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The Case for ‘Slow Development’

I’m going to say it now – “One and two day training courses without follow up don’t work!”

We’ve all been on the one or two day training courses that are full of great new ideas and approaches that we are enthusiastic about applying when we get back to our jobs.  However as soon as we log into our computers the day after the course, we get bombarded with emails; telephone messages to return; meeting requests etc.  As a result, unless we are very disciplined, all our good intentions go out the door as we have to put the material and action plan from the course to one side to look at ‘later’.  But later never comes and as a result the learning fades, we revert to our old ways of operating, and little or nothing changes -  a waste of time, energy and money for you and your organisation.

At Altris we have had personal experience of this happening in our previous organisational roles.  It is what prompted us to look at a different model for development – one which could be termed ‘Slow Development’.

Many of you will be familiar with the Slow Movement (Slow Food; Slow Travel; Slow Living etc.) which is fundamentally about making more of a connection between what we do day to day and ‘living’.  The world has become so fast that many people are looking for a way to slow things down and reconnect to a more simplistic and fulfilling life through changing the way they operate so they can become more aware and engaged with their surroundings and other human beings.

At Altris we operate our development programmes using a principle that we have termed EAR (Educate; Action; Review). The principle is simply that with each new model and tool the participant needs to take action to develop their capability. The participant then learns from that practice by reviewing it with their coach.  Through this approach the participant is given time to make sense of the material and learning in a way that they can integrate it into their current reality and role.  It’s about making a connection to the learning and applying it appropriately.

This approach results in a series of interventions each designed to build one on top of the other. In each education session the programme participants have the opportunity to try new skills and concepts and prepare for the action phase that follows. It is through the application and practice of the new ideas that the participant will learn and get the most from the review approach.

The reviews are delivered in group and individual formats, in a coaching style. The participants are given the opportunity to work through new ideas or processes together and to discuss issues and barriers.

Recent neuroscience research into the way the brain learns is providing a scientific basis to what we have identified through our practical experience over a number of years – the importance of ‘spacing’ out a learning activity to allow the brain time to digest and for the learner to put elements into practice.  A recent paper in the Neuroleadership Journal describes findings from recent study into this area.   This reinforces the benefits that come from allowing time for people to make sense of new learning / material over a period of time as opposed to trying to be ‘efficient’ by delivering training in multi-day blocks with little or no follow up and support.

While organisations continue to preach about the ‘need for speed’ and fast action, this recent research as well as our practical experience is saying that ‘slowing down’ through more of a Slow Development approach is actually more effective and more likely to result in the desired changes being made.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking a Slow Development approach may be the best way to keep your people and your organisation up with the pace.


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