Skip to main content
Innovation & Creativity

Alchemic learning

 Alchemic learning
Published: March 15, 2016
Share this article:

Very recently a few of us at Impact decided to remind ourselves of what actually ‘makes us learn’. We made this a very personal enquiry and each thought hard about why some learning really sticks and some drifts out as easily as it drifts in! We realised that there are a set of conditions that make the learning truly ‘alchemic’ – it transforms us permanently, like a chemical change, as if we are no longer quite the same person. We liked the word “alchemic” as it refers to a seemingly magical process of transformation – although we know that it isn’t magic at all!

At Impact we want to make sure that we only ever provide ‘alchemic’ learning experiences, for our clients, that will make a genuine difference, so we came up with our….

List Of Circumstances That Have Made Learning ‘Alchemic’
  • When I had a driving reason and purpose for learning – when I have wanted the final result SO much that I applied myself doggedly and didn’t quit.
  • When I have drawn on a resource I didn’t know I had and my perception of myself and my capability has changed forever, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.
  • When I have finally had exposure either to a group of people or an experience that has fundamentally shaken up what I’d previously believed – when I’ve been forced to ‘wake up’ and have been really challenged in my thinking.
  • When I’ve been confronted with an insight that immediately switches my thinking, for example from a piece of personal feedback to a random phrase in a radio programme.

It’s been a fascinating exercise. Whole swathes of formal and structured learning experiences didn’t pass our Alchemic Learning Test. What did, were powerful experiences, adventures, real or imagined crises, great feedback, radical and courageous insights offered by others, exposure to the unfamiliar and stuff that we had just desperately wanted to be good at!

The return on the investment we make in L&D, when it passes the Alchemic Learning Test is measured in the different words a person uses, a different decision or choice they make – and these combine to create a person, a team, an organisation, a community, a society worth working for, however that is measured.

I guess what I’m saying is - if you want to see those changes, make sure you pour your creativity into learning that will get onto their “Learning That Sticks” list and don’t waste anyone’s time or money on anything else.

Liz Wilson is a Senior Consultant at Impact UK. Connect with her to try the test.