Walking The Talk: Culture of Learning

Learning Culture  |  February 21, 2019

Exactly a week ago I was completing my final tasks as I prepared to co-facilitate an event for the Rochester, NY chapter of the Association of Talent Development.   And as I mentioned to the leaders in the room the next morning, “facilitating for me is kind of like playing Jazz; I like to riff.”  I enjoy and personally thrive off the improvisation and creative energy all around me.  However, as an instructional designer and workshop facilitator, I have to remember that not everyone is like me.  Not everyone is comfortable with the ambiguity, not everyone can thrive without the structure.  Not everyone is okay if the debrief fumbles around a few extra minutes finally landing on a salient point because the question that was asked wasn’t quite as tight and articulate as it could have been.

So here I am, spending just a few more minutes thinking about the World Café Method that was modeled during our 2 hours together.  Reflecting on what went well and of course what could have gone better.  This is what a culture of learning looks like in action.  Reflection is a habit I adopted early in my career, always conducting “a project wrap-up assessment”, even for small sessions like this one.  I structure the questions I ask myself (and on larger projects ask the team) to follow a well-known reflection model:

  • What? A description of the project/event/experience.
  • So What? The analysis of the project/event/experience.
  • Now, what? The application or how to use what was learned to affect the future.

So what are my key takeaways this time?

  • Be careful about the assumptions you make regarding “foundational understanding”; not everyone’s foundation is the same.
  • Provide clear examples along with the definition
  • Insert clarity and direction more quickly if I see “confused faces”
  • Get more comfortable with the silence that comes with reflection
  • Encourage alternative viewpoints to be expressed and discussed publically

Continue reading for a deeper dive into the reflective questions I ask myself on all projects, including this one.


Example Reflection Model Questions


I think about what happened before, during, and after.  What did I do (or not do)?  What did I observe?  What transpired?  These “taking stock” questions help me process what I learned as part of the experience.

So What?

So what questions help determine why the learning (new information, skill, or thinking) matters.  I consider how the experience was different than what I expected.  Did it surprise me in some way?  What stuck out or made an impact?  What conclusions can I draw from the experience?

Now What?

Finally, the Now What? questions help me focus and translate the important discoveries into future action.  Questions like, “How can I use what I learned to make it [fill in the blank] experience next time?” and “If I could do this over, what would I do differently?”

For more information, read our complete employer’s guide on corporate learning and employee engagement.

Related Articles: Best Practices and What Is a Culture of Learning


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