The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.

Author:Fillicaro, Barbara
Position:Book review

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning, by Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock, Andrew Jefferson, and Richard D. Flanagan, Book, 2006, John Wiley & Sons, $40.

I enjoy cooking and my favorite cooking show is America's Test Kitchen (ATK). They tell you what they are going to cook and show you examples of the finished product before the cooking demonstration begins. They put the dish together before your eyes, plate up the results, and enjoy tasting the results.

Granted, other cooking shows do the same thing, but ATK seems to cut to the chase and tell the viewer what he or she needs to know. One appealing characteristic of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning is the simplicity of the authors' approach, just like ATK's no-frills presentation. Perhaps "simplicity" is the wrong word to use here; perhaps "clarity" and "economy" are better words to describe this book's delivery of the message.

Just like a recipe, breakthrough learning has six ingredients. Think of each ingredient as a curry, which are a blend of different seasonings. Granted, the execution of each discipline is not simple! In fact, each of the six disciplines has many ingredients contributing to its successful execution and completion. The authors have succeeded in condensing into just over 200 pages the wisdom of the few for efficient use by the many.

After the introduction, each chapter is dedicated to one of the six disciplines. I have decided not to enumerate the disciplines here since I feel that would give away too much. However, here are one-sentence summaries of each chapter:

  1. Pick the right problem.

  2. Employ adult learning principles.

  3. Maximize retention.

  4. Provide reminders and milestones.

  5. Motivate managers to coach.

  6. Support continuous improvement.

The summaries don't really do justice to the book, but I am hoping they will motivate you to read it.

At the end of each chapter is an Action Point for Learning Leaders and an Action Point for Line Leaders. There are dozens of questions and statements posed in the Action Point section that make the reader think. For instance,

For Learning Leaders: Will the value [of the learning] be obvious to participants? Will they know how and when to use what they learn? For Line Leaders: Review the learning and development programs that affect your area of responsibility. Look for logical links among the...

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