Masters of the UniverseI recently came across my first grade school photo, in which I was wearing my absolute favorite sweatshirt – The Masters of the Universe. I loved that sweatshirt! For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, the Masters of the Universe were a collection of cartoon characters led by the heroic He-man as they did battle with the evil forces of Skeletor. It is an absolute classic.

Oddly enough, the picture really got me thinking: He-Man is the master of his domain; he could charge out and fight with full confidence and power, knowing he has the skill and the strength to overcome any obstacle that he might face. He could crush any problem, any pain, or any person that gets in his way. While many of us admire that kind of confidence and ability, most of us need a lot of help to be the master of any domain, let alone the universe!

Mastering any kind of learning, at home or at work, requires multiple and consistent experiences of success. Not because we don’t want to learn or that we can’t learn; rather, we need multiple and consistent mastery experiences because we’re human. That’s just how we’re wired to learn. These repeated mastery experiences build deep into our core as indicators of capability. With enough time to work on the new skill, or the new knowledge, or behavior, we develop a sense of mastery with the learning so we grow to believe that we have the capability to succeed. Even more importantly, we grow to believe that we have the capability to persevere in times of difficulty.

In our ever changing and our increasingly fast-paced work environment, we need that kind of organizational tenacity to persevere and to succeed in times of trouble. The importance of this can’t be overlooked: The ability to thrive in times of difficulty is arguably the most important attribute for any organization. And because tenacity is not a naturally occurring phenomenon in the workplace, every organization needs training to get to this level of learning and performance. Unfortunately, not all training is created equal. In many cases, workplace training is more like exposure to information, which rarely leads to behavior change. Training that draws from experiential design, however; gives us time to practice the new learning and make mistakes in a safe environment. It gives us an opportunity to try and fail the first time without any serious consequences.

Experiential learning serves to enrich people and provides a platform for colleagues to feel comfortable learning together. It creates such powerful learning because it makes a difference in our real world and transfers back on to the job immediately. Experiential learning that is designed brilliantly does 3 things:

1. It replicates the business environment in a practical way. We learn how to do our jobs better by applying the principles of the experience in our work.

2. It leads to a meaningful and intended learning outcome. It draws out specific business learning in a predictable and repeatable way.

3. It’s fun! The fact that we are learning is almost hidden by the fact we’re enthralled with the experience.

He-Man had a magic sword that made him the most powerful man in the universe. But for us mere mortals, our magic sword is mastery experiences. For the most driven people I know, failure is not an option. I also know that even for them, learning is not an option without failure.