Speedy solutions versus steady growth. A tale of two learning styles. Brighten Project leadership development

Speedy or Steady?

thought leadership May 29, 2023


Speedy Solutions vs Steady Growth: A Tale of Two Learning Styles

Navigating the world of leadership can feel like a game of chess. Every move, every decision you make influences the outcome. But it's not just about the decisions you make—it's also about how you learn to make those decisions. In the world of learning, there are two distinct approaches that you might take: quick win learning and sustained commitment to learning.


Quick win learning is all about immediate application.

It's about learning something new with immediate application. Think: mastering a PowerPoint template an hour before your presentation, or cramming in buzzwords before a big meeting. You learn it, use it, and bam! Instant results. There's a really interesting theory about how adults learn called Andragogy (c/o Malcolm Knowles) and it's based on the idea that adult learners are different from younger learners, and that these differences significantly impact how adults learn most effectively.

Here are the main principles of Andragogy:

1. Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.
2. Adults need to learn experientially.
3. Adults approach learning as problem-solving.
4. Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

The third principle is what I think feels particularly relevant to the concept of quick win learning vs. a sustained commitment to learning. When we talk about quick win learning, we're referring to a learning strategy that aligns closely with Andragogy's emphasis on problem-solving because as adults we are actually drawn to this kind of learning - basically learning because we need to solve a problem right now, and we focus on acquiring knowledge or skills that have immediate applications.

You identify a problem, you learn the solution, and you apply it—just like that. It’s problem-centred, immediate, and effective in the short term. It's fantastic for quick problem solving and immediate results, giving you that rush of confidence when you need it most. Think of it as mastering a skill just in the nick of time—like presenting a new concept to your team after only learning about it the night before, or googling for the answer before a challenging 1:1 meeting.


On the other hand, we have sustained commitment to learning.

This isn't about the quick fixes or the emergency solutions—it's about long-term mastery, nuanced understanding, and depth of knowledge. You're playing the long game here, investing time and effort into truly understanding and applying what you're learning. Sustained learning is a process of ongoing growth and development, akin to the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition, which describes a progression from novice to expert over time and with practice. This style of learning isn't about immediate results. Instead, it's about slowly and steadily building your skills and knowledge to a point of deep understanding and proficiency. 


Speedy or steady?

Now, why does this distinction matter? For leaders, it's crucial to understand the impact and difference between these two learning styles. Quick win learning can be a great tool for immediate problem-solving and short-term victories, providing a burst of confidence and achievement. However, it may lead to a more superficial understanding of the subject matter, making you reliant on quick fixes rather than deep comprehension.

Sustained learning, while requiring patience and commitment, results in a deeper understanding, greater expertise, and more significant growth over time. This is the kind of learning that truly builds your competence and confidence, turning you from a novice into a master of your craft.

In your journey as a leader, understanding and navigating the world of learning is key. Both quick win learning and sustained commitment to learning have their place and can be leveraged in different situations. The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between the two—using quick wins to boost your confidence and achieve immediate results while committing to sustained learning for long-term growth and mastery. It’s about knowing when to sprint and when to embark on a marathon in your learning journey.


 So, what's the verdict? It's not a question of which learning style is better. Instead, it's about understanding when to employ which style. Quick wins can be beneficial when you're under pressure and need an immediate solution. However, sustained learning is a non-negotiable for your long-term development and growth. When I work with leaders I offer both styles of learning, we have ongoing weekly and monthly learning goals, that require deep critical thinking and then we balance that with 1:1 coaching calls so that we can have some quick wins as well, tackling any urgent/important challenges that they're facing.


Time to reflect!

I want you to reflect on your own learning style now:

  • ❤️‍🔥 Have you ever achieved a quick win through rapid learning? How did that feel, and what was the impact on your work?
  • ❤️‍🔥 Think back to a time when you committed to long-term learning. How did this process differ from quick win learning? What were the results?
  • ❤️‍🔥 Consider your current learning habits. Do they lean more towards seeking quick wins, or do you invest in sustained learning for growth? How might you strike a better balance?
  • ❤️‍🔥 Imagine yourself as a highly effective or even expert leader. What steps do you need to take in your learning journey to reach that level?
  • ❤️‍🔥 As you've learned, sustained growth requires consistent effort. What changes can you make in your routine or mindset to better prioritise this type of learning?

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