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  • Writer's pictureWilma Hartenfels

Beyond the horizon - A new learning approach for a new world

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Have you often asked yourself whether all your learning efforts are worth it? Are your shelves overflowing with countless, dusty 'seminar folders'? Have you attended dozens of online courses, but couldn't even begin to describe what you actually learned there? Let alone implement what you have learned?

Congratulations! Then you have recognized what neuroscience has known for many years: Once heard means neither learned nor retained nor implemented. Effective learning requires more than what is still sold as standard in the education market.

But what does an effective sustainable learning approach look like in the world of 'New Work'?

As Jan Foelsing and Andrea Schmitz describe in their great book 'New Work needs New Learning', there are two types of learning approaches: exploitative and exploratory learning. Both approaches are equally important in the world of constant, rapid change.

You learn exploitatively when you want to improve your current skills, e.g. your Excel skills. According to Foelsing and Schmitz, you do not learn exploitatively through formal courses, but rather completely self-directed 'on the job' based on a very specific challenge, i.e. with the help of performance support (e.g. the great help function in Excel, a Google search, YouTube tutorials, a Q&A session with an expert). From our experience, this can be accompanied by effective learning support in practice-oriented and application-centered blended learning formats, which ensure immediate learning transfer.

Exploratory learning means that you explore new things so that you can help shape the future of your own work or acquire future-oriented skills. Unfortunately, this is often neglected in the stress of everyday life, but it is becoming increasingly important for companies and also for you in order to remain employable. Because many job related tasks will be eliminated in the future or change dramatically. In order to get an introduction to new topics, it can be useful, among other things, to take part in an interesting formal course. Above all, though, exploratory learning consists of getting in touch with other people, exchanging ideas (e.g. in bar camps or VR events) and jointly developing the first creative prototypes for new products or sustainable processes.

How can you give your learning approach a little update?

To begin with, take 15-30 minutes to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is a core skill that you would like to improve on in your current job?

  • Which tools, sources and experts can help you to constantly become a little better in your day-to-day work?

  • Where will your field of activity develop in the future?

  • Which courses, conferences etc. can you attend this year to prepare for the future?

Here are a few more inspirational sources for your search for exciting future topics and courses:

  • Google Digital Garage:

  • LinkedIn Learning:

  • Coursera:

  • Future Institute (German):

Twin tip: It's the mini steps that help you establish habits! Don't take on too much, but start small, e.g. with 5 minutes a day. Consistently sticking with it is more important in habit building than the actual time you put in.

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