No Substitute for Experience

Renowned educational theorist David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model (ELM) describes the process of “learning by doing.” According to the model’s four key components, in order to gain true meaning and understanding of a new concept or experience, a learner must:

  • Be actively involved in the experience
  • Be able to reflect on the experience
  • Have the ability to conceptualize and assign meaning to the experience
  • Apply the new ideas learned from the experience

In the workplace, we are constantly bombarded by new experiences. From complex projects to public speaking to working with a new manager, most people are daily presented with multiple opportunities to engage in meaningful learning. And while it is necessary to research and do some preliminary footwork to be ready for such experiences, there will always be a few variables that must be addressed in the moment by simply “doing.”

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down. – Ray Bradbury

Don’t be afraid to jump into a new experience headfirst. Prepare for what you can, but be ready to make a few decisions on the fly. When you open yourself up to confronting the unknowns in the heat of the moment, you’ll likely come away with a much deeper understanding having had the experience.

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