By Andrew Wong      9th Feb. 2003

What Learning Approach will you choose?


Different people learn differently.


Different people create more and more success stories that are satisfying and fulfilling arising from different learning approaches.


This article focuses on two different learning approaches that create such success stories that are satisfying and fulfilling.


The two learning approaches are 1) Self-Learning, 2) Learning with External Intervention.


You will then decide to choose what learning approach best suits you.




Majority of the people are self-learners. Most people learn from past experience and from mistakes made.


We hear some success stories of self-learners, they can be famous people like Bill Gates, Jack Welch, from rags to riches characters, or some ordinary people.


But majority as self-learners do not go very far. They are forever “learning” without producing any tangible or satisfying results. They also become mere floaters in life, earning just sufficient money to buy bread for survival, or oscillate between success and failure, happiness and sadness, cumulatively having a net result of zero. Or, they gain on something, but loose on many other things in life.


Many of these self-learners, whether eventually having success stories that are satisfying and fulfilling, may have a few characters as their learning partners like a coach or mentor, or someone who gives a helping hand in the success creation, such interaction is normally coincidental, un-structured or transient.


From here we discuss more on the other learning approach - Learning with External Intervention.


Learning with External Intervention


The concept of external interventionalist is new in the area of life or business endeavor, but it is fairly established in the arena of sports. These are the sport professional coaches for the sportsmen.


The roles played by external interventionalists in life and or business arenas can be teacher, facilitator, coach, mentor, consultant, counselor and learning partner. This external interventionalist will have to blend the various skill-roles harmoniously to help individuals or team to perform more effectively to achieve their goals or create their dreams.


Professional learning interventionalist is equipped with many appropriate theories, tools, techniques and skills as life and business situations can be very diverse with challenges, issues, complexities and uncertainties.


When Individuals, teams or organization engage a professional learning interventionalist, there is a structured program to go through, with follow up, reviewing the results or performance intended and creation of higher goals or challenges with the ultimate desire of self-actualization of the individuals, teams or organization.


The Plus and Minus


There are advantages and disadvantages of either learning approach.


On the self-learning approach, the advantages can be the person is independent in the pursuit of learning to create the results he or she truly desires Once the results are produced, there is much self-pride and satisfaction. However there can be many more disadvantages. Majority does not have the discipline and lack the knowledge and skills for this life-learning journey, or may have to take many years with many avoidable mistakes. After all it is difficult to see one’s own flawed assumptions and behavior.. As a result, there is not only little or no accomplishment, there are more frustrations and stresses in life for the many.


In the case of engaging external learning interventionalist, the only negative aspect is the chemistry between the external professional and the clients that does not work well or the professional still does not have the competency. However, the advantages are plenty – having an external observer, teacher, facilitator, coach, consultant, mentor, counselor or even devil-advocate to help and challenge with the view of increasing your own capacity and capability to create the results you want.



The Many Scenarios of Learning Intervention


There are many scenarios of learning intervention. The following are just a few to set the scenes for readers to make better choice of engaging an external learning interventionalist.


a)      Individuals


The individual may be a person who does not yet have a clear vision or direction in life to pursue. While struggling with day to day living, the external learning interventionlist will help the individual to create the future in today setting.


The individuals may have a direction with plan and strategies, then external learning interventionlist could help to be devil-advocate or accelerate the learning path to produce the intended results.


b)      Teams


The individuals in most likely case, will have to interact with others and such interaction and relationship may have impact on him or her, negatively or positively.


Or, by design, the individuals have to operate with a team, e.g. business partners, families, or task-force to accomplish something like a project or specific tasks.


Or, a group of people who would like to create more team learning among themselves with the view of forming a formal group to embark on a project, create a new business or simply to explore each other strength and weakness to create synergy.


The external learning interventionalist will have much roles to play in the above cases.


c)      Organization


From individuals or teams, it can be a case of the whole organization, headed by the upper management committee who wants to accelerate their learning curve, with specific business results to be achieved.


Then an external learning interventionalist maybe sought. Traditionally, many organizations engage external consultants Usually with disappointing results. This could be because consultants confine their roles to consulting only, ignoring many other crucial roles like teacher, facilitator, coach, mentor, counselor.




This is not the intend of this article to illustrate many detailed and diverse cases of learning interventions. It suffices to note that there are differences in the learning approach, and the learner is to make a good choice of what suits him or her best.



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