Workflow Learning: Trial, Error, Experiment


To this effect conversations are Frequently heard by me in workplace lunchrooms:

Peter asks.
“I couldn’t figure this out?” Mary answers.
“Did you take a look at the stress (or anything else)?” Peter asks.
“Nope. I missed attempting that.” Mary answers.

The dialog proves that workers are currently thinking through problems in a really casual manner. They discuss problems and solutions. They go through the process of trial and error. They assess quality effects. As they try to figure out something there is an exchange of ideas.
Trial and error and experimentation sometimes have a terrible reputation in L&D practice. In reality however, workers realize that they try things out to know that a solution operates and need to test. They always refer to the process of elimination, workarounds, or handling exceptions. To them, that is the accepted language.
Allow me to share with you some enlightening and interesting conversations I’ve had about trial and error.

“Trial and error are a powerful way to learn. No question. Of course, you’ve got to apply it in the context of trial and safety and error situations thought. I believe you’ve got to have the mindset that, whenever you’ve got failure or an error, it’s certainly not a negative thing, because that error part or failure is an opportunity to learn. You figure out what will not work, by having those failures and errors. Perhaps it arouses ideas about things in a different manner that could be beneficial.

“In my mind, it’s a lot more useful to get a fast experiment outside the door and see that it’s kind of rough around the edges. But as long as the core thing that you’re attempting to observe that you can not make heads or tails of it, maybe not get a specific answer, but you know, get an answer that tells you: Hey, I’m likely to maintain; it’s likely to be in the ballpark of what you can do is take that rough experiment; run it get in the ballpark of and then use that to further refine your experiments.”

Experimentation Results in solutions
The worker finds out the problem, makes assumptions, arrives in a theory, and employs the solution. Until the goal is met, they repeat the process. Russ Ackoff calls this “Triple-Loop Learning.” (See references.) Trial and error are the “Initial Loop.” The” Second Loop” is our context and the “Third Loop” is being aware that our context is constantly changing. It deepens the employee’s perspective and understanding of the problem, which results in more reliable and detailed answers.
In organizations such as Amazon, SpaceX, and Intel, they have cultures which accelerate experimentation that is aggressive and error and trial. Amazon considers in Fail Quick and Early.
Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, has modeled this thinking:

“With engineering, I view this year’s failure as next year’s opportunity to try it. Failures are not a thing to be avoided. You want to get them happen as quickly as you can so that you may make progress rapidly.”

Allow opportunities
For studying experimentation and mistakes, allowing for opportunities appears counter intuitive within L&D practice. Theoretically, scenarios, simulations, games, role playing, training, VR, AR along with other methods’ practice allow for trial and error and discovery. The purpose of these methods is praiseworthy.
Regrettably, those practices have a tendency to concentrate on the transfer of knowledge and an over-reliance on memorization exercises. We want students to learn the right answers. Yet at the same time, we do not train them how to take care of the unexpected.
This causes a battle. On one hand, many of us in the L&D livelihood believe, profess, and even espouse trial and error as a valid method of studying. On the flip side, we do not always comprehend that trial and error and failures are all natural states in the actual workflow.
The challenge
How do we allow and encourage experimentation and trial and error that are driven by the worker, without advice from the L&D professionals or subject matter specialists? It is worth asking this question since one of the major resources that we have in workflow learning is the L&D professional –whatever role they could take. If the L&D practitioner has a role in workflow learning, they need to find a workable solution to this particular question. They need to be like good parents that ought to train children to become independent thinkers and permit them to fly and take control.


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