The Way that you Use it: The Power of Experiential Learning

Posted by Paradigm Learning on July 14, 2016

Experiential Learning

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

It’s a quote that comes from Pablo Picasso, and although it was said a long time ago, his point remains as valid today as it was then. Instinctively, Picasso understood that learning was not a passive activity; he knew that acquiring new skills meant passing them through his own experience first.


That he was so “hands-on” should come as no surprise. His work was routinely thought to be ahead of its time—often employing simple techniques in deceptively complex ways—giving hard-to-grasp concepts clear and concise visual definition. Yet, not every brushstroke he put to canvas was a masterstroke. He took chances and observed what he saw; then, paused for short periods of abstract thought before resuming progress.

Although Picasso would not have termed it as such, his creative process, in many ways, mirrored what modern educators now call “experiential learning.” In this framework, instructors may direct and facilitate training in classroom settings, but they don’t dominate. Instead, they encourage learners to explore new ideas, exercise critical thinking and demonstrate problem-solving skills in real-world scenarios.

As a result, experiential learning works without making learners feel vulnerable to undue criticism or penalty, while giving them tangible experience relevant to their positions and the work they do. Here are three examples:

  • The draw of business acumen. Employees need not be mind-numbed robots. By incorporating the power of experiential learning, organizations can help employees learn to emulate, rather than imitate, best practices. The difference positions learning as a cycle, allowing participants to build, reflect on and internalize each insight.
  • Painting by the numbers. Most business leaders would love to replicate elite levels of performance, yet caution is advised in merely trying to reproduce certain activities and behaviors alone. By contrast, experiential learning is team-based to support peer reinforcement over peer pressure.
  • Pictures at an exhibition. Experiential learning keeps people on the same page, facilitating the transfer of vision, knowledge and responsibility without merely copying it. Even better, it gives every staff member a frame of reference to think creatively and act decisively on behalf of the collective good.

Though only a select number of artists could be considered his equal, anyone with a paint brush and a palette can learn by attempting to do what Picasso did. Similarly, the experiential learning process gives all participants the opportunity to develop at their own pace.

The beauty of it is in the beholder.

To learn more about experiential learning, or discovery learning, as we like to call it, download the whitepaper below.

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Topics: Experiential Learning, Learning Development, Business Acumen