Learn to Decide and Decide to Learn: Learning, Coaching, and Experience

In his 1990 book Managing at the Speed of Change, change author Darryl Connor wrote Change provides us the opportunity to be architects of victims of our own future. The 21st century global business landscape is characterized by complex, rapid, and discontinuous change. Unlike prior periods in commercial history where change was gradual, even predictable; today, the speed and unpredictability of change has ushered in a business environment in which innovative, nimble, and prepared organizations survive and sustain. Global change is turbulent and relentless influenced by a tumultuous flow of political, social, and financial events. From President Obama’s financial reform measures in the United States financial markets to the European rescue of Greece from bankruptcy, everyday entrepreneurs and business leaders worldwide must determine the impact of global change on their business plans, make decisions, and act. While seemingly a formulaic activity, hundreds of business fail every year resulting from flawed decision making resulting in purposeless action.

Consider the following questions concerning decision making processes relative to change in your business.  Are decisions made autocratically, democratically, or by default? Are decisions data-driven or based on intuition? Are decision makers using proven decision making models to guide decision-making? Central to these questions is decision making. One aspect of decision making is how adults learn. Rationally, if adult entrepreneurs can gain insight into how they learn, it may result in increased effectiveness, in turn productivity and profitability. Learning how adults learn can be enabled by a coach. Being coached in adult learning provides decision makers with a practical understanding of how its principals and processes can be used to make higher quality, more effective decisions translating into competitive advantage.

Today, businesses worldwide operate in a knowledge economy. The knowledge economy places value on knowing and knowing how to learn. The 16th century English philosopher and author Sir Francis Bacon informed us that Knowledge is Power. This holds true in the 21st century. Knowing about how adults learn is a critical component in making informed business decisions. Through this knowing, entrepreneurs and business leaders can use this knowledge in managing change in daily business activities in order to achieve business goals.  Being coached in using the models and methods associated with adult learning can enable decision makers to make more informed decisions.  Without coaching, Connor’s pronouncement that change provides us the opportunity to become architects or victims of our own future may promote victimization; not the innovation and vision associated with architects.

Let’s learn about one approach to adult learning and its influence on decision making.

Decision Making and Experiential Learning

American educational theorist David Kolb offers a four-part experiential adult learning model enabling informed decision making. The model includes experiencing, reflecting, generalizing, and applying. Making business decisions can be a complex experience. Frequently, entrepreneurs and business leaders must reconcile a host of competing and diverse variables in order to enable effective action toward achieving business goals. The complexity inherent in most business environments requires well crafted business decisions. Using Kolb’s adult learning model can simplify and enable decision making using an experiential learning perspective.

Experiential Learning and Coaching

In coaching entrepreneurs and business leaders in decision making, many inform us that they frequently rely on their business and life experience and close industry colleagues when the needed data is limited or its accuracy suspect.  They express that if they had a decision making model drawing from experience, their decisions could be more informed and effective.  After introducing Kolb’s 4-part model to decision makers, they’ve reported increased confidence that their decisions were better informed enabling increased goal achievement.

Prior to making your next key business decisions, employ Kolb’s model to inform your decision making.

  1. Experiencing – identify concrete experiences related to the decision
  2. Reflecting – analyze, synthesize, and evaluate key components of the experience drawing from objective and subjective perspectives
  3. Generalizing – formulate new conceptualizations and ideas associated with the decision based on the experience; and
  4. Applying – test new, emergent ideas generated from reflection and collegial feedback.

Coaching to Learn From Experience

The 1st century roman senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus wrote Experientia docet or Experience teaches. Kolb’s four-part experiential learning model enables entrepreneurs and business leaders to identity key learnings linked to their experience and then can use their learnings to inform themselves concerning new and more effective ways to make decisions.  Important lessons concerning adult learning relative to decision making are deeply embedded in the fabric of personal and professional experience. Trained coaches are guides to discovery. They can guide professional exploration and development enabling informed decision making.

Experience teaches; wisdom decides, and coaches enable.

Let’s learn, coach, and succeed.

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