Experiential Learning and Learning Styles

David Kolb is an American social scientist known for his work in experiential learning. He reckons that we learn through spiralling through processes of participating in ‘concrete’ experiences, about which we make reflective observations, which enable us to develop abstract conceptualisations about our experiences, which then enable us to actively experiment with doing things differently. In other words, we adjust our mental models of how we behave in life, based on learning from our experiences.

Kolb reckons that out of this process, there are nine learning ‘styles’ that we subconsciously work to. We use elements of each but tend to be biased to one. Here’s a model of the styles and how they fit with the learning process.

Learning cycle

The first of these styles is the initiating learning style.

It’s Like the Starting Pistol in Track Athletics

An important competency in learning and problem-solving is a bias-for-action; that is your natural state is to act, to do something rather than not do something. It’s not mindless ‘just do it’; we understand the consequences of our actions. Something has to trigger us, some cue or signal in our environment. For a track athlete, the signal is the bang of the starting pistol.

It’s All About Action

The initiating learning style is characterised by the ability to initiate action in order to deal with experiences and situations. It involves active experimentation (doing) and concrete experience (being). It has a strong preference for active learning in content (accommodating).

The Value of a Bias-For-Action

UberEats learns by acting through three approaches to understanding food markets through the eyes of their restaurant partners, delivery staff and customers.

They ‘walkabout’ markets, visiting UberEats cities and immersing themselves in the food culture, transport and logistics infrastructure. They interview restaurant workers and owners, delivery partners and customers.

They undertake ‘order shadowing’ to get insight into the customer experience from order to delivery.

And they hold ‘fireside chats’ to listen to customers directly. This informs further steps in innovation.

This indicates the depth of understanding that active learning can bring to product or service development.

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

Using this approach UberEats results have been impressive. Launched in 2104, its 2018 revenue was $1.46 billion and they‛ve expanded to over 80 cities worldwide.

Whilst some restaurant owners have reported negative experiences, UberEats claims to have provided restaurants with new ways to reach customers and build their businesses.

Again it’s disputed, but UberEats claims to have created another, option for their delivery partners to earn money with Uber.

What isn’t disputed is that UberEats has invented new means for people to find and enjoy the food they love. As designers, UberEats use initiate active learning to solve complicated problems, positively affecting people’s lives, and shaping the future of eating.

If You’re Not Learning, You’re Not Leading

Learning, whatever your style is a major contributor to developing as a leader. We’re excited to offer a brand-new programme of learning for transformational leadership for ambitious professionals to fast-track their career, set up their own business or refine their leadership skills. Click here for more details.

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