How can you get the most out of attending a management development programme and ensure that the learning sticks? When people attend programmes at Ashridge we use these top tips to help them get the most out of their learning experience.
Dr Megan Reitz from Ashridge’s Open Programmes team and Dr Eve Poole Ashridge Associate. share their top ten tips:
If you leave your learning to chance it may not happen. And if you let others set your learning aims or agenda you may learn what is important to them but not to you so set yourself challenging but achievable learning goals. Make these as concrete and specific as possible.
You bring to the programme a unique set of skills and knowledge and will engage in the programme in your own unique way. You will end up in a different place from your fellow learners so stay focused on your own learning journey rather than worrying about what others are learning or getting ‘learning envy’.
You will not learn well if you are bored or disengaged or if you become anxious overwhelmed or stressed out. Don’t suffer in silence! It is the programme leader’s responsibility to help you learn so work with them to find ways to make the experience engaging challenging and most importantly relevant for you.
Memory depends on you making connections between what you already know and what you are learning. Make conscious efforts to create these connections by looking for metaphors and analogies between both this experience and knowledge and past experience and knowledge. Or draw yourself a map of what you already know and how your new learning links in.
Our research into the neurobiology of learning shows that emotional learning sticks more deeply than rational learning. It will accelerate your learning if you really care about it. This is time you won’t get back so find a way to make this experience worthwhile for you personally and be selfish about your learning needs.
Your brain needs to chew things over in order to forge new neural connections so beware of learning that slips down too easily. Struggling with understanding will create stronger memories so asking lots of questions and wrestling with what you hear will help you to make better sense of it.
Just when you are dying to get home it’s time for action planning. This is the most important part of the programme as it means the difference between learning that sticks and a nice fuzzy memory. Although you may ‘get’ valuable learning during the programme that doesn’t mean you will keep it. Use it or lose it and the sooner the better before the memories fade. Look at your diary for the days and weeks following the programme and find or create opportunities to try things out immediately afterwards. If you don’t the inbox will take over and your learning will 
Teaching others is a great way to cement learning so use a team meeting to pass on your new-found knowledge.
Make sure there is at least one person back at work who will hold you to account for your learning – ideally your boss or a close co-worker. Ask them for regular feedback and help them to help you ensure as much on-going learning as possible.
While you are on the programme regard it as a test of your delegation skills. Try hard not to switch on your phone or email at every break since the distraction interferes with your processing time and interrupts the learning process. Put arrangements in place to make sure you receive only urgent messages so that you can prioritise your learning.
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