Experiential learning has occurred through the years of my successful progressive career. I have learned, communicated, and contributed many times as an employee and manager at all levels within the organizations I have served. 

During this time, I have made a number of observations about learning and communication in organizations. Here, I share some of these concepts and how they can apply to your life and career.

1. We Are Always Learning

As humans, we are constantly changing, adapting, and becoming better. As an employee, when we stay engaged, we gain valuable knowledge and experience, we add greater value to our lives, and we better serve our organizations. As employees, we also hone our conceptual, technical, and human relations skills. Most importantly, as we grow, we are also leading and lifting others and creating positive outcomes for them. 

2. We Learn in Multiple Ways

People learn on the job, through the job, and off the job. For example, learning on the job and through the job, we learn from our work activities, peers and others in the company, and from professional development activities within the organization. When we learn off the job and through the job, we gain valuable knowledge from college degree programs, seminars, certification programs, ad hoc committees, books, and so much more. 

3. We Communicate in 4 Ways 

I learned off the job that there are four types of organizational communication. They are:

  1. Transfer - Metaphor: Pipeline – Communication trickles down from the top level to ensure the information is heard the same way
  2. Transactional- Metaphor: Exchange – Communication is shared from sender and receiver. This can apply to one-on-one communication or to groups/teams. 
  3. Strategic Control - Metaphor: Control - Management communicates those things that are needed and wants the organization to know. Some things are withheld.
  4. Creativity and Constraint - Metaphor: Balance - This is where management applies communication that is appropriate and can constrain some creative behaviors they view as inefficient or ineffective within a system, team, or department, or between individuals.

4. You Need to Strike a Balance

Some standards, controls, and operating procedures should be in place to create balance and ensure productivity. Without this, the focus on company, department, and strategic goals and objectives can decrease, and alignment to the strategic priorities, system, process, and organizational culture decreases. 

For example, too much creative freedom with few constraints could easily create a management problem. In processes, projects, some individuals, some behaviors and initiatives may get too creative and gain greater momentum, and they can in turn create disruption, increase costs, create inefficiency, and become ineffective. 

Likewise, the same philosophy can apply when dealing with a team to create structure and encourage focus on goals. Simple and practical “stop and start” meetings are a good method to flush out what should continue or where constraints can be applied. Ask direct, open-ended questions to your group like “What should we stop doing?”, “What should we start doing?” and “What should we do more of?” These are all helpful questions that will stimulate a response that can be used to reach a desired outcome. 

5. You Should Build a Solid Foundation

The purpose of education is learning. Applying our knowledge and skills in the real world to make a positive difference is even better. As you continue in your career, keep leading and lifting others, add value to people, value people, nurture their transformations, and most importantly, share your knowledge. Keep these concepts in mind when communicating with your organization.


Written by Bill Davis, MA, CM, assistant professor and program chair in the Forbes School of Business and Technology at the University of Arizona Global Campus.

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