The Cornerstone of Learning - Proteus Leadership
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The Cornerstone of Learning

Touching Both Sides Of The Brain

For many years now I have been concerned about the way we teach and impart knowledge to others. I have also been concerned that our methods of learning have been based far more around the organisation or institution that is providing the learning, than on the people receiving the information, or has been based on a funding model that is archaic and simply puts the attention on the wrong things.

Why is it that so many institutions only cater for one side of the brain? They are process driven and the learner is usually at the mercy of a massive administrative machine that just can’t cope, while the learning experience itself seems to be just a means to an end.

I can remember one of my colleagues telling me that prior to commencing at Proteus he was recruited to teach at one such high profile institution. He made it quite clear that he had never taught the subject of marketing and had never been in a marketing role. The response was very clear, keep one lesson ahead of the group and you will be right.

I also recruited a person from one such institution to teach Diploma programs. She explained her current contract arrangement, where no checks were ever made on anything she did, including the content she taught and how she marked them; as long as they finished and were marked competent. Suffice to say her tenure at Proteus was very short, because unfortunately that is how she wanted it.

Other private organisations use a plethora of contract trainers to teach subjects, all with varying degrees of experience and interest, delivering a very inconsistent message and style. You don’t know what you will get next!

In saying this, I acknowledge that there are some amazing institutions and providers in the marketplace that understand the way people learn requires constant innovation and reinvention and I commend them for what they are doing and how they teach.

There must be a better way to ensure that people learn in a way that empowers them and makes them not only better leaders, but better people.

The way people learn is changing at a rapid rate however, the reasons that people learn have not changed. They will forever be seeking information in order to have a better life, a better job or just simply to survive in a changing world.

So what are people looking for?

We already know that most leaders are time poor and so anything that takes too much time is no longer an attractive option. Short, sharp, powerful, inspirational, informative and relevant, are all words we are hearing in the marketplace today.

What makes learning effective?

I believe that there are four clear cornerstones of learning. Unless all four are met, people will not have a complete learning experience and as providers we have a responsibility to ensure that they do.

For some reason, many of our learning institutions have focused mainly on the transference of knowledge with an element of connection, but inspiration and support have been sadly lacking.

So this provides a great opportunity for enlightened educators and organisations to really shine and make
a difference.

The Cornerstones of Learning:


This is the What, Why, Who and How. It is the skills templates and the new information that people receive to assist them in making more informed decisions about work and life. It is information that expands their horizons and creates the foundation for new thinking and new opportunities.


This is what stirs up the emotions within people to believe they can do better and reach their full potential. It is a series of stories and experiences that help create a desire to take the next steps in their life journey. It also provides the confidence to keep going.


This is all about knowing you are not alone. Someone else is/has experienced the same things as you.
It provides the opportunity for people to bounce ideas off others, share ideas and information and to support each other in taking new and brave steps.


This is a fundamental need that everyone has. It’s about feeling a part of something bigger than just themselves – being a part of a tribe. It is about learning and communicating with ‘like-minded’ people, all working together for a common cause.

So if we understand that for people to truly learn and for both sides of the brain to be active and satisfied, then we must create the right environment for this to happen.

The balance required is not necessarily 25% of all four cornerstones, it is about providing a situation where people of all behavioural styles can truly interact and have their known needs met, while also being taken outside of their comfort areas, to places that will impact both sides of their brain.

Let’s put a bit of fun back into learning. When people are interested and involved then they retain far more information and are more able to apply it.

Let’s put relevance back into learning. As educators and communicators of knowledge, our role is far more than providing information and then ticking the boxes; it is about helping people to assimilate the ideas and skills into their own environments and skill sets.

So think about the programs you are teaching or providing for your team. Do they impart the right and relevant knowledge that will help them establish new levels of confidence? Is the learning inspirational? Does it inspire people to want to be better and to tell their stories of disappointment and celebration? Does it provide the support that they need to work through a change in thinking and behaviour? Do they feel secure in the fact that they are not alone? Is connection made? Have they been able to build from the interaction with and experiences of others? Do they now feel more empowered and part of a tribe?

These are the cornerstones that every person longs for in the learning process.

I am sure that purists right now will justify their positions and cut this concept down in flames, but I say to each one of them – change starts with ourselves and when we are too stubborn, too locked within our ways and too proud to change, then just remember, this has a massive impact on others. We have a responsibility for the well-being of those put in our care and not to accept that responsibility is just wrong!

So my very simple message to all educators, L&D managers and anyone within the learning arena, use the four cornerstones as a checklist for every program you deliver or organise. Are each of the cornerstones being met? If not change your processes, ways of teaching or provider and experience the privilege of observing students and participants when that ‘learning light’ is switched on.

If you don’t love it – don’t do it!

Des Penny is the Co-CEO at Proteus Leadership.