Learning, and helping others in their learning process, is what I love to do. Even when I was still a Psychology student, I was already working as a freelance trainer in the field of intercultural learning, communication, training for trainers and team development. After graduating I started to work also as a teacher at university. Actually, ‘designer of learning experiences’ would be a better description, as I really took the learning process of the students as my vantage point, and included them in the process of creating their own classes. I also worked as a trainer and coach for student tutors from the Law Faculty. And worked with students facilitating trainings on conflict mediation.
Learning is something that happens in so many different ways. It can be practicing specific behaviour – like tools of communication. It also takes place when a team works on the way how to organize themselves. And I also learn when I deal with personal challenges in coaching situations. To facilitate these very different learning processes is something that fascinates me.
Joining Kessels & Smit
This summer, I joined Kessels & Smit, because it seems like a perfect new learning environment for me. It offers me the inspiration and the space to do what I love and what I am good at. And I really like the challenge of building Kessels & Smit in Germany. It appeals to the entrepeneurial side of me. I believe that we can add a special quality to the field of consultancy, with our focus on personal responsibility for learning, on talents and strengths and our knack for innovative forms of learning and development. Taking a systemic perspective on things but not keep ourselves as facilitators outside the process. I want to use all of these qualities to help build fruitful learning environments and facilitate learning processes in all kinds of organisations.
Creating learning environments
In my view, the quality of a learning environment or a learning process can be influenced both by intervening in the tangible aspects - where do people meet, materials to work with, setting of the group… - and the intangible ones – group dynamics, patterns of communication -. I am very much inspired by Edgar Schein (MIT professor for management) whose concept of culture helps to “dig deeper” and get to underlying assumptions and values and Edward T Hall, the famous anthropologist who developed such a sharp eye for the ‘unspoken’ communications in groups.
An eye for detail
Using an eye for detail when creating learning space is something that I find very powerful. Adding apparently trivial details can make the whole experience a different one. I love to look for those meaningful interventions: a slight shift in the way a question is phrased, in a room setting, in materials provided for the participants beforehand, in processes already starting before in-person-meetings take place… Things that make a difference. Because they help people to open up, arouse curiosity and spark questions or even because they make the process more enjoyable… all vital when it comes to learning.
Work and Learning
Creating space for learning is important in training processes, but a challenge that I like even more is to turn work environments into learning spaces. Where people can contribute to the organisation with all of their strengths, talents and curiosity. That is something that is vital for organisations, as the level of complexity and the speed of change increases, but it is also important for individuals.
In my own work, learning and working also go hand in hand. I enjoy finding new ways of doing things, being creative, brainstorming ideas, experimenting, and looking for the patterns, motives and drive behind people’s observable behaviour. I guess I am not only a creator of learning space, but maybe even more an explorer. Also in the sense that I love to work internationally, the way cultural habits have an impact on communication and interaction intrigues me, I enjoy being in new environments, trying to find out what’s it all about. So it’s a bit hard to predict the future, it’s a learning journey and I am really looking forward to the projects and people that will make this journey an intriguing one!