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Behavior change comes less from cognitive learning, more from “action learning”

Lawyers (well, people generally) tend to change not so much when they learn through abstract principles and theories as when they learn through experience, during so-called “action learning.” Action learning means a person tries out the new behavior, gets feedback, and keeps improving. Action learning is experiential (See my post of Aug. 26, 2006: 13 experiential learning methods.).

As summarized by the Harv. Bus. Rev., Vol. 86, at 97: “Changing basic patterns of thought, feeling, and action requires that millions of new connections be formed. Such a process must be set by constant experiential input and is therefore inevitably gradual.”

Most in-house counsel learn by doing, as apprentices. CLE is intellectual and slips away quickly; real life teaches best and sticks the longest. Talent Mgt., May 2007 at 24, puts it this way: “Talent managers know that 70 percent of learning is related to a variety of challenges you might encounter on the job.” The other 30 percent you learn from mentors, courses and published resources.

Lawyers learn in many ways (See my post of Dec. 22, 2006: how training is delivered; Jun 9, 2007: the distribution of training methods; July 9, 2007: lunch & learns; July 29, 2007: Human Capital Management Part VII and 12 training references cited; Dec. 2, 2007: making mistakes; April 15, 2006: role play; Nov. 18, 2007: online gaming; Sept. 5, 2007: simulations; Nov. 18, 2007: mock appellate oral arguments; Jan. 24, 2006: practice and voice training; and Aug 5, 2007: long sessions of drip-drip training on technology.).