We've all been there at work - seemingly marooned on a circuitously tedious island of misunderstandings and character clashes. Common gripes include: "Tom can't concentrate on anything for more than 5 minutes", "Hassan always takes ages to come to a decision", "Julie is so stuck up, she thinks she's better than us".
I contend that a significant proportion of these incidents are caused by not understanding each other's preferred style of learning.
I learn best when information comes in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks.
According to Dr Peter Honey, the creator of the Learning Style Questionnaire, being aware of your preferred learning style has implications not just for your own learning but will also provide you with insights into the styles of colleagues, your manager and other contacts.
Opposites can attract – many happy couples and friends are evidence of this. At work however, being placed together with a wide array of people, each with different backgrounds, life experience, morals and goals can send even the most mild-mannered professional's patience awry.
Let's get one thing clear - work colleagues are not friends. That is not to suggest friendship doesn't ever blossom during the working day - countless alliances have spawned whilst clocked on. It's just that we have all been placed together for a common organisational goal and as such, the patience we display when our friends forget to return our call or finish a sentence off for us one time too many is less evident in the workplace.
Remaining strictly apolitical, what confused me during a previous career as a secondary school teacher was the expectation and emphasis on the teachers to understand the pupils’ learning styles, in order to be able to differentiate one's approach accordingly, whilst the teachers' own style of learning was not catered for. This disparity inevitably led to misunderstandings and conflict between colleagues, which with a bit of forethought on behalf of the management, could have been avoided.
Peter Honey LSQ, mapped on to Kolb's Learning Cycle
The workplace disagreements we have with other people are often due to a lack of understanding about each other as people. Paraphrasing Peter Honey - how we learn is a key (perhaps even the key life skill.)
From an individual perspective, being aware of how you prefer to learn is essential if you want to progress and enhance your contribution to an organisation.
From an Organisational standpoint, by discovering how your employees learn (their learning style) you are able to ascertain how they might interact with other employees, thus boosting the potential for effective collaboration within teams and ultimately, the success of the organisation.
Based upon the work of David Kolb, who proposed the concept of the Learning Cycle, the purpose of the Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ) is to identify one’s preferred style and to then provide guidance towards learning opportunities that best suit one’s preferred styles (see figure 1). The ultimate aim is to highlight individuals’ perceived areas of strength and weakness, encouraging concentration on any areas requiring development.
Being closely aligned with the Learning Cycle, the central theme underpinning the LSQ is fluidity – as anyone who has taken undertaken any type based personality assessments will have doubtless experienced, the temptation to attach oneself to the results is great - “Hi, I’m Amanda, I’m an ESTZ” “Of course Mark acts like that, he’s an ISTJ”
Seeking a sense of security, people like to be defined, which in itself is not particularly unhealthy and explains the phenomenal success of such instruments. However, the definition can become a permanent feature on one’s self identification landscape and indeed obscure the desire to explore areas of deficiency, the result being one of self developmental gridlock.
As a side note, its also potentially self limiting to declare oneself as a particular combination of letters when the test is simply a snapshot of a particular set of answers at a particular time – depending on environmental factors, if the same test was taken again, a different result might occur.
In relation to this, the LSQ seeks to promote continuous improvement - Kaizen for the mind; whilst propounding the notion that regardless of whether you are engaged in its formal or non formal form, you are always learning.
If you want to keep up to date with all the latest posts from TalentLens, sign up below and we'll let you know when new blog articles are posted.