Holistic Learning

Truly effective and efficient learning is a possibility only through a holistic learning approach. Holistic learning is about gaining and harnessing all the necessary knowledge using all possible ways to become self-sufficient for delivering outstanding performance. Not only knowing what to learn but also “learning to learn” is important for nurturing personal intelligence. There are many methods and styles to acquire knowledge. However, success of learning primarily depends on using the right approach at the right time.

Learning Methods

Getting insight into the learning methods and styles will open up your minds for all possibilities and help you get a 360-degree view of the learning ecosystem.

1. Personalized vs generalized

No two persons are same. Therefore, blindly following the generalized learning model in the current era is the biggest blunder. It is also obvious that traditional classroom cannot be set up to train a person based on his/her unique knowledge needs. Only in-depth learning in line with one’s career goal and current work on hand can be meaningful. Aligning career plan, task, learning, and knowledge resources results in sensible learning.

Generalized learning is delivered blindly when there is no visibility on who knows what and what knowledge the individual needs. It has made learning ineffective and meaningless. However, generalized learning cannot be ignored completely; therefore, carefully pick when the generalized learning model need to be employed.

2. Proactive vs reactive

Starting with proactive learning, it is important to plan what one wants to do and how much he/she knows and does not know. Driving learning through personalized learning roadmap in line with the career goal is vital for becoming self-sufficient quickly. Once the base knowledge is acquired, reactive learning to gain incremental knowledge makes sense.

Individuals may come across new knowledge when they randomly browse through knowledge artefacts, participate in knowledge-sharing sessions, or when they interact with experts. It is an example of incremental learning. The knowledge acquired incrementally can be sensibly connected to the base knowledge to enrich the understanding. Without the bigger picture developed proactively in our mind, reactive learning will consume more time and it will be extremely hard to link the pieces of disconnected knowledge for a meaningful output.

Learners will elicit necessary knowledge from various sources in the case of self-directed learning. Learning should be primarily designed toward proactive pull-based model. There are occasions when the manager or someone will push information to people. Company policies, vision, guidelines, HR policies, and other vital information driving organizational behavior and transformation will also be pushed to the workforce.

Training during the agricultural and industrial eras was pushed from the top. What to learn, when, and how to facilitate learning were not in the hands of labor force. Everything about learning was decided by supervisors. Even in today’s context, sometimes managers might provide direction on what to learn.

3. Self vs social

Self-learning and socialized learning make a good combination. Efficient self-learning is possible only when the organizational knowledge base is well organized. Social learning is good in validating our learning, to get different perspective, and to strengthen our knowledge. Self-directed learning does not mean that individuals need to struggle alone. Leverage the experience of entire talent pool to learn interactively while going through self-learning at your convenience of time and need.

4. Scheduled vs unscheduled

Learning is an activity that takes lot of our time. There are so much knowledge around us. However, not all knowledge is of high priority. Therefore, learning activities should be managed exactly the same way you manage daily tasks. Even when you come across knowledge in an unplanned manner, you can add to your plan, schedule, and monitor your learning activities. As Stephen Covey said, “First thing first”; thus prioritizing learning based on time and importance will make us more productive.

Even if there is an urgent need to reactively learn something or when you accidently come across the knowledge you like, adding it to your learning plan help easily track what you have learned and what you have not.

5. Online vs offline

Online learning will be of great help for continuous, self-paced, personalized, and proactive learning. Offline learning is still relevant in the current context and is effective only when it is preceded by understanding the basics through self-learning.

The opportunity of face-to-face learning sessions can be capitalized to drive deeper interaction with the experts. After the traditional learning, further interaction to understand more can continue online. Service of experts to deliver knowledge through traditional model takes more effort and time; therefore, the time spent by experts should be treated with respect. Leverage experts only for high-value learning and not for basic learning.

Navigating easily through all the related knowledge helps to learn completely and to get the big picture. Connecting knowledge in our mind can be achieved through holistic thinking and techniques such as Tony Buzan’s mind mapping. It not only increases the confidence level of the workforce but also improves the smartness.

6. Theoretical vs experiential

No matter how much we read, listen, watch, and think, we can understand better only when we apply our knowledge at work. Competency develops not through theoretical learning but through experiential learning. The theoretical knowledge helps initially to spark the understanding and to kick-start the work. Experience brings more clarity, strengthens confidence, and helps to think beyond the limited boundary.

Learning Styles

Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind (1983), talks about the theory of multiple intelligence. There are several learning styles including reading, listening, observing, logical and creative thinking, self-realization, relationship building, and experiencing. Individuals have to leverage the right style to make learning joyful and effective based on one’s personal sense that is active or more dominant. The choice is with the individuals. Therefore, you can decide about the style of learning that helps you enjoy learning, understand, and retain the knowledge better.

For some, reading sense will be more powerful compared to listening and viewing skill. For others, learning is possible only through touch and feel. To enrich the cognitive ability you need to open up all the senses, go through all learning styles, and develop the highest level of skill and awareness possible.


Do not suppress the power of your mind through narrow learning approach. Embrace the power of all learning methods and styles, and develop your ability to connect all the right dots towards driving holistic learning and talent development.