Studying versus Learning Business Analysis

Learning Business Analysis using the 70/20/10 RuleThere are two fundamental ways to learn how to do anything: the academic (theoretical) path and the apprenticeship (mentoring/coaching) path. Whether you choose the academic or apprenticeship route, acquiring any ability really follows the 70-20-10 rule defined by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger. According to this rule, 10% of learning comes from courses and books, 20% from feedback and from working examples, and the remaining 70% from doing it and solving problems as they arise. To translate this into BA-EXPERTS offers, we give you the 10% in our online, onsite, and blended training offers. Because we use many real-life examples in our courseware to kick-start your problem-solving abilities, we are also addressing the 20%. What about the whopping 70% left over? Our eMentoring/eCoaching offers help you solve real-life problems when you are under the gun and expected to perform in real time.

Is the Academic or Apprenticeship Path Better for Learning Business Analysis?

When you consider academic versus apprenticeship learning modes, one is not necessarily better than the other. Each is ideally suited for transferring different types of knowledge or skills and each suits some folks’ disposition better than the other. The academic model presents the basics of a skill in a setting that is removed from where you will be expected to use it in the future. The apprenticeship approach presents the skill in an environment similar to the one in which you will repeatedly apply the skill. These learning paths match up nicely with two fundamental types of skills people need to do pretty much any job, namely "near-transfer" and "far-transfer" skills.

Near- and Far-Transfer Skills Defined

You apply "near-transfer skills" in real life almost exactly the way you learn them. The setting in which you will use them resembles the setting from the classroom. Examples are typing, golfing, using a chain saw, etc. Near-transfer skills are best acquired and honed through mimicry, meaning repetition under similar conditions is key. Typically, the “instructor” will explain briefly what you need to do, demonstrate it, let you do it, critique your performance, and repeat ad nauseam until you achieve perfection (or as close to it as you want to get).

Activities in which you can learn the basics but cannot predict the circumstances under which you will need them (and which are most likely significantly different every time you do need them) fall into the "far-transfer" category. Because it is impossible to predict all possible situations in which you might need the ability, simple repetition can only go so far. Instructors can explain what, when, why, where, and how, but it is up to you to adapt your skill to the situation at hand when the rubber meets the road. A prime example is the military. Teaching soldiers how to shoot a gun is a near-transfer skill; teaching them when to shoot whom is definitely far-transfer. Other, business related examples of far-transfer skills: problem solving, analysis, synthesis, facilitation, etc. Far-transfer skills are best acquired and honed through exposure to a variety of very different scenarios in which the learner needs to figure out which basic tenets apply and how to apply the skill in that situation – most likely under time pressure and stress. Most human activity requires a combination of near- and far-transfer skills.

Where Does Business Analysis Fit?

As you can imagine, there are a few near-transfer skills involved in learning business analysis: typing, using requirements management tools, filling out a requirements template, etc. The "real work" of business analysis is, unfortunately, a far-transfer skill. To be an effective business analyst, you need to hone your research, interviewing, analyzing, synthesizing, problem-solving, relationship-building, and a whole lot more far-transfer abilities. At BA-EXPERTS, we recognize that both near- and far-transfer skills are important for the evolution of a business analyst. Our discovery learning-based training approach and our various delivery methods (classroom, online classroom, self-paced eCourses, eBooks, and eMentoring) recognize the different types of skills and select the appropriate combination to help the student become proficient in both with minimal effort.

When it comes to acquiring the skills necessary to wear the business analysis hat, as usual one size does not fit all.