Cycles of Learning: The right time for an old technique

By | September 6, 2011

The Business Communication Industry and print in particular, continue to face challenges from many fronts. The demands and requirements placed on business communications by the end consumer have changed. People want to be able to get their information where they want and when they want it. The technologies utilized in communication are changing at a very rapid pace.

Print itself has gone from mass production and distribution of the same information to all, to communication targeted to a market segment sharing a specific characteristic, to highly personalized one-to-one communications. Production has gone from high speed web litho print with lots of offline finishing, to digital print and inline finishing, and “onserts”, (even our language is changing).

New channels for communication have emerged and are being adopted at very high rates, from e-presentment of documents to social media and mobile applications.

Competition has increased among the providers of communication services with consolidations and companies going out of business, and yet still there is a lot of underused capacity.

How are companies in the industry going to survive and even thrive?

One possible answer comes in the form of an old and proven education technique, “Cycles of Learning.” Jack Welch used the cycles of learning principle in building GE. Jack Welch and GE went through three cycles of learning for the improvement of the business. In the first cycle, he focused on the elimination of variety in GE’s portfolio of businesses by reducing the non-performing business units. During a subsequent learning cycle Welch focused the company on simplifying and eliminating non-value-added activities. The third phase of discovery focused on the elimination of variation. This business approach would be valuable for today’s print businesses.

I also think a more tactical day-to-day approach and process can provide results and accelerate business improvements. At the core of this approach is to begin every project or quality improvement with the idea that you are going to teach others about your experience and results at the end. Educational research has proven that performing a task or learning experience knowing that you will need to teach it will improve your understanding and memory of key principles.

Cycles of learning means being able to apply what was learned from one activity or project to the next or similar ones. The progression is depicted in the following graphic.


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