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  • Writer's pictureRob Buckingham

Crazy idea: connecting the leadership buying cycle with learning theory

Updated: May 9, 2023

Earlier posts covered the importance of building soft skills, their impacts on the organization (click to read), and how hard it is to build an ROI for soft skill development (click to read). In hindsight, it all looks pretty planned and logical. However, there were many twists, turns, and aha moments in our journey to find our place in the learning and development ecosystem. Oddly, the buying cycle was one of those early models that helped shape our thinking.


How did the buying cycle inform our early thinking? Let’s do a quick level set. The buying cycle is a series of stages a consumer goes through before purchasing. It typically involves several steps, including:

  1. Problem recognition: The consumer realizes they need or desire a product or service.

  2. Information search: The consumer begins researching options to satisfy their needs or desires.

  3. Evaluation of alternatives: The consumer compares and evaluates different products or services based on their features, benefits, price, and other factors.

  4. Purchase decision: The consumer selects the product or service they want.

  5. Post-purchase evaluation: The consumer assesses their satisfaction with the product or service they purchased and decides whether they will repurchase it.

During my MBA, I learned this as awareness, knowledge, preference, purchase, and post-purchase. It has stuck with me because I’ve applied it in designing marketing and sales processes. Maybe I "purchased" the model and "bought it again"? Does a learner go through a similar process in developing a new skill?


Bloom’s Taxonomy

We had heard from early customers that a key component in our value proposition was “effective development through the application.” They meant that our framework reinforced prior learning in real-time and on the job. Our research connected us to Bloom’s taxonomy.


Bloom's Taxonomy has been updated since its original development in the 1950s. The most recent revision, Bloom's Taxonomy 2.0, was published in 2001 by a group of cognitive psychologists led by Lorin Anderson, a former student of Benjamin Bloom.


The revised taxonomy maintains the original six levels of cognitive learning but reorders and redefines some of the levels. The six levels of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy are:

  1. Remembering: This level remains the same as the original taxonomy and involves recalling information or facts from memory.

  2. Understanding: This level remains the same as the original taxonomy and involves comprehending the meaning of the information or facts.

  3. Applying: This level remains the same as the original taxonomy and involves using the information or facts in a new situation or context.

  4. Analyzing: This level is redefined in the revised taxonomy to involve breaking down the information or facts into component parts and examining them for patterns, relationships, or cause-and-effect.

  5. Evaluating: This level is redefined in the revised taxonomy to involve making judgments about the information or facts based on a set of criteria and standards.

  6. Creating: This level remains the same as the original taxonomy and involves using the information or facts to generate new ideas, solutions, or products.

So what are the similarities between the two frameworks?

  • In the buying cycle, consumers start with awareness and knowledge about a product or service. In Bloom's Taxonomy, learners start with remembering and understanding a topic or concept.

Side Note: They will most likely need to be reminded. See the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve from a previous blog post.

  • Application: In the buying cycle, consumers apply their knowledge and make a purchase decision. In Bloom's Taxonomy, learners apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems or complete tasks.

  • Post-purchase: Having a deep understanding of the components and interactions and reusing and reforming in new situations.


To summarize, buyers and learners need to know a concept through a delivery method and content. They then apply this knowledge to make a decision or perform an activity. If they have forgotten or misunderstood, they will most likely get a result that does not meet their expectations, so reinforcement is required. Mastery drives confidence, agility, and creativity in new situations.


And that’s how we leaped from something we knew, to something new in our thinking, to understanding qChange as an innovative experiential learning platform.


Next up: how do companies deliver soft skill training today, and to whom. Are we just “ticking the box for the majority?”


qChange Innovation Stories shares the learnings of building a next-generation experiential learning company in a sea of entrenched capabilities and status quo thinking.


To learn more, email: rbuckingham@qchange.com

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