Boosting Performance Through Blending Formal and Experiential Learning

In an evolving and changing professional world, incorporating learning opportunities where learners can actually experience, reflect, apply and make new skills their own is essential to maximize their potential.

At VPS, we have successfully applied this combination in product launches, sales, soft-skills, and managerial training paths. Using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory as a framework, here’s an example of how we’ve applied this in product/sales training:

Concrete Experience

Start by engaging learners in real-world experiences. This could involve participating in activities, trying out new tasks, or immersing them in situations related to what they need to learn.

Example: After receiving formal training on product and competitors, sales representatives were asked to act as mystery shoppers to understand what other brands were offering and how they were presenting the features/benefits to potential customers.

Reflective Observation

After the concrete experience, take time to reflect.

Example: After acting as a mystery shopper, sales representatives were asked to document their findings, using a form with questions like:

  • How did the competitor sales representative explain their product features/benefits?
  • How did they handle objections?
  • Were my needs as a “potential customer” addressed?
  • What did I learn?

Abstract Conceptualization

Use your reflections to formulate abstract concepts.

Example: Once sales representatives answered the form, they participated in an open forum guided by a coach, to share their most relevant findings and how they could be applied to enhance their own demonstration of the product to potential customers.

Active Experimentation

Put your abstract concepts into action. Apply what you’ve learned in real-world scenarios.

Example: Finally, sales representatives were asked to role-play a product demonstration with a colleague, implementing at least 3 lessons learned from the previous activities that didn’t use to be part of their product demonstrations before. They were asked to get feedback from their peer on what worked and what didn’t during that exercise.

Each stage and learning opportunity builds upon the previous one, leading to a deeper understanding and skill development. In addition, experiential learning allows learners to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for their own growth. But as shown in the example, this doesn’t mean this has to be an individual process, quite the opposite. In fact, combining experiential learning opportunities with coach guidance and social learning, where learners can share their insights and get feedback, takes these experiences to the next level, where collaborative results/conclusions and best practices can be more organically identified.

Virtual environments create cost-effective ways to create these opportunities and follow-up on learners’ insights, questions, and then guide them towards a common, corporate-oriented result.


Some of the results VPS has obtained when applying these principles are:

  • An increased number of learners engaged in their training paths up to 25%, getting them involved in practical experiences, making it easy for them to see on the job application. At the same time, training costs go down from 25 to 40% by incorporating virtual tools and environments – as opposed to solely relying on hands-on training.
  • 99% positive feedback (learners saying “I would like to use it again”). And 98% of learners saw high learning impact, with comments like: “I really think this training achieved a new level of excellence…After 23 years, I have never had a training that prepared me so well for a customer. This learning journey provided me with on-going feedback, the ability to retain knowledge and to practice.”

Learners not only grasped the concept, but also honed their teamwork, creativity and critical thinking skills with the successful combination of formal and experiential learning. Are you looking for ways your company can embrace these principles and transform the way your people are learning?

Contact us today. We would be happy to discuss your needs and how we can help you achieve your training and development goals.