The Top Employee: Understanding Learning and Maximum ProductivityThe Top Employee: Understanding Learning and Maximum Productivity

One might argue (and rightly, too) that learning and productivity are not closely related. After all, if you’ve been doing the same job for anything over 5 years, then you probably plateaued at your job a long time ago. Doing the same thing over and over again certainly doesn’t require any new learning; unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything for your career either. So, while it may be true that learning isn’t required after a certain point, most people don’t want to be stuck at the same level throughout their career. This is why learning is important. If you have any plans for a lucrative and progressive career, learning is an essential ingredient in that mix.

Types of Learning Styles

Let’s take a look at how we learn. The obvious methods are by listening, seeing and doing. Many studies have been conducted on learning styles and how they impact the rate of learning as well as productivity after the learning is complete. The three methods of learning have formally been categorized as follows:


  1. Auditory Learning

Research has shown that, among the three learning styles, the least effective is the auditory style. This is essentially the “Tell me and I’ll learn it” style of learning – and only 20 to 30 percent of any population can learn effectively when this method is used.


Although many reasons have been offered for the low percentage of auditory learners, the most common one is that these sensory signals first need to be converted into their visual equivalent by the brain in order to be fully understood.


For example, if you tell a 5-year-old that 7+3 is 10, he or she may not fully understand the concept of addition. However, if you show them 7 apples and 3 apples, and teach them the same thing, the concept is now more easily understood. When both methods are used simultaneously, the effect is synergetic, meaning that not only is the 7+3 example fully understood, but the child can probably use the concept in other situations, too.


  1. Visual Learning

This style of learning is far more powerful than auditory learning, and it has been shown that a full 40 per cent of the population finds this to be the most effective form. Most people think visually, which means that seeing something is better than listening to something. Think of this in terms of abstract learning and you’ll realize that this is true. Most people are unable to visualize a concept until they actually see it on paper.

For example, describing the shape of a constellation of stars can be quite a challenging task even when the listener is of above average intelligence. Show them the same thing on paper and the learning is instant!


  1. Kinesthetic Learning

By far the most effective way to learn something is to do it yourself. Take cooking as an example. Listening to a recipe for making lasagne might work for some, but seeing how it’s made is much better; even more effective is doing it yourself with someone guiding you thought the steps. Any example can be used to explain this, and you might have experienced it yourself.

Doing something will not only ingrain a concept firmly in your mind, but it will also activate something called “muscle memory”. This is nothing but your manipulative muscles remembering patterns of movement and being able to replicate that in another situation. Every sport is learned in this way: you don’t learn tennis or basketball or football by listening to someone – or even seeing them do it. The only way to learn a sport is to do it yourself so your body ‘knows’ how to move and achieve the objective.


Productivity and Learning Styles

The link between productivity and learning styles is, however, a far deeper subject than merely talking about learning. Of course, learning experts would disagree, but in the real world, corporate managers and business leaders know that mere learning alone is ineffective without the knowledge of how to apply those skills on the job. This is why intelligent people aren’t always guaranteed a top position in their company.

Though it may be true that intelligence gives a person the advantage over others, it does not always equate to high performance. What, then, is this magical “link” between learning and performance? How does one translate learning into productivity? The key here is motivation.

In this next section, we’ll see how motivation can bridge the gap between learning and productivity.


Motivation: The Missing Link

The reason I’m calling this the missing link is not because people don’t know about it – it’s simply that a majority of human beings lack it. This sweeping – and seemingly unfair – statement can best be understood with an example:

Consider a scenario where 10 people are in line for promotion to a single position. The manager who takes the final call will undoubtedly assess their education, skills, performance and other metrics to decide who will ultimately fill the position.

However, the biggest factor here is actually none of these things – it is motivation, also called initiative, drive, hunger, innovativeness, resourcefulness etc.

This quality, which goes by so many names and has so many forms, is always the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is this one quality that will make a person more productive, and more effective at whatever they do.


Why is Motivation Important?

Motivation is what has driven human civilization forward ever since the first cave man sought to feed his family. The famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow organized it into the “Hierarchy of Needs.” When you look closely at his pyramid showing this hierarchy, you will see that this is nothing more than motivation at work.

Somebody who has no basic amenities such as food and water will be motivated to get that first – not a Ferrari.

Looking at this from a perspective of productivity, even though two people may possess the same qualifications and training (essentially, the same level of learning), the person who will ultimately be more productive is the one with the motivation to reach the next level.

The subject of motivation is as vast as it is deep, but for the sake of our discussion here, it is sufficient to know that it is the link between how learning can impact productivity.

If you can motivate yourself to be more productive, then your learning will be invaluable in helping you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself. If not, then find out what’s keeping you from being motivated, because no one can help you with that but yourself.

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