Through Collaborative Learning

Whenever you’re looking to develop a new skill or knowledge in a particular field of interest, where do you typically start? Do you jump on Google or check out a research/consulting firm such as McKinsey? Perhaps you explore different online courses through platforms such as LinkedIn Learning. No matter the direction you choose to take, there’s no shortage of content out there to support you on your learning journey. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that Google receives 5.6 billion searches from users on a daily basis, and YouTube accumulates approximately 1 billion hours of videos watched across its 37 million channels all in one day!      

Despite the never-ending articles, videos, and other learning resources on the Internet, research has shown our growth is derived from 70 percent meaningful work experience, 20 percent people interaction, and 10 percent education. Furthermore, when we study alone, we retain just 28 percent of the material after two days. If we repeat our study, this increases to 46 percent. However, once we apply our learning and engage in meaningful dialogue with others, the retention boosts to 69 percent. The key here is to not only focus on experience, but to combine the value of all three methods into a collaborative, teambased learning environment.  

To bring this to life, here are three ways you can begin integrating education, interaction, and experience into the growth and development for you and your team.

1. There’s no “i” in team When researching a topic for an upcoming project, consider pairing up with another team member or two. Have a clear goal in mind by first identifying the problem you’re trying to solve and outlining your criteria for success. Compile a list of sources where you’ll gather your data, whether internal and/or external, and divide responsibilities. Having diversity of thought with one or more team members in your research will help you to uncover potential blindspots and introduce perspectives you may not have considered on your own.

You may be thinking to yourself, “My role doesn’t require me to take on projects and conduct research on different topics.” That is understandable. However, I would invite you to think about challenges your team is facing and consider how you may be able to help find a viable solution. Given the current climate, perhaps one or more of the following may apply:

Improve cross-functional team collaboration in a hybrid work environment
Learn to prioritize and manage time more effectively in a work-from-home model
Conduct more effective team meetings in a virtual/hybrid work environment
Identify microsteps to promote well-being and reduce risk of burnout
Build new ways of employee engagement in a virtual/hybrid work environment

Even the highest performing teams have opportunities to elevate their learning and performance. The key here is to not go at this alone. Find others who are interested in coming along the journey with you. Once your research is complete, outline specific action items you and your team members can put into practice immediately and set up accountability measures to evaluate your progress. 2. Teachback sessions On a monthly or quarterly basis, dedicate a team meeting to a learning meeting. Team members should take turns leading sessions as this promotes their personal development in workshop facilitation and public speaking in a safe environment. The rest of the team has a chance to learn something new and provide feedback as ways to improve future content or delivery tactics.    

Leo Bottary, founder and managing partner of professional services firm Peernovation, uses the learningachieving cycle to introduce the power of learning when done with peers. When learning is shared, we have the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking conversations and gain a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. We also build the courage to apply our learning, thereby supporting our achievement of goals and enhancing our growth as individuals and as a team. When implemented successfully and frequently, teachbacks inspire us to want to learn more, which in turn reinforces the learning-achieving cycle. 3. Celebrations and lessons learned On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, welcome team members to share recent successes of their work. What accomplishments are they most proud of? What was the outcome? What are some best practices that can be shared from their experience? Additionally, team members should also take the time to share mistakes or pitfalls. What triggered the event? How did it impact the work product? What were the lessons learned? Through sharing of experiences, we’re promoting recognition for our work while fostering an environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities.     

With that said, this approach can only be effective where there’s psychological safety. This safe space should have boundaries, but also welcomes individuals to bring their full, authentic selves into a judgement-free zone. If you’re a people/ team leader, foster psychological safety by modeling behaviors of curiosity and vulnerability. Seek to understand when there are opposing viewpoints in the room. When a mistake is made, be the first to set the stage and share your own lessons learned. The more frequent we invite these conversations, the more opportunities we have to learn from one another. Final thoughts Former professional basketball player and coach Phil Jackson believes, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”  As you continue your path on growth and development, consider the collective benefits of education, interaction and experience. It is when we bring others along on the learning journey that we can gain the power of collaborative learning and share the successes of our achievements together.