Forget about e-learning, e-doing is the new learning!

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Why merely looking at a long paragraph does not help us improve our soft skills.

E-learning tools are springing up like mushrooms. And that is not strange, given that it is an easy solution to do ‘something in the area of development’ within your organization without it costing a pile of money. Your team members read an online text about how to get more assertive, watch a video that accompanies this text et voila: born is their assertiveness! Or…?

The world can’t be kept up with

First things first 

Why did your organization ever decide that it has to do ‘something’ in the area of development? Perhaps it was the fear to be overtaken? Or maybe the concern of  losing profit? The fear of losing your greatest talents? Where companies once headed in the same direction effortlessly for years, it now seems like mission impossible. Which is not so strange, given how rapidly the world changes. Even more so, the world can almost not be kept up with. This phenomenon we call the VUCA world.

Good chance that you have heard this concept before.

VUCA literally means: Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

  • Volatile has to do with the dynamics of changes and the rapidity with which they do change.
  • Uncertain refers to the decrease of predictability, the increase of surprises and the need of insight into how situations emerge.
  • Complex has to do with multiple force fields, chaotic cohesion and confusion. And finally, Ambiguous refers to the ambiguity of reality, the possibility of coming to a wrong conclusion and confusing cause and effect. Because of all of these things, the VUCA world forces us to embrace uncertainty, or at least to look at it as the inevitable.

Breaking speed records

There’s no way we can get around it: The times when we used to make ten year plans for our organizations are far behind us. Because even by blinking once, we could potentially miss the boat. There is no time left to stand still, to rest on our laurels and to choose to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing for many years.

Look at the S&P-500 index: The average lifespan of large companies has decreased from many decades to less than 20 years now. If this development continues, the lifespan of any average company will be around only five years in the year of 2033.

The world is changing rapidly and we are forced to keep up with these developments.

Soft skills are essential

In order to make sure that we can keep making a difference, we have to distinguish ourselves and our companies. The talent of writing an html-script, driving a local bus or processing an enormous amount of numbers sadly doesn't do it anymore.

No, the way to go here is to distinguish yourself through creative ideas, your pep talks and your ability to merge individuals into a collaborative team. In other words: your social skills.

Recent LinkedIn research (2016) shows that when it comes to ‘soft skills’, no less than 67% of the Dutch HR-managers are having trouble finding talents with the right, fitting soft skills.

Three quarters of them (74%) indicates that the lack of such social skills in a team lowers the productivity of the whole company. This results in an organization that does not perform at its best. And being an inspired HRM worker, that is the exact opposite of what you want, isn’t it?

A single solution for hundreds of team members

So now you are looking for development possibilities, which is a larger challenge than you would expect initially. Tight training budgets force you to make a decision: intensive offline trainings for the lucky ones? Or just one single online training for all the hundreds of team members?

E-learning was looked upon as the golden egg in situations like this one, because it suits the mass, it is accessible whenever and wherever one wishes it to enter and the prices are reasonably fair for personal training budgets. And so everyone gets a log-in code for the e-learning platform. But will an online training like e-learning really make your team members reach their highest potential?

Watching a talking head

There is one simple answer to this question: No. As much as we would like it to be this way, the reading of a long paragraph, or watching a talking head is not going to help us change our behavior for the better. Look at yourself. Painting the bathroom ceiling or creating an amazing hair updo is a piece of cake when there is a do-it-yourself video to help you.

Even more so: mimicking is one of the best way to learn your hard skills 

But take a language for instance, you can’t learn that from just reading a book. A language is best learnt when spoken - when you try to order your favorite breakfast in that foreign little bakery. Or when you are on vacation and you have to explain to the receptionist that your room is invaded with cockroaches.

When it comes to soft skills on the other hand, a practice text or an experienced guru’s story could very well provide you with new insights. However, in the end, it is still up to you. You are the one who has to do the work. Get away from your computer screen and just dare to take a leap, for really working on your skills can only be done with everyday practice.

The development of e-doing

So how to combine the best of both worlds; learning in everyday practice and keeping the costs low? The answer however is still, in the end, online - but redefined. Webpages and online platforms increasingly offer new and more possibilities. Jan Schouten and Jorn van Wijk, New Heroes’ founders, noticed this development as well.

New Heroes stands for online behavioral change. And yes, all of this happens online. During the establishment of their learning platform Schouten and van Wijk have, together with occupational psychologists and educationalists, looked at different learning methods that work best when it comes to change of skills.

These methods have been incorporated in online trainings, which we’d like to call learning journeys. All of the 70 trainings contain many different methods of work, which range from video response trainings to quizzes and questionnaires. As well as these methods, the participant is by fulfilling the practical assignments also encouraged to practice and work on their offline skills. A self-chosen supporter will give feedback about the participant’s progress and assignments.

That’s definitely e-doing, instead of e-learning!

Choosing an online solution like this is no longer a compromis, but the best choice when it comes to educating large groups of employees. And those would-be extremely assertive employees? They will have gathered the courage to tell it as it is very soon!


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