The Business Learning Ladder

from knowledge driven instruction to wisdom focused learning











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The Business Learning Ladder attempts to present the work of educationalists in a form that relates to business people and provides a strategic structure for managerial development initiatives. The concepts behind the Business Learning Ladder are drawn from the work of Bloom, Bateson, Kolb and Knowles etc.
The top rung: Adult learning focus on business success
The penultimate rung: Practising & testing decision-making
The middle rung: Learning focused on developing managerial wisdom
The first rung: Simulated, controlled & coached experiences
The bottom rung: Exploring, challenging & using acquired knowledge

The real world is not quite like the theoretical world

Exploring, challenging & using acquired knowledge

Metaphorically, just as one can learn about the covering power and color of paint from the can in the store, we learn things in the class room. But, the colour is always slightly different from the colour on the can and the covering power is never quite the same. So, before starting using knowledge, it is necessary to explore and practice using it. This is just how our little person is approaching her painting project. She has acquired several sample paints, opened them and has explored their use. Simulation is a way of exploring knowledge, developing understanding and embedding the knowledge in a real-world context.

Real world experience is messy.

Simulated, controlled & coached experiences

Consider the important things you have learned. Were these in the classroom or were they from (often bitter) experience? Yet, learning in the real world (like our little person's experience) is messy. Even if you take time to reflect on what you have learned from the experience, you may not be able to identify the learning and generalise it so that it does not happen again. However, using simulations you can gain experience in a controlled and coached environment. An environment where the experience is risk free and much less messy than the real-world.

Wisdom involves applying knowledge and experience to solve problems.

Learning focused on developing managerial wisdom

The dictionary definition of wisdom is the possession of experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them critically. So, here we are concerned with developing critical thinking skills - the ability to use our knowledge and experience in a wise and effective way to solve problems. Simulation provides a way of testing and developing problem-solving skills and preparing business people to handle new challenges. Here, our little person is has wisely climbed the ladder and now is pulling up the paint on a rope.

In business we have to make decisions that are based on wisdom.

Practising & testing decision-making

Decision-making occurs both pre and post wisdom-development. Pre wisdom-development is used to gain experience. And, during post wisdom-development, it hones and assesses the business person's ability to apply their wisdom. Here the little person is applying the paint (knowledge) while wisely holding on, but experience means that he can lean out from the ladder - but this may be a risky decision. With, simulation decisions are made without risk.

Ultimately we are concerned with personal and business success.

Adult Learning focus on business success

Business success, like learning success (and house painting), is multidimensional. It must be efficient, effective and consistent and, like our purple house, involves judgment.

Efficiency is not just cost reduction. When painting our house we could reduce costs by buying a cheaper paint and applying it thinly. But, to adequately protect our investment (in the house or learning) we must ensure that the (paint and learning) does not fade with time and that it does not crack and peel (become outdated). Simulation ensures this.

Effectiveness means that like the paint there must not be gaps in learning and everything must be covered properly.

Consistency means that every business person should gain from the learning initiative.

Judgment (and, perhaps, fashion) means that perceptions of what is regarded as managerial success change over time and, like our purple house, formulaic management solutions may become outdated. But, if learning has been directed towards creating wisdom, the business person is able to handle these changes.

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2002 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall
Most recent update: 01/01/15
Hall Marketing, Studio 11, Colman's Wharf,
45 Morris Road, London E14 6PA, ENGLAND
Phone +44 (0)20 7537 2982