The learning-by-doing approach

Mehmet Baha
Founder & Senior Consultant
Solution Folder

Mehmet Baha, Founder and Senior Consulting at Solution Folder delivered an exceptional presentation at the most recent HR Vision event, where attendees experienced firsthand the fact that successful transformation happens when blending great ideas from different disciplines. HR Vision Content Hub interviews Baha, to share more on the factors that influence a collaborative work culture.


As the Founder of Solution Folder, tell us a little about your journey to creating your company.

Solution Folder is the result of more than 15 years of working experience in leading global organisations and more than 30 years of experience in music. I worked closely with the CEO of a German company acquired by Apple and was also one of the first employees of Facebook in Europe helping it scale its business. What’s more, I am a REMO-endorsed artist. At Solution Folder, we imagine a world where organisations have a collaborative work culture. We achieve that by providing experiential learning solutions.

What makes experiential learning different from other learning solutions?

There is a large volume of research which states that the best learning method is learning-by-doing. This way, learners participate in different activities, games and exercises where they can construct their own knowledge. This is much more effective than a lecture-based learning where a trainer talks, and others listen passively. Professor Mitchel Resnick, Learning Research Prof at MIT Media Lab, makes the point that the best learning experience should include play, peers, and projects. Play means trying something new, making mistakes, learning from them and improving. The peers concept includes the efforts of other learners. With projects, learners accomplish certain tasks in a given time. This is in fact the approach we use with our customers.

How has Solution Folder been able to impact leadership practices in the recent years?

Our experiential learning solutions with a focus on multi-sensory experience and an intentional change approach enable leaders to make more impact at work. Leaders play a crucial role in bringing and achieving a change in an organisation. Many studies show that 70% of change efforts fail in organisations. There are a variety of factors influencing this, one of which is leadership. In a typical training/consulting situation, questions are asked in this order: “What are the challenges/difficulties we face?” and “What can we do to overcome them?”. The first question in many cases bring blame, finger-pointing and creates frustration in employees. At Solution Folder, we start for instance with the following questions: “What does an ideal collaboration in our company look like?” and “What can we do to achieve this?” This is the intentional change approach of Richard Boyatzis, one of the leading authorities on leadership in the world. The first question above brings hope and optimism. The second one allows participants to create action items to achieve their goals. Leaders’ goal is to arouse not only the intellect but also the emotions of employees. This way, change is more sustainable. What is more, since our experiential learning solutions are kinaesthetic, auditory and visual, learners/leaders are more engaged during learning experiences and therefore more likely to transfer learning back to their workplaces.

How do you develop next generation of leaders?

To develop the next generation of leaders, we use a brain-based approach in our training solutions. This includes connecting learners with the topic before the training, providing them with multi-sensory activities which engage different parts of the brain, presenting concepts based on cutting-edge research during a learning experience and allowing learners to create their own action items to make impact at work.

In between different exercises, the instruction time is around 10-15 mins. This way, the experiential learning solutions are mainly based on learners. Additionally, there is an instructional variety including individual work, group activity, learner presentations, writing, reflection using flip charts and post-it notes. Research shows that standing up/moving during a training increases the oxygen level in the brain. We apply that insight in our training solutions. That is why, in many cases at least half of the learners rate our training solutions more than 9 out of 10. The overall rating is also quite high. Leaders who attend brain-friendly trainings are more likely to get the best out of trainings and lead their teams successfully.

How do you think Learning and Development will change in the coming years?

Learning and development in the coming years will be more and more blended. Neither totally online/mobile nor face-to-face only. It will be a combination of face-to-face and online/mobile learning.

Online/mobile learning, which includes on-demand content in shorter time segments with personalised information based on artificial intelligence, definitely helps scale a training and provides many advantages to learners. Global organisations with dispersed employees can benefit from this.

Virtual reality (VR) has been in use already for some time for instance in the mining industry where workers are trained with the help VR about how to deal with dangerous situations in a mine. As more use cases and success stories of VR, augmented reality and other new technologies such as voice recognition emerge, they might become more commonplace in L&D.

Lastly, no technology can 100% replace face-to-face interaction in a training. According to the World Economic Forum report “The Future of Jobs”, people management, creativity and emotional intelligence are expected to be among the top skills in 2020. Providing a face-to-face training solution for those skills is likely to increase the impact of the training and its positive effects on an organisation. Therefore, I believe that we will see more of a blended learning approach in the future.

In your view, why has employee engagement become more important in recent years?

Increased competition due to globalisation, rapid technological progress and demographic changes are just some of the factors why employee engagement is becoming more prominent.

If employees do not feel engaged at work, they can easily consider working for a competitor. That means losing talent for the first organisation. Due to instant communication and rapid technological changes, many employees are almost always connected to their work through their mobile phones. Employee health and wellbeing is a significant aspect of employee engagement. Burned out employees do not have the best performance. Concerning demographic changes, generation Y for instance may be more likely to change jobs faster than a baby boomer or a generation X who might be more likely to keep their jobs out of safety and stability. In order to maintain talent, organisations strive to improve employee engagement with a view to improve business results, customer experience and employee satisfaction. Focus on health and wellness of employees and providing them with learning & development opportunities are just some of the practices.

What are the key factors to make learning stick?

In order to make learning stick, we need to consider three levels (personal, team and leadership) and three perspectives (cultural, political, and strategic design) of an organisation. Let’s say that a company wants to strengthen collaboration in the workplace. Imagine that employees receive training on collaboration and they exhibit collaborative behaviours at work. This is the personal level. Additionally, at a team level managers/team leads should encourage, coach and support employees to sustain this behaviour change. Equally important is the leadership who should be a role model of collaboration.

The cultural perspective is about values, beliefs and mentality. If an organisation values collaboration or teamwork, and it is known and embraced by employees, that is a great start. In the political perspective, the main questions are: “Who has the power in our company?” and “How is power shared?” In case there is one person with the power and the power is not shared, that is lack of empowerment, then we have limitations to collaboration. Lastly, the strategic design perspective includes organisational structure, tools and processes among other factors. Sometimes by improving processes or upgrading tools, an organisation can strengthen collaboration in and among teams.

In a nutshell, these three levels and perspectives should be considered and addressed to make learning stick. Our experiential learning solutions are just some of the interventions to make companies more collaborative.

Despite HR being a human-centric discipline, technology is rapidly evolving the conventions of good practice. We have put together a free 11 page e-book which includes:

– NASA’s perspective on the rise of the bots
– ‘Getting social’ with Deutsche Telecom

– Karen Brown at Baker McKenzie address humanised technology
– The concept of human robotic partnership

You can sign-up for your copy here.

rise of the machines e-book

Receive the monthly Content Hub Newsletter