The 4 Mat Model

A workplace is made up of any number of complex individuals who all have different ways of perceiving things, different ways of interpreting information and different ways of learning new information. As a manager of people, it’s a good idea to bear this in mind when sharing new information, delegating tasks, training or coaching your dynamic team. 

Luckily, there’s a great system in place that makes this much simpler, by grouping people into one of four categories depending on their style/ preference to learning new things.

It’s called The 4-Mat Learning Model, and is still as relevant today as it was when it was first introduced back in 1980 by Bernice McCarthy. This approach is a great tool for leaders and trainers that I recommend time and time again. The 4-mat model is a useful framework for understanding the way in which individuals go through the process of interpreting, assimilating, acting on and integrating knowledge.

 In a nutshell, people fall into one of the following four categories, and you can get an indication of which category they fall into by what type of questions they ask; 

Type 1 – People who want to know WHY – the imaginative types 

These individuals are known as the “imaginative type” who are often led by feelings. Given new information they tend to spend time reflecting, seeking personal meaning and involvement, and finding out what the bigger meaning of the information is and how it all ties in.

They are driven by making connections and finding meaning in themselves and others. These people will ask the question “why” when faced with new information. “Why am I learning this?”. “Why is it significant?”. “Why is this something we are investing our time and resources in?”.

They enjoy learning about people and ideas and hearing others’ opinions about a topic. These people work best with leaders and trainers who motivate and provide meaning. 

Type 2 – People who want to know WHAT- the analytical types 

These individuals are more analytic in their approach to learning. They like to listen to and think about information they receive.

They will focus their energy into seeking facts, thinking through and formulating various ideas, and learning what the experts think. These people are driven to ask “what” questions. “What do the experts must say?”. “What data is available?”. “What information can I get about this?”.

They like an organised learning environment and enjoy trainers who are knowledgeable about the topic. The analytical types work best under the leadership of people who provide information, substantiate it and allow time for reflection.

Type 3 – People who want to know HOW – the practical types 

These individuals use common sense and like to think and then move quickly into the actual doing. They tend to be driven to experiment, build, and apply useful ideas quickly.

These people are driven by “how” questions like “how can I start?”. Being the most practical they are compelled to take a hands-on approach and enjoy learning with a leader who has real-world credibility and plenty of knowledge.

The practical types work best under the leadership of people who allow practice and testing and provide feedback without doing it for them.

Type 4 – People who want to find out WHAT IF – the dynamic types 

These are the ‘out of the box’ thinkers, constantly seeking new possibilities and exploring ideas to create original adaptations.

These people learn by trial and error and self-discovery. They like to ‘do’ and then move back into their own space of evaluation. These people are most likely to ask “what if” type questions like “what if we try doing it this way?”.

Leaders and trainers of these types should make allowances for trial and error and ask questions about what they learned while practicing. 

For leaders who want to provide an engaging and dynamic learning environment, the 4-mat model is a great framework to incorporate into any workplace. If you’d like to learn more don’t hesitate to get in touch with me today.

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