Managing Technology projects effectively
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Cognitive and Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is the way most humans, as an instinctively curious trait, attempt to go about deriving and absorbing new knowledge. Isn’t it stereotypical when a person buys a new product that requires some assembly, say a piece of furniture, that the first thing they do is to do it entirely themselves, and only after several hours actually give and yes – actually refer to the instruction manual! In a similar vain, how many times have you downloaded or bought a piece of software, installed it and started clicking all the buttons and selecting all the options, and as an afterthought, referred to the help files, read me notes or tutorials?

On the other hand, formal training course tend to be theoretical and hands-off, supplemented by ‘nice to have’ resources e.g. manuals, CD roms, web page links etc. Typically, most of these resources are ‘archived’ after the course, and the employee has a tick mark placed on their training KPI. Unfortunately the reality is that these new learning are practiced or remembered for only few days afterward. Occasionally, some of the key messages that were passed are actually recalled and then used. But this would be seldom, if ever. That a person is provided with all the resources to practice a new process is by no means an indicator that they will ever be followed.

Naturally, neither method is 100% correct when rolling out new technology projects; it is a balance between the two:
  • Cognitive teaching should focus on how the tools are designed, such as main interfaces, architecture and data flows
  • Cognitive teaching also focuses on how the tool is used, i.e describing the functionalities, buttons, options etc.
  • Experiential training focuses on complete workflows, starting with how to achieve the same results with the new tools and then, more importantly, how to do the job better with the new tool.
  • Experiential training needs to be monitored by managers. After several cycles of practices there are some users that understand why they are doing what they are doing with the new systems and others that are ‘going through the motions’ doing what seems to work. It is only the former type who will be able to actively produce incremental benefits of the technology.

Cognitive Experiential
Training Formal courses
Documentaion, help files
Use cases
Demo systems
LearningStructured TestsBusiness as usual
Individual competence

Table 1.0 Four dimensions of necessary training