What can we learn from each other?

My friend is a middle school teacher. Twice a year, as part of a teachers’ professional day, the school runs a program in which a handful of teachers are selected to teach the rest of the faculty something. The instructing teachers can choose what they would like to teach but they need to structure their lessons for an adult audience instead of simply recreating something directly out of their middle school classroom.

Most people choose to teach something related to their curriculum but the only requirement is that the teachers must choose something in which they feel they have a level of expertise. In past years teachers have demonstrated everything from basic algebra to 18th century poetry to photography.

In a school environment the benefits of this activity are obvious: the instructing teacher has to adapt what she does to a different audience, requiring her to look at things in a new way and the learning teachers have to put themselves in the shoes of a student which can help them better connect with their pupils.

This sort of activity can also have great benefits in a non-academic work environment. For the instructor, it forces him to think about an area of expertise in a different way. Teaching somebody else a facet of one’s job or even the intricacies of a favorite hobby requires a complete understanding of that thing and an anticipation of the questions the audience will ask. The exercise also offers a great opportunity to develop or hone public speaking skills in a more comfortable setting.

On the other side, the learners have the opportunity to see their co-worker in a different light. If he chooses to teach something that is an element of his job, his co-workers will gain a greater understanding of how another function of the organization works. And, if he chooses to demonstrate one of his outside interests, they gain greater insight into his motivations and passions, as well as potentially learning something interesting about an unfamiliar subject.

Is there an opportunity in your workplace for co-workers to learn from each other in an organized way? Do you think it would have benefits for your organization?

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Dr. Michael Leiter, co-author of Banishing Burnout and The Truth about Burnout, is set to release his newest book on Work Engagement. Dr. Leiter founded the Canadian Centre for Organizational Research & Development and has researched organizational behaviour for more than two decades. He knows how to improve an organization’s bottom line (productivity and profitability by improving its top line - people. In fact, he and his co-author coined the term "work engagement" as the antithesis to burnout!

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