We have been learning since the moment we came to this world. Learning how to cry, how to talk, how to throw a temper tantrum to get what we want, how to speak a 3rd language, how to make a living, how to find love. But since when we stopped proactively learning at work, or even in life?
In a work context, organizational learning had been a prominent subject for decades. In fact, just by a cursory search, you will be able to find out Harvard published an elaborsate piece about it in the 1990s.
Learning is not just for individuals and their own gains, but it is also a crucial gateway to growth hacking and innovation.
Why is it Important?
While many like Capilano University’s Exec Ed’s article has suggested performance-related uplifts are the main benefits of this highly regarded culture, the ripple effect of the culture might be the bigger gain for organizations as a whole — from impacting the bigger organizational learnings, cross-function innovation, corporate preparedness into new challenges and change, productivity, retention, and more.
For individuals, the learning culture is crucial to developing a growth mindset, which could lead to a whole realm of change and improvement. And imagine if the apocalypse is truly near, would a growth mindset human outlive a fixed mindset counterpart? wink
Create a Safe Place
Humans are emotional beings. If we aren’t feeling safe, we won’t venture into the wild and will fall back to the caves or wherever that we can be prepared for danger. It’s the same for the workplace. If you don’t have an environment for your people to speak freely and harness new knowledge, and people are scared that running new ideas is taboo or challenging the status quo might lose their jobs, why should they pick up any knowledge in the first place?
You can start by building tools & channels, implementing policies, and building your management ranks the compassion and support to the agenda, so it becomes a culture. Claire Trans also has some exceptional tips in her Medium article.
Know Your People
We have been personalizing communications to customers for many years now. Why should treating staff any different? If you think you should implement a corporate learning program and call it a day, think again, and it’s time to wake up.
Learning is not always about force-feeding more hard skills to pile onto your employees to directly benefit the organization. It could be encouraging someone to expand their scope to try different things, allowing them to execute their unlikely ideas to make a fair evaluation, it could be asking what THEY want and do what you can to empower their passion, or buying a book for your mentee so she can better her vegan cooking when you are in real estate business (true story).
It’s like sowing the best seeds to the soil, ensuring you have a safe surrounding and empowering with water and nutrients. Trust and believe it will blossom to a great garden. Though, you can always group-plant the same seed into every piece of land and make it a cornfield, your choice.
Make it Part of the (Work) Life
Start by asking questions and making employees question things. This can be extremely hard because we generally don’t want too many questions throwing at each other, especially in corporate settings. Given a safe space though, you would like to empower your team with growth mindsets to drive change and value.
And perhaps, make it a regular thing. Have a forum, a regular meeting to look at things, more conversational Q&As in performance reviews than purely looking at metrics, focus on improving than critiquing. Remember, incremental innovation can be a compelling thing to have.
Lead by Example
Okay, let’s be real. For most of us who have worked in large MNCs, this “Lead by Example” thing can feel like complete garbage.
We all have never seen “leaders” do things that don’t align with the company values and missions (which usually have a thing or two about openness). So imagining them to take the high road for learning and accepting ideas and change can be exceedingly doubtful.
So buckle up, as I quote an HBR piece “if you want to nurture your team’s curiosity or unlock learning in your organization, you should practice what you preach”. Show your people that you can walk the walk, and will continue to do so as a leader.
As Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus put it: change is the only constant. Embrace it as early as you can, and keep learning.