To many people, ‘Learning’ is a task. To Wayne Hutt, a member of the RS Components “Grass Roots” Team, it’s a life force. In this personal and poignant blog, Wayne shares some key moments of his own learning journey – and reveals an inspiration that’s been a guiding light throughout his career in People Development …
“If you make a game about something that matters, your ‘players’ will want to participate in that larger discussion. If you genuinely make that participation meaningful in the game, it can also be meaningful in real life”. – Ken Eklund
As someone who’s been in Learning and Development for a wee while, it’s probably fair to say that I’ve learnt a lot. About people. And about myself. At some point in my twenties it dawned on me that understanding what makes people tick is what makes me tick. Inquisitive by nature, I absorbed learning theory with relish and simply couldn’t get enough of ‘new stuff’ – but my own motivational anchor always weighed between two camps: “What does this mean for the people learning?” And “let’s make learning fun.”
UNDERSTANDING WHAT MAKES PEOPLE TICK IS WHAT MAKES ME TICK.
I think I know where this all came from. Much of it is “me”, of course. But the catalyst may well have been a very special person, a long time ago, in a far distant land …
My family emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 1970’s; and I can still remember my first day at my new school in my new country. A ten year old boy walking through the gates of Waikari school, Dunedin, into a very different learning environment to the one I had left behind. In the UK, I wasn’t considered a particularly ‘special’ child in any shape or form, but here in my new home, I’d landed on my feet – purely because a lot of the topics on the NZ school curriculum I had already covered in my school back in London.
My command of French, for example, was incredibly advanced. Such was my prowess, I came to believe I could already speak the language fluently, having learnt how to shut the door – ‘Ferme la porte’ – as well as how to open the window – ‘Ouvre la fenetre’ – back in London. The fact that my new-found school mates in Waikari were just about getting to grips with the word ‘fromage’ meant that comparatively, I was pretty much magnifique.
Even more fortunately for moi, a complete game changer was about to enter my young life in the guise of an unassuming teacher of English who went by the name of Miss Shuter. One day, Miss Shuter told the 30 girls and boys in my class that we were going to have a spelling competition. The groans were audible; the uncomfortable squirms on seats very pronounced. Undeterred, ‘Miss’ proceeded to hand out identical dictionaries to each of us and split the class into two teams.
SHE KNEW HOW TO ENGAGE, ENABLE AND EMPOWER…
“Ok – this is a team competition’ said Miss. ‘I’m going to give you a word to find in your dictionaries. The first person to raise their hand and tell me the page that the word appears on will win a point for your team. First team to correctly find 5 words wins!”
This scary, potentially embarrassing task was now transformed into something that was worth getting involved in … and with a chance to win!
Miss Shuter continued this game every Monday afternoon for what seemed like forever. I loved her classes and even during the weekend looked forward to the forthcoming Monday. And I wasn’t alone. ‘Dictionary Tactics’ were talked about feverishly in the playground, earnest discussions were had as to whether the words to find would be harder this week than last week?
Miss Shuter was a simply brilliant teacher and she made school fun. Little did I realise at the time, but she was also a pioneer. She got ‘it’, way back then. She knew how to engage, enable and empower the schoolchildren in her care.
She probably wouldn’t know that in the coming decades, world-renowned L&D gurus would put a label on her teaching approach and call it ‘Accelerated Learning’, or ‘Gamification’ as you may know it. She was ahead of the game, in every sense.
LEARNING IS AS MUCH TO DO WITH CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT FROM WHICH TO LEARN AS IT IS ABOUT THE ABILITY OR COMPETENCE OF AN INDIVIDUAL.
This has always stuck with me and acted as an inspiration in both life and the workplace. I didn’t set out to build a career in Learning & Development. In fact, it was only when I turned 29 years old that I knew what it was that I wanted to do. However, up until my epiphany, I’d utilised Miss Shuter’s early gamification techniques and applied them to the workplace. As a manager of people in a number of roles, it helped me to alleviate any potential fears or peer-to-peer embarrassment that may have laid dormant within individuals on my teams.
I’ve always believed that individual learning has as much to do with creating the environment from which to learn as it is about the ability or competence of an individual. And now it’s something I can put to work every day with the RS Components Grass Roots team – a dedicated group of professionals from RS who focus on empowering youth in the Engineering & Technology arena.
My interest in how I learn and how others learn is pretty much a labour of love for me now. It drives me forward and inspires me.
My French, au contraire, hasn’t got any better.
Wayne Hutt, Skills Superstar-Grass Roots, RS Components
Thank you Wayne for those valuable insights into responding to the current challenges. If you would like to enhance your skills and expertise to meet your own organisational challenges, find out more about our Managing, Leading and Landing Change, Leadership Development, Talent Development and Proposition Development workshops.