Exchanging knowledge is a great way to learn from and with other people, generate innovative ideas and solve complex problems. In addition, we all bring a vast amount of knowledge and experience with us that can add tremendous value to each and every member of a team or group that participates in knowledge exchange sessions. However, the benefit of structured knowledge exchange sessions goes far beyond that. We are all human beings and thus it is also a great deal of fun meeting other people, sharing knowledge and enjoying the time while learning from each other.
The added value of team learning: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
The concept behind this knowledge exchange approach is team or collaborative learning. When applied in the right way, team or collaborative learning can significantly improve the learning transfer, learning experience and problem solving performance compared to a traditional instructor centered learning approach. More specifically, collaborative learning can be perceived and interpreted as a method where at least two people learn something together and due to synergies create a result that would not have been achievable alone. This translated into the popular quote from Aristotle “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”. Simplified, one could just say “1+1=3” which is of course mathematically wrong but boils the benefit or collaborative learning down to a simple formula.
Each person has a unique life experience that impacts his/her business and social life. This variety of knowledge and experience provides a perfect starting point to create something new. However, prerequisite to this is that the team operates in a safe environment that supports and encourages learning. The University of London has written a staff development document about Team Learning that emphasises the added value of diversity and the need to have a safe and encouraging environment in place: “Team Learning helps to share prior skills, knowledge and experience enhancing the learning experience for the team; Build trust and create a supportive environment allowing participants the confidence to explore beyond their perceived limitations.” It’s this kind of learning path that enables the 1+1=3, making a group stronger with each other’s knowledge.
Problem-solving teams or team conversion analysis are ways to utilize team learning.
There are different ways to utilize the power of team learning. For example, problem solving teams are a great way to solve complex problems and drive organizational learning. The logic behind problem solving teams is simple: As soon as a problem reaches a certain level of complexity and relevance for an organization, a cross-functional team with a team moderator is set-up. The team’s task is to get to the root of the problem and find solutions that sustainably resolved the problem.
Also called quality circles, problem solving teams are a powerful tool to drive organizational learning. One the one hand, this is achieved by increasing individual learning of the problem solving team members. On the other hand the knowledge produced and documented by the team is distributed and preserved fay beyond the people directly involved in the problem solving activity. Beside the pure business value, team learning will not only generate more knowledge and different approaches to solve a complex problem, but it will also prepare the people to work in groups and enhance their social and team collaboration skills.
Another team learning approach is team conversation analysis. While problem solving teams mainly focus on single loop learning, do team conversation analysis target at improving the way learning and collaboration takes place. This approach to observe how learning and collaboration takes place is also called double loop learning.
Team conversation analysis starts with a problem statement that is discussed in a group and the discussion process is recorded for later analysis on video. Finally, the team watches the discussion and comments on the problem solving process. Besides learning about the topic, the team reflects on the collaboration process. Thus, the team members learn about their role in the discussion process and how it is perceived by the other team members. This is a great opportunity to learn team working skills and would not be possible in a traditional learning setting.
Team learning supports engagement and thus fosters individual development.
If team and collaborative learning approaches are applied in traditional school settings, you’ll probably get more results from everyone, since the traditional power distribution between teacher and class is less relevant. The problem with a regular school is that some people don’t want to stand out of the crowd in an instructor led learning setting. With collaborative learning you get the chance to be an active player in the learning system and even be able to speak more openly about what you think you need to improve. However, the role of the teacher is at least as important in a team learning setting as it is in a traditional instructor led approach. In a team learning setting, the teacher takes care of the team moderation and facilitation guiding the class towards the shared objective and making sure that nobody is left behind.
This concept might sound obvious, but it isn’t. In many schools and companies there is no concern about each individual, sometimes because it’s almost impossible, there are dozens of students, pupils and workers around. In other organizations, there is just no structured learning system or approach in place that could act as guidance for people development. In addition, the dominant learning approach still focuses very much on learning as a product instead of learning as a process. Taking into consideration that learning will become of critical importance in our 21st century knowledge economy, there is a need to quickly adjust in order to stay competitive.
How can collaborative learning work in a team learning platform such as CQ Net?
Nowadays there’s not much difference between learning with a computer and being physically in one place. If there’s a good internet connection, a laptop and some basic equipment like headphones and a small webcam then you meet all the requirements. For example, in CQ Net’s online platform you can be assigned to a team and start learning in group about a specific topic, or create a learning team by yourself. In both cases there’s a moderator from the company that will guide and help you throughout your learning process. Why is this different? Because he or she is not the typical teacher. He’s almost like a partner who provides you guidance and support regarding the learning topic, team organization and communication and thus helps you to learn better together.
This concept of learning better together is obviously linked with collaborative learning. By making a course with CQ Net you get the opportunity of learning with other colleagues and with your moderator. It all works via webcam, online discussions, collaborative document editing and many more features that support online team learning. In a world that’s being built on the social term, with all the social media channels, it’s more than logical that a digital platform like CQ Net is created to show you that together you can learn better. So either you are part of a company and you can join one of our teams with other people, or you can just bring your whole company and start learning something useful, like management, industry or technology.
João is in charge of CQ Net digital marketing. He has worked in events and communication before starting to work in the digital marketing business. He was responsible for the digital marketing at Arte-Factos, Arrábida Dreams and Magnar. Besides digital marketing, he also writes about cinema.