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Learning by Doing

Conaty & Charan write that, “Developing talent through experiences expands capability and capacity… This is learning by doing, and no book or classroom teaching can substitute for it.”

  • Describe an example of “learning by doing” that has helped you or a colleague to grow professionally.
  • What did this experience teach that could not be taught through formal training?
  • What part of the experience could have been learned through formal training? 
  • Should your organization create formal training to complement its hands-on learning activities? Why or why not?

Post your initial response by Wednesday, midnight of your time zone, and reply to at least 2 of your classmates’ initial posts by Sunday, midnight of your time zone.​​

1st Response to this classmate

 RE: Week 4 DiscussionCOLLAPSE

Hello Class and Professor, 

In most organizations, formal training is an essential component of keeping up with new trends and technologies in the industry. However, training may not solve all performance and behavioral problems. Hence, an organization should conduct a training needs assessment before introducing training programs to assess whether training may solve a performance problem. Other than training, learning by experience may be an option. As such, evaluation of learning by doing or experience is essential in informing its effectiveness in complementing formal training. 

Describe an example of “learning by doing” that has helped you or a colleague to grow professionally.

After graduating from university with a bachelor in Statistics, Kelvin joined our local animal feeds manufacturing company as a data analyst. His university training was majorly mathematical and had nothing to do with animal health and nutrition. However, his new role required him to have insights into animal nutrition. He quickly got in touch with the production manager and was occasionally involved in the production team while formulating the food rations. With time, Kelvin developed the skills of accurately preparing feeds’ components such as proteins and minerals while retaining acceptable profit margins. Soon, Kelvin became an essential component of both the production and analytics teams. 

What did this experience teach that could not be taught through formal training?

Although the training was an option in learning animal nutrition, it would take time to cover all aspects. Still, the organization does not use all aspects of animal nutrition modules. Learning by doing was the most suitable learning method as it incorporates relevant theoretical and practical elements of animal nutrition. Nevertheless, training modules hardly existed at the organization to enhance the incorporation of animal health and data analytics. 

What part of the experience could have been learned through formal training? 

Animal health and nutrition training is available at the organization. Employees within the production team regularly participate in formal training relating to trends and new technologies in line with animal feed production. However, Kelvin’s case stood out, as it required integrating skills in feeds formulation, production, and data analytics. 

Should your organization create formal training to complement its hands-on learning activities? Why or why not?

Kelvin’s case depicts a situation where learning through experience may yield significant outcomes. However, it is rational to analyze such a situation in the context of the problem at hand. Organizations should also adopt formal training to complement learning by experience. Learning through experience enhances personal growth and competence aligning with new roles (Fernández-Aráoz et al. 4). Formal training improves collective responsibility for success among current employees and new teammates by sharing experiences, challenges, and insights (Stibitz 3). A blend of learning through experience and formal training enhances performance and employee outcomes.

Fernández-Aráoz, Claudio, Andrew Roscoe, and Kentaro Aramaki. “Turning potential into success: The missing link in leadership development.” Harvard Business Review, vol. 95, no. 6, 2017, pp. 1-9.

Stibitz, Sara. “How to get a new employee up to speed.” Harvard Business Review, 2015, pp. 1‑5.

2nd response to this classmate


Dear Professor Dibenedetto and Class

1. Describe an example of “learning by doing” that has helped you or a colleague grow professionally.

I am a long-life learner in all aspects of my life. I have developed a growth mindset. I have improved my life quality and work as observe people doing things that I will not ordinarily do well. One example that stands out in my pursuit of learning by doing is how to do proper workforce planning, which is a combination of HR concepts such as organization design, budgeting, and job pricing. These are competencies that involve knowledge in HR, finance and remuneration, and data analytics. I realized that I do not have a budget to hire an employee who is an expert in workforce planning, as it is a critical skill in the insurance business. Most actuaries do not want to work in HR but were keen to design a workforce tool. I approached our CEO, who agreed that he would second an actuary into HR to develop the tool. I used to watch him with the design and play with the tool until it was executed.

2. What part of the experience could have been learned through formal training?

There is no part in the learning process that I would say required formal training. I am already a seasoned excel spreadsheet practitioner; otherwise, I would have preferred formal training as a beginner. I still believe that 70/20/10 learning is still relevant, where 10% is about formal learning.

3. What did this experience teach that could not be taught through formal training?

I currently do all my annual workforce planning and reporting using the tool, and I have trained others in the team through action learning and are using the tool in all our 33 countries. We used the same tool during COVID-19 to schedule the workforce and understand who can work from home indefinitely (and only come as required), hybrid model, and tracking those on sick leave due to the pandemic. We are also using it to plan for the workforce plan during the recovery phase caused by the pandemic as we want headcount growth not to increase by 2% over the past three years. I would not gain a portfolio of diverse skills in reward, budgeting, and data analytics at the same time if it were not through action learning.

4. Should your organization create formal training to complement its hands-on learning activities? Why or why not? My organization has formal training programs supported by a learning management system. Our main challenge is that learning it is isolated from the day to day work requirements of employees. I believe learning on the job through the 70/20/10 action learning process should be the norm. Learning can be powerful if it is integrated into the daily workflow. As scholar Josh coined, “there is a new paradigm of learning in the flow of work.” The fourth industrial revolution tools such as AI, automation, podcasts, youtube has enabled an environment where lifelong learning is part of the economic imperative. For employees, research now shows that development opportunities have become the second most crucial factor in workplace satisfaction (after the nature of the work itself). In my view, the traditional corporate learning portal (the learning management system) is rarely used (other than for mandatory compliance training), and it often takes many clicks to find what you need. Learning, therefore, ends up being reduced to important-but-not-urgent matters.


Dr. John. E. Di Benedetto, H.R.M. ANNUAL, Executive On-Boarding… Successfully Assimilating New Leaders, Week 4 JWI 521. 2020 JWI 521, Week 4 Lecture Notes, 2020

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