I was fortunate to attend a session by Chris Collison, Knowledge Management specialist on learning.  He was one of the speakers at Africa Evaluation Association Conference  held recently in Yaounde, Cameroon. Here are some of the points Chris shared:

Individual learning happens naturally. When we move from individual learning to group of people learning collectively there is a big leak. Learning does not spread naturally from person to person. Moreover, learning decays over time when we try to document and codify our knowledge in a report. Label of lessons learned is unhelpful for us. It makes our learning static and passive; we lose the focus of learning and who is learning because we are paying more attention to results, which distracts from us from learning.  Lessons learned are usually poorly taught, bullet points kill the learning, we don’t pay attention to who will later learn from our reports and documents.

 Lessons lose their life when we capture them. Chris said that when we talk about something we are passionate about we are able to capture only 7% of our message in our document.  

And then what do with these reports? We put them in archaic system they are hard to retrieve. And if they are found they are not very useful because we have not asked the right questions. Thus, we end up with imperfect learning.  Lessons are filed but rarely accessed or applied; rarely accessed by next team; lessons get lost in too many steps. 

Chris observed that biggest problem is not sharing but asking questions. There are many things which stops us- we are different  or we don’t want to learn. Real men don’t ask directions, this may seem weakness. Why should I show my weakness; macho culture prevents people to ask . This stifles the demand for learning. 

Another two interesting things Chris noted. Tall poppy syndrome is where those who, come out with new ideas are snapped and put down. This Chris said creates fear and prevents lessons being shared . Shrinking violet syndrome means lesson stay hidden amongst people due to false humility or lack of awareness that they have something valuable to contribute.

Getting Lessons learned right

We can work on our knowledge of garden said by Chris by peeling away the layers by asking multiple questions. We need to ask the right questions, why questions. We must keep the focus on the ‘customer ‘ i.e. learner of lessons learned. Chris said that people love stories.  We should try to bring lessons to life with stories.

Thus, my take away was that learning does not happen automatically we need structures and processes for collective learning. Chris session raised a lot of discussion afterwards.  I end with what a participant shared about learning. He works in a university where his department was trying to look for a particular document in the 20-year records. But they could not retrieve because the coding system was flawed.  Thus, this 15-minute session from Chis stimulated and evoked many conversations.



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Comment by Tracy Kandeya on March 29, 2014 at 1:46

Hie Rituu

Thanks for the wonderful sharing on do we ever learn. I do I agree that group learning is very important, effective and saves time. The things learnt in a group are easily remembered than individual learning which is also time consuming. Yes let us create a platform for group learning.

I have benefited from this wonderful insight even though I did not have any opportunity to attend this presentation at AFReA.



Comment by JaiShanker Choubey on March 28, 2014 at 19:04

Great thanks Rituu ji!  There are a lovely  process to orient for knowledge mgt and sharing for achievement of various goals for developmental tasks... I am very happy to receive your guidance and support in improvement of my skills ....and many more tools.

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on March 28, 2014 at 18:35

Hi Belete,

I do Knowledge management, I will be happy to reflect with you. I recently did a workshop on KM and evaluation in Afrea conference at Yaounde. Good luck!

Comment by Folorunsho Moshood Abolore on March 28, 2014 at 10:07

Rituu, thank for refreshing my memory. I enjoyed his keynote. I remember asking him a question, which he had no answer to: What is the role of complexity in lessons learnt? He referred me to an author and a website.

Once again, many thanks for sharing.

Comment by Awuor Ponge on March 28, 2014 at 6:21

Thank you Rituu. I will surely share my Yaounde experience here and elsewhere.

Comment by DR. Mukesh bhachawat on March 27, 2014 at 19:52

thanks for sharing ..  group learning is always helpful .. but everyone must be fearless in putting questions & there should be no inhibition with coordinator in raising views and understanding ..

every individual has one's capacity and views and elaboration must be respected !!!

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on March 27, 2014 at 18:53

Thanks all for the comments Ranjani, Pramod, Faruque and Awuor. Sorry, we missed meeting each other Awuor, please do share your Afrea experiences.

I was talking to someone who works in a university. They were trying to trace the documentation of last 20 years to find a report. However the key words fed in the software for finding the document were not enough and they could not find the report. This person said that it had happened many times in the past but no one had learned from the past experience. What if we learned!

Comment by Awuor Ponge on March 27, 2014 at 16:15
Thanks for sharing this Rituu. It is unfortunate we never got to meet in Yaounde. I was on IOCE bursary and had to be faithful to my Sponsor by attending their sessions. If I get time, I will also share my experience with the whole membership. And what I get from all this, is that we should learn, but not reduce our learning to coded bullets for effective communication of what we learn and for posterity. Keep it up, Dear!
Comment by Faruque Malik on March 27, 2014 at 11:48

It is thought provoking article, and thanks Ritu for bringing it up. Pramod has given a correct example. However, as regards the coordinator, well, some one will like the person and someone would differ from the coordinator. So, I am of opinion that all individuals do learn individually according to their capacities and aptitudes, and structures make learning relatively easy. Organizations never learn. They only set targets and goals. Organizations either achieve the goals or fail. 

Comment by Pramod Sharma on March 27, 2014 at 11:07

Thanks Rituu, a very good point which I did not notice it, In group we learn many things but it is of less interest of all the people in multidisciplinary teams. Suppose if a team of 5 people from different background go in to a village by a car. Team can learn that how far is village and the quality of road and time to reach in the village. When they reach in the village they can say who are living in the village and general appearance of village (like crops, animals, forest,factory, transport services, irrigation, They all can do some road side observations in group through some fun. After that if all the members dispersed in village and meet different families, every one will learn different issue according to their capacity, according to their orientation, according to their knowledge, availability of family members and mood of family members. Besides team members will be biased to fulfill the demand of her/his assignment. What I feel that there should be one coordinator who can do meetings every week or fortnightly or monthly and discuss about learning from individual in group and develop a one page note on group learning and again discuss it in the team to confirm it. It also need that every individual work honestly.
Don't know much but idea of group learning is great.

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