We all have a particular learning style, a way we learn something new. It is "hardwired" in our brain and becomes apparent whenever we undertake to accomplish a new task. Many years ago, I was given a DVD player as a Christmas present. It was all wrapped up in the traditional seasonal trimmings such as gift paper and a fancy ribbon. When it was in my hands, I tore away the wrapping paper in an instant, opened the box, and spent the next five minutes kneeling on the floor figuring out where all the cables went, and which buttons to push so that I could finally see my favourite DVD movies. My wife was busily observing what I was doing said, "that's not the way to get it working." She then proceeded to pick up the instruction booklet and read each page from cover to cover, dictating the instructions exactly how they were written in the book. This example demonstrates clearly how we had a different learning style, her approach was to be "theorist" or learning by theory, and mine was to be "activist" or learning by doing. There are four learning styles identified by David KOLB: Activist, Reflector, Theorist, and Pragmatist. The optimal learning experience comes from combining all four styles: have an experience, reflect on it, put into a theoretical frame, and then apply it, so on and so on. Keep repeating the loop so that all the elements are covered for optimal results.
During coaching sessions with executives, I use this four step sequence to help embed experiences that they've had in the workplace, and help them to use this technique with others in the organisation.