learning by doing

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When an organization's focus is on learning prior to execution, and then leaps ahead to learn again for planning the next execution, the power of learning is greatly diminished. Doing is the strongest form of learning, when control and learning are integrated into the doing. This may sound elementary, but time and again businesses do not appear to remember the theories and hypotheses their decisions to act were testing. Sometimes they don't even appear to recall these things as the projects or mergers are failing and steps are being taken to scrap the development and divest the acquisition.

As mentioned earlier, it can rightfully be said that learning without doing is not learning at all. Learning is of little good if not acted upon. Second, when learning is acted upon, there is the potential for producing a wealth of knowledge and understanding. Learning by doing, or from doing, requires forethought as to what theories and hypotheses are being tested and rigorous controls. When actual outcomes meet the plans prior learning is validated. As the assumptions are becoming invalid, early warning is provided that a change of course is likely warranted. The detection and correction of mistakes builds learning. The learning from debriefing needs to be immediately incorporated into the decision makers, whether planning or doing, to be of value.

To lead in innovation, a business must develop its own theories of business. Theories abound about how to compete and provide unique value. Tested theories, with proven results are far fewer. Even tested theories requires constant retesting to detect when they are no longer valid. The half-life of a theory of business is decreasing as the business environment becomes more dynamic. A theory tested and proven valid by a competitor is often of very limited value since its time has past, it is tailored to that particular business organization, and the competitor's lead is hard to overcome.

There is a synergy between learning, doing, and business development. The frequent the cycles of learning, the faster development occurs, and the lower the risk of false steps in the development efforts. Learning-to-learn better improves the learning process itself, further building the learning-doing momentum of the organization. More learning cycles and opportunities also allow for more participation, building stronger learning and development skills across the organization.