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Lubna Haq, Director of SmartSpace Learning, explores tailored learning to individuals strengths and experiences and the benefits of creating their own ‘SmartSpace’.

A radically new way of learning

Learning and development has gone through so many ‘fads’ that if you google “learning and development” you get 1,120,000,000 hits! So you may think there is nothing new to say. At SmartSpace Learning we think otherwise.

Since time immemorial, ‘teaching’ has been about transferring knowledge or skill from an expert to a pupil. Over the last three decades there has been more focus on developing behaviours for success both at school and at work. Undoubtedly skills and knowledge are needed but do they really make a difference to how people think, interact with others, lead successful lives or perform at work? A glut of research exists to show that whilst pockets of behavioural development have had a positive impact, they haven’t really led to sustainable change at either a personal or an organisational level.

The problems are fundamental and obvious:

Development designed as a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Even when organisations believe the development they are offering is bespoke and tailored to individual needs, this is rarely the case.

Behavioural change is critical but if individuals can only relate to their learning in a work context and then only to particular situations, inevitably, change will not be meaningful and therefore not sustainable.

Research shows that the way we choose to behave in any given situation is based on a combination of what makes us who we are, what we value and how our preferences interact with that situation. How often are we likely to find ourselves in exactly the same situation and conditions time after time?

Being passionate about helping people be the best they can be as individuals and leaders, we believe that a radically different approach is needed. One that recognises our individual uniqueness and is applicable to a myriad of situations from our personal lives, to work, family and social settings. An approach that helps individuals flex what they do for a successful outcome in any situation they find themselves in, wherever they are.

We call this an adaptive behavioural approach. It is different because we believe this is the way to achieve long term, sophisticated change. When supported with an effective social environment – the power of learning through other peoples’ experiences, (successes and things that didn’t quite work) we can create a powerful movement for change.

Our personal backgrounds, where we live, our beliefs, education, values and experiences have shaped us and the way in which we behave with others.  As a result, each of us has our own internal ‘SmartSpace’ of how we manage our interactions with other people, which is as unique as fingerprints. My life shapes my ‘SmartSpace’ just as your life shapes yours.

So to help people to be better at how they interact with others, whether at home or work, then a standardised you-all-do-the-same-thing development approach is certain to under achieve. Instead we believe in helping individuals to explore their experiences and strengths around people and their real world context, and to figure out how to improve in the way that will best benefit them and the organisations they work in.

By doing this, and bringing people together to learn as appropriate, it is possible to address both personal development and business issues in a seamless way.

This is not rocket science but is not an approach that organisations take. The 70:20:10 philosophy has become common parlance for learning that delivers return on investment.  This focuses on 70% of learning being done on the job, 20% through mentoring and relationships and 10% through formal learning. However, very little is actually done to make the 70% – the work based learning part – effective.

To get the most out of the 70% we need people to be putting their learning into practice daily, testing, trialling and learning from others experiences. It is crucial therefore that the 20 and 10 really focus on providing confident, relevant behavioural techniques that people will be excited to put in place. We are convinced that an adaptive behavioural approach will help to focus the investment on the 20 (learning from relationships) and the 10 (formal learning spaces) and therefore ultimately help to deliver a learning environment that delivers business results and well-rounded individuals. This would help us to be more fulfilled in our personal lives and have a more meaningful impact on society and the world we live in.

If your interest has been piqued and you would like to discuss this further, please contact Lubna Haq at

Find out more about SmartSpace by visiting the website. Click the link here.

Lubna Haq – Director, SmartSpace Learning

Lubna Haq
Lubna is an experienced business leader. Most recently she worked as a partner in a global company responsible for designing and introducing leadership programmes targeted at middle managers. Her experience also covers both  the public and voluntary sectors where she held senior roles. During her 30 year career, Lubna has been responsible for designing and delivering award winning programmes, especially within the NHS. She has developed many national competency frameworks and is an experienced coach. Her passion is diversity and inclusion and she has worked with financial services, public sector organisations and central government to help them develop creative and innovative solutions to make the most of their workforce.
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