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June 14, 2022

What type of learner are you?

In the advertising industry we can cover a lot of ground in a week, and even a day. One minute you’re talking about TV advertising for cosmetics, the next you’re solving complex CRM challenges in B2B for an engineering company – and scoping a website build in-between. We need to be chameleons with our knowledge and able to provide well thought out responses across many different subjects.

For our last OutThink, our Chief Brand Officer Angela Smith talked about many of the initiatives we’ve introduced to instil a culture of thinking in our team. One of those initiatives – Library Hour – led me down a rabbit hole on the different types of learning, and the related methods that can be used to improve the way we learn.  

Optimising our thinking  

It may sound obvious, but one way we can think better is through learning more. At a biological level, learning generates new synapses in our brain, which keeps our grey matter healthier and working hard. But ultimately, the broader our core knowledge, the easier it is for us to devote more focused time to the type of creative thinking required to solve the problem, not just getting up to speed on the basics.

Despite how many of us were taught in school – sit down, back straight, eyes front, pencils ready – research shows us that there are four distinct learning styles. These can be best defined as the following:

  1. Visual: Learn via graphic information, such as arrows, charts, diagrams, symbols, frameworks. 
    For this type of learner we grab a whiteboard pen, or use a MIRO board which is a fantastic online whiteboarding tool. Like many strategists, for me this is a key way to build understanding, or explain something to others … in fact, I can barely get through a meeting without putting a diagram or framework up.
  2. Auditory: Learn when presented to by a speaker or in a group setting.
    For auditory learners, we find presenting an idea, then asking them to present back what they just heard is a great technique to reinforce the key messages. This type of learner often gravitates towards things like podcasts.
  3. Kinaesthetic: Hands on learners who learn by doing through practical examples and simulations.
    We’ve found great success with interactive survey tools such as to get our colleagues to answer questions and participate, further enhancing learning.
  4. Reading/writing: Review written text and presentations, taking notes on content they want to reference.
    This is the classic learning type – and the one the education system has traditionally been built around through reading books, doing research and writing essays. But of all the learning types, this approach often requires the most amount of time for something to be properly absorbed. Often it requires sharing written content, then giving an opportunity for your audience to share their understanding through their own writing.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all one thing or another though. We may each lean towards one particular style, or learn different types of content better in different kinds of ways (for example, I have to follow a recipe line by line when cooking, while my partner will happily watch a cooking video, and then just get into it). But ultimately, we should all apply a range of these approaches in sharing information and to solidify our learning so it turns into retained knowledge. And if something doesn’t make sense, it’s important to pipe up and say something – perhaps it can be reframed through another approach that will help you take it in better.

What lessons have AFFINITY learned?

Over the past few years, we’ve identified two key ways we can all learn better:  

Use it or lose it.

You need to put what you’ve learned into practice. Fast. It’s critically important that you use what you learn in practical ways. This could be as simple as reiterating your learning in a presentation to a wider team, or in the case of learning to use a piece of technology, getting hands on and applying your knowledge as soon as possible. Indeed, as Angela talked about in her post, if new information isn’t applied quickly, we’ll generally forget around 75% of it within the first six days.

More collaboration drives more learning 

Collaborating and discussing new learnings with colleagues isn’t just an opportunity to verbally explain your learnings so far (and thus reinforce the knowledge), they’ll often provide a new perspective on it that you may not have thought of before (and as a result, broadening your knowledge).  

In the coming months, we’ll be sharing more articles on how help drive better thinking, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the key sources the AFFINITY team looks to:

Martin Ciarocca, Performance Director

“I’ve been a regular listener to the CMO Podcast for the past year.”

Caspar Yuill, Senior Strategist

“I love using Anki. While learning something, you us Anki app, write questions, and then it prompts you to answer. Basically you’re testing yourself, and its massively speed up more time to learn something.”

Simon Bloomfield, Executive Creative Director

“There are a lot of great reference sites for creativity, but I think it’s important to have a balance between what we do every day and bigger picture thinking. So I tend to divide my time between sites like Little Black Book – to stay up to day on the latest campaigns globally – and Medium, for interesting writing and thought leadership.”

As for me, I’m a big fan of the Masterclass platform. The combination of engaging speakers and video-based presentation really appeals to my preferred way of learning. Plus, the length of content allows me to explore multiple subjects and apply them in different ways. American author Dan Pink ran an excellent series on Sales and Persuasion, which really got me thinking about how we need to do more persuasion than we think. Like getting your kids to drag themselves out of bed on time …


Better input always leads to greater outcomes

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