Over the last couple of days I have been running a Finance for Non-Finance (F4NF) program for several sales managers in a leading multinational Oil and Gas company. After a slow start, several participants turned up eager to learn but apprehensive that a lot of financial terms and numbers would be floating around.
I had recently studied some material by Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, an American educator and expert on Adult Learning, who suggested that four principles apply in adult learning:
- Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
- Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
- Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
- Adult learning should be problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
Furnished with this information, we designed the F4NF program as a participatory training intervention with a good balance of technical knowledge and practical exercises that allowed for the application of the knowledge learnt. Practical application was attained through a simulation tool Imprint (U) Ltd developed for this training intervention and the advantages of using our simulation tool were similar to those described by Bryant Nielson of CapitalWave Inc.
First, participants learnt through performing an action in order to appreciate a given principle. For example, explaining the power of price in driving profitability was attained more easily through a simulation exercise, especially when it was done straight after lunch. In my experience, a good lunch often sends workshop participants to sleep! One of the essential bases of adult learning theory is the experiential component; retention of knowledge and its application is much higher when the trainees respond in class to a situation very similar to their real life experience.
Next, the mistakes participants make in a simulation are truly part of the learning experience. As the two groups competed with each other on the quality of decisions that they made within the simulations, they were able to learn from their mistakes, and apply the learning before going out to the real world.
The simulation environment also provides the benefit of consistent, constant, and immediate feedback. The simulation tool that we used was designed to offer feedback at various points of the training intervention, and participants used this feedback to make corrections, and move forward. The best part of immediate feedback is that it leads to immediate application, which is a major component of effective adult learning.
 Simulation is a training and feedback method in which learners practice tasks and processes in life-like circumstances, and receive feedback from trainers, peers and others involved. Examples include flight simulators for training pilots and computer simulations. One can learn in a safe environment without killing anybody.
On a lighter note, using a good simulation exercise can make training an enjoyable and exciting experience for both the participants and the moderator. This benefit essentially serves two purposes. First, the enjoyable application of knowledge is a good marketing and promotional tool for other training programs and the organization at large. Secondly, adult learning theory also tells us that participants increase retention if they’ve had a good, enjoyable learning experience. Many participants indicated that despite their initial apprehension about financial matters, they enjoyed the training session and were going to apply the learning at the workplace and in their private lives.
Imprint’s core purpose is to provide sustainable solutions to our customers’ problems and using an interactive learning approach has enabled us to provide value adding interventions to our clients. A closing remark from one of the participants summed up the day. “This has been one of the best training interventions that I have attended mainly because I can apply the knowledge in day- to- day activities as well as pass it on …” Daniel Kaweesi
Jeff Sebuyira-Mukasa is C.E.O. of Imprint (U) Ltd.