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How to develop talents the right way with TIPS (Part 2)

The transformative changes that will likely affect many industries in the coming years will require companies to upskill and reskill their workforce on a large scale. Two weeks ago, we discussed in part 1 of this 2-article episode how a cognitive profiling tool like TIPS could help organizations ensure that they place their knowledge workers in those training programs that cognitively fit their talents and preferred cognitive styles. Today, we want to take our discussion one step further: Putting the right person into the right training is necessary, but not sufficient. Today, we will discuss how to raise talent development to a “Wow” level by training each learner in the right way by presenting the content in harmony with individuals’ preferred learning styles. In the following, I share how I constructed the TIPS Learning Style Model by approaching the topic of individual learning styles from a cognitive, sensory, and social perspective.

A cognitive view on learning styles

The first design element of a TIPS-related learning styles concept relates to two cognitive constructs embedded in the TIPS model — the TIPS thinking and work style. These two constructs are conceptually founded in established cognitive theories of the human brain’s predominant functioning also applied by other cognitive profiling tools (such as Ned Herman’s HBDI concept or Black’s MIND Design concept).

Interestingly, when I recently reviewed the literature on learning styles, I discovered one learning style model that embraces the same conceptual logic. In their model, Gegorc and Hunter suggest “four modes of learning” (abstract sequential, abstract random, concrete sequential, concrete random) that snugly fit the TIPS thinking and work styles. (However, one of the distinguishing features of TIPS is that we interpret these constructs not just in a binary way (either-or), but in a trinary way (either-or, and both) on a continuous scale. The illustration below shows how the concepts map out in TIPS.

A sensory view on learning styles

The second conceptual element that I adopted for a TIPS-empowered learning styles concept is the VARK learning model. The VARK model proposes four sensory learning modalities and distinguishes between visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learners. According to the model, some learners learn best and fastest by seeing visual information. In contrast, other learners prefer learning by hearing spoken words (auditory). The third group of learners enjoys reading and writing, while the final group learns best by moving in space and doing things (kinesthetic). As such, the VARK concept describes from a sensory point of view how learners prefer to perceive and process learning contents presented to them and how they translate those sensory stimuli into acquired knowledge.

Opponents of the VARK model argue that most individuals can learn something new by relying on more than just one modality — and they are probably right. Conversely, proponents of the concept (and admittedly, I am one of them) counter that most learners have one or two dominant learning modes of acquiring knowledge and processing information. Considering my graduate-level teaching experiences of sixteen years, these VARK-supporters also have a point.

In line with the second view, the TIPS learning styles concept suggests that different TIPS profiles prefer to learn new content using different sensory learning modalities. Moreover, the model also proposes that most TIPS profiles have one or two learning modalities that they predominantly prefer employing to process, and make sense of, newly learned content and transform it into acquired knowledge.

For example, as an Ideator in TIPS, I prefer to make sense of newly learned content by visualizing these in conceptual models, overview maps, sketches, etc. At the same time, I also enjoy listening to an educator in a lecture or as an audio or video recording, and I love to teach others about new things I have learned. My learning preferences indicate that as an Ideator, I am predominantly a visual-auditory learner who’s indifferent about learning alone or in a group. The illustration below shows how the concepts align with the four TIPS bases.

A social view on learning styles

While reflecting on my experiences as an academic and professional educator in business creativity, innovation, and creative leadership for more than a decade and a half, I noticed an important third perspective that I wanted to also include in a TIPS-based learning styles concept. This social learning style element captures differences in how learners prefer to learn from a social interaction point of view:

  • Some learners prefer to study and tend to process and acquire knowledge better if they learn together with others in a group or with a buddy (let’s call these people “team learners”). 
  • Other learners prefer processing learning content alone (“solo learners”). 
  • Finally, the third group of learners can flexibly switch between and feel equally comfortable with learning alone or as part of a group (“solo-team learners”). 

I first noticed these differences when observing how different TIPS profiles prefer to innovate from a social point of view and realized that the same interactional preferences apply to how the profiles like to learn. The illustration below shows how the three social learning preferences align in the TIPS map. 

Composing the TIPS Learning Styles Model

Let’s now integrate the cognitive, sensory, and social perspectives on learning styles in one conceptual model. By stacking the three conceptual maps on top of each other, we arrive at the TIPS Learning Styles Map (see illustration below), which allows us to position a learner who’s taken the TIPS online profiling test in space.

Once a learner has taken the TIPS test, we can compute where they position on the TIPS Learning Styles Map — and this location describes how she likely prefers to learn. Thereby, the 11 TIPS profiles fall into one of nine learner types with a distinct mix of preferred cognitive styles, learning modalities, and social learning approaches (see the matrix below). Thanks to TIPS, we can make suggestions on how each learner type prefers to learn the content of a new course, thus allowing an educator to present an individual learner with a unique mix of pedagogical formats that makes it more amenable for her to acquire the new know-how. 

For example, as an Ideator, I am a visual-auditory learner who enjoys learning abstract big-picture contents in a holistic way. This allows me to connect the dots between different concepts and generate lots of fresh and often bold ideas. I am equally happy about learning alone or in a group. 

Here is another example: Earlier this week, one of our Ph.D. students at the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, South-East Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University, confided to me that when he was handed out a written innovation case study at the beginning of his qualifying exam, he struggled to make sense of it. I wasn’t surprised to hear this, as this Ph.D. candidate profiles as a Promoter in TIPS, which suggests that he is predominantly an auditory, holistic, and social learner.

Conclusion: Train the right person on the right topic in the right way with TIPS

In the 2020s, many industries will undergo disruptive (digital) transformation processes, which will require organizations to upskill and reskill their employees on a large scale. Understanding more about the specific talent profiles and related preferred cognitive styles of their knowledge workers will allow organizations to put the right person into the right skills development training course (that relates to their interests and natural strengths) and to train them in ways that make the learned contents stick and deeply understood.

  • Would you like to learn more about TIPS, our talent and innovator profiling system? 
  • Have you become interested in finding out what your TIPS profile is? Would you like to get TIPS-tested for $89?
  • Or can you imagine profiling your entire team and show them how to apply TIPS to produce better results in business and innovation by booking one of our TIPS training programs (that we also offer as interactive online courses)? Contact us if you would like to learn more.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2020. The article is published in the Thinkergy Blog on December 3, 2020. It might be reprinted in the business section of the Bangkok Post within the coming weeks.

Credits: Photo by Thinkergy. The shot features a learner of a TIPS training course, who profiles as a Systematizer and thus prefers a reading/writing-kinesthetic leaner style.