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Learning Style - Part 2 of 7
Part 1  Part 2    Part 3   Part 4   Par 5   Part 6   Part 7

The Engineer has a PHD in the third law of Thermodynam­ics. The Marketing manager skydives for a hobby. The Production Planner started as an assembler. The purchasing lady is concerned about partnerships and long-term relationships. These people are all going to work together to better serve customer needs, cut time to market in half, and make designs more buildable. How?

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Did you ever notice how different people approach prob­lems differently? Have you noticed how people will gain different benefits and insights from a presentation?

The reason for these differences is that people perceive and process information differently. People find and solve problems differently. These differences are called learning styles. Learning styles can be classified, understood and used to promote learning. Once the differences in learning styles within a group are known and understood, diverse people can be brought together to solve problems or to learn new skills.

Differences in learning styles are very noticeable in cross-functional teams where people from diverse backgrounds are asked to solve a common problem, design a new process, or develop a new product. Remember our opening example?

• The people who are all going to work together to better define customer needs, cut time to market in half, and make product designs more buildable.
Watch as the Engineering PHD and the skydiving Marketeer attempt to define customer requirements for a new prod­uct. The PHD is intent on building a detailed structure of potential product functionality. The Marketeer is focused on what life will be like for the customer once this product is available. Listen as the Purchasing lady describes a sourcing strategy to the Production Planner based on shared values and contribution. Note how the Production Planner asks, "When are we going to get the tooling to the plastics supplier?"

Communication and concerted action within this group are not possible without an understanding and an awareness of the differences in how these archetypical characters learn.

Differences Define Learning Styles

Excel Inc. of Barrington, Illinois, has synthesized educa­tional, psychological, neurological and management re­search into a system for defining learning styles. This system, called 4MAT, delineates two major differences in how people learn. The first is how people perceive reality. The second is how people process information.

People perceive in ways that emphasize sensing and feeling or in ways that emphasize thinking and analysis. In addition, they process information in a watching mode or in a doing mode. Combining these four qualities defines the four following learning styles:

Type One: Innovative Learners learn by listening and sharing ideas. Personal meaning and social interaction are important for these learners.
Type Two: Analytic Learners learn by thinking through ideas. Information, facts and logic are important to these learners. They may enjoy ideas more than people.

Type Three: Common Sense Learners learn by thinking concepts through and trying things for themselves. These down-to-earth problem solvers resent being given answers.

Type Four: Dynamic Learners learn by trial and error, are enthusiastic about new things and are adaptable and flexible. They are risk takers and generally feel at ease with people.

Departmental Learning Styles

We can relate organizational departments to learning styles as follows:

• Human Resource people tend to be Imaginative Learners
• Research people tend to be Analytical Learners
• Engineers and production people tend to be Common Sense Learners
• Marketing people generally are Dynamic Learners

Analytical Learners think mathematical forecasting mod­els are just wonderful. Unfortunately, our Dynamic Learn­ers in Marketing, the people who need to use forecasting models, do not share this enthusiasm. If we are going to get Marketing to use forecasting models, we are going to have to present forecasting models in a trial and error fashion.

Part 1  Part 2    Part 3   Part 4   Par 5   Part 6   Part 7

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