When It comes To Project Management, Apply What You Learn ASAP!

It's one thing to learn new things about project management. And it's another thing to put what you learn into practice on the job immediately. Without the latter, you may be wasting your learning efforts.

The reality is this: as you learn, you also forget! And at an alarming rate! If not reinforced through engaging conversation, hands-on application, or some other means, the majority of any knowledge you gain from your learning efforts rapidly slips away! In the end, without applying some tehcnique to help you remember, you may end up retaining only 10% or so - if you're lucky.

To delve into this in some more depth, consider the "Learning Pyramid", which was developed back in the 1960s. It illustrates this point perfectly. The Learning Pyramid says that you will retain knowledge learned based upon some sort of action you take with that knowledge.

Here is a summary of the numbers from the "Learning Pyramid":

  • You retain 90% of what you learn when you teach someone else or use it immediately.
  • You retain 75% of what you learn when you practice what you learned.
  • You retain 50% of what you learn when engaged in a group discussion.
  • You retain 30% of what you learn when you see a demonstration.
  • You retain 20% of what you learn from audio-visual.
  • You retain 10% of what you learn when you’ve learned from reading.
  • You retain 5% of what you learn when you’ve learned from lecture.

Considering that, since you are reading this post, you are either a project manager, or want to be a project manager, I'd like to show you how you can leverage these findings and take action so that you greatly enhance what you retain. After all, you want to OWN THAT KNOWLEDGE and not let it just slip away, like water in a leaky bucket.

To show you in detail what you can do, I will focus on the first three of those items, and then also the fifth, all boldfaced in the list above. Here's what you can do:

  1. Teach someone else or use it immediately - Let's say you are taking an online course, or attend a class, or go to a conference or trade show. Take a notebook, and record any flashes of insight to capture your learning. When you a moment each day, or at the end of the experience, synthesize it all together, and send it out to share with others. Be willing to also collaborate with others on what you learned, and how it might help them. finally, pick the lowest handing fruit for yourself and apply it somewhere on your projects.
  2. Practice what you learned - Taking #1 a step further, perhaps there is something that you learned that you don't just apply once - but rather it's a different way of doing things that you could adopt as part of your repertoire. Figure out how you can replace an old way of doing things with the new - apply some change effort here - and make this new way of doing things your own.
  3. Engage in a group discussion - Bounce your new and fresh ideas off others, whether individually or in a group, informally, or in a more formal setting. Take the time to explain what you have learned, and ask for input and discussion. You will find that you learn more, while at the same time reinforcing what you learned. Ideas for action should come out of the conversation, and they may be more robust and spiced-up than the original, or maybe even completely different!
  4. Learn from audio-visual - If you have some audio visual from what you have learned, review it. If not, consider constructing something out of it yourself! It could be to help yourself, or to share with others, as in #1 above. the key is to work it - to get your hands around it and become actively engaged with it - as opposed to passive.


The takeaway is to recognize that anything you learn will be subject to rapid loss, like a leaky bucket. But there are techniques you can you, pirmarily by getting actively engaged, to retain and put to work your new kneolwege. One of the things that I find cuts across many of the techniques is the use of project management templates, which immediately bridge the gap between learning and knwoledge. They do not necessarily apply to everything you are doing, but they are a tool for putting lessons learned into practice.

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