportunity to identify what each member is working on, how they are doing so and how it’s working out for them.
Learning Clubs are a safe space to take ideas (from books, videos, or their own experience) and take time to absorb them by planning how to apply them in real life. This stage of moving from theory to tentative practice (without expecting perfection) is a key stage in the learning process.
Learning practical new skills and behaviours requires regularly getting out of your comfort zone. This, in itself, is a challenge as we have a built in resistance to doing stuff that’s not ‘comfortable’. Learning Clubs are an excellent source of peer pressure to help us do just that. When your fellow members are encouraging you to stretch yourself and especially when they are stretching themselves, too, getting out of you comfort zone doesn’t feel quite so unnatural.
Once someone discovers what they are capable of, once they see for themselves concrete, measurable results, the effect can be like giving them the key to their own car. There’s no telling where their limits are but what is sure is they lay much further away than they used to be.
Most training courses follow the sheep-dip method - superficially applying a thin layer of knowledge to everyone attending, whether they need it or not, with the result wearing off within a very short time (sometimes less than 24 hours). Learning Clubs provides each member to evaluate their own needs and develop a personal learning strategy that is uniquely applicable to them.
Once set up and running, a Learning Club is self run by the members. There is no cost. Whereas the cost of just one training morning can easily reach 4 digits (in £, $ or €), a well structured and well run Learning Club session is free. This means that a Learning Club can run for a whole year generating concrete benefits for the members (eg better soft skills) and the company (eg. happier customers), yet without incurring any financial costs at all.
Given all of this, the question is why don’t more organisations run their own Learning Clubs.
The answer is reduced to simple awareness. Many people still believe that learning is a trickle down process where expertise is passed down from above.
Learning Clubs demonstrate how this is a fallacy. Once someone has discovered how professional development can be effective, satisfying and even enjoyable, the results speak for themselves.