Success factor "learning"
"Companies with a creative spirit work in a way similar to the human brain: they learn by trial and error, they develop flat and strong linked-up structures, gather experience and adapt their current inner organization to the respective requirements. Due to communicative network structures they are able to react – not only fast and efficient, but also cautious and sustainable – to new challenges."
Source: Gerald Hüther, Bernd Schmid. Der Innovationsgeist fällt nicht vom Himmel – Voraussetzungen für die Entfaltung kreativer Potentiale in Organisation aus neurobiologischer und systemischer Sicht.
Learning by communication
How do office workers learn? In the 1990y the American business consultancy BOSTI Associates surveyed in a long term study, how office workplaces can contribute to the corporate success. One part of the study addresses the topic learning – with the following results:
- 87 per cent of the participants stated to learn by informative conversations with their colleagues.
- 24 per cent named trainings or (planned) meetings as an important source of information.
The spontaneous exchange between colleagues is therefore the source of information, which is most frequently used. It is the fastest and best-practice possibility to close little and crucial knowledge gaps.
Comparison of different workplace set-ups
There have been no different valuations of people who work in open plan or small and separated offices. In particular employees, who work in small offices, are seeking the direct contact to their colleagues if they can provide significant information. The initiators of the study are reasoning that open plan structures do not necessarily contribute to a better communication and knowledge management than small offices. Therefore an advantage of working together in one room may only arise if the spatial allocation of workstations does consider thematic and content-related criteria.
Source: Michael Brill, Susan Weidemann, Brill Associates – Disproving widespread myths about workplace design, published by Kimball International, 2001
Learning and motivation
Prof. Gerald Hüther from the centre for neurobiological prevention research of the University Göttingen and Mannheim/Heidelberg points out the importance of intrinsic (inner) motivation of life:
- positive expectations, curiosity (and willingness to learn), challenges and their successful coping (and the resulting self-confidence) built a positive and strengthening cycle.
Avoided should be the negative cycle
- negative expectations, avoidance (and fear), stress and failed coping (and the resulting self-doubts)
Next to expectations also physical feelings have an influence on learning success. Physical wellbeing and physical exercise allow for better learning.
This means for the daily business, that managers should communicate educational objectives effectively and support accomplishments. Simultaneously the learning employees should be provided with enough freedom to accomplish their own educational objectives. The workplace design can contribute to learning success.
Quoted from the presentation “Calmness – motivation for brain users” at the IV. Know-how-Conference 2009 of the Deutschen Demographie Netzwerks (ddn) on the 23th October 2009 in Cologne.
Learning and stress
67 per cent of all employees suffer from permanent interference of their work flow following the survey of employed persons in 2006. The resulting stress obstructs effective learning and reduces the work performance, what numerous studies show. Below two studies are presented, one regarding "multitasking" and another one regarding an animal experiment on the impact of stress on the learning ability:
In 2001 three American scientists of the US-American Federal Aviation Authority did a research on "multitasking", the frequent change of different working tasks, and its impact on work performance. Therefore the volunteers had been faced with varying tasks of different complexity and novelty within many tests. Compared was the time requirement to accomplish the tasks when frequently changing the tasks on one hand and a single processing of the tasks on the other. The tests had been performed with young adults.
In any case, the volunteers needed more time to successfully accomplish their tasks when they were forced to switch between tasks. The loss of time increased with growing complexity and novelty.
As novelty and complexity are certain characteristics of knowledge work one can conclude, that multitasking tends to contribute to a reduction of effectiveness of knowledge work. Regarding the workplace design it shows, that concentrated working is at least as important as communication.
The impact of stress on the learning behaviour of rats
In September 2009 the biologists Eduardo Dias-Ferreira and Nuno Sousa of the University of Braga (Portugal) published the results of a study, which occupied with the question, how daily stress has an impact on the learning behaviour of rats: Rats which were exposed to recurring stress achieved notable less learning targets compared to the relaxed living control group. They fall back on solutions of previous experiments even though these solutions obviously didn’t lead to the desired success (= food). With increasing test duration, the differences become more significant.
The two scientists concluded from that that stress has a negative impact on the learning ability and creativity, what they could prove by alterations in the brain of the laboratory animals. Within the group of the stressed animals it showed that brain regions, which are involved in logical decisions and systematic thinking, had been considerably reduced. Therefore brain regions, which are responsible for the formation of habits, had been enlarged.
This process however doesn’t seem to be reversible, what earlier studies and tests on humans had shown. Calmness (in form of meditation) and physical exercise can contribute to the regrowing of the brain regions.
The 2006 BIBB/BAuA Survey of Employed
Ph. D. Joshua Rubinstein, Ph. D. David Meyer und Ph.D. Jeffrey Evans. Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology - Human Perception and Performance, Vol 27. No.4, of the American Psychological Association (APA).
dpa. Ständiger Stress führt zu Fehlentscheidungen, 30. Juli 2009 and
Jörg Blech. Die Heilkraft der Mönche, Der Spiegel 48/2008.