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
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
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
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
• 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.