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Thinking Differently About A Culture of Learning

In our last blog post we shared some creative ways to think about strategic planning and promised more. Let’s talk about a Culture of Learning.

It’s a buzzword right now but an important concept to consider. You can read a lot of helpful articles about how to build a culture of learning in an organization; at Inno-Versity we think about it differently. We believe you already have one. We believe all humans are created with a desire to learn and grow.

It’s something we address at the beginning of any strategic planning session with a client, because everything builds on that culture. Below are three critical steps to fostering a culture of learning.

  1. Change what you call it

The first step to promoting the desire to learn is something as simple as changing terminology and as complex as an entire paradigm shift for an organization. Since we truly believe all humans are created to learn, we also believe they can learn in all kinds of ways. Learning doesn’t just happen in the training room. It happens in all kinds of locations and with all kinds of methods. Let’s replace the term training with learning experiences. This encourages team members to look at all experiences as opportunities to learn. You’ll find some of our favorite ideas at the end of this article.

  1. Make sure you value it

Of course this change in company culture cannot happen unless it is not only supported, but encouraged, by leadership. Valuing learning happens even in the hiring process. At Inno-Versity, we’ve found excellent instructional designers must be curious because in our business we are always learning. But the same should be true in any company that fosters a culture of learning. The hiring process should include looking for curious people who are committed to helping the company grow. Beyond that, the entire talent development and performance appraisal process needs to be built to encourage learning experiences. Many of these systems already recognize the formal training sessions, workshops attended or eLearning modules taken, but how many recognize the countless small learning experiences that can—and should—be happening? Which leads us to our next point…

  1. Allow more time to develop it

Is time given to team members to share their skills and knowledge—such as creating how-to videos or podcast recordings? Does leadership encourage, praise and reward team members who go out of their way to share their experience with others? When development activity is supported, you may be surprised at how many want to be involved. Motivation comes in many forms and is often not monetary. We recommend reading Drive by Daniel Pink for more on this topic.

A Culture of Learning. Yes, it’s a buzzword, but also an important foundational concept—something we address at the beginning of any strategic planning session with our clients.

We encourage you to rethink how you define a culture of learning in your organization.

Below we’ve listed some of our favorite ways to foster this culture.

  • Encourage mentoring, job shadowing, and coaching; both formal and informal.
  • Require team members to spend “X” amount of hours on growth—and not just professional growth. Yes, we said that. When Sarah watches YouTube videos to learn how to play the guitar, you’ve got yourself a curious employee who will look for ways to improve your product and job flow, as well.
  • Build an internal library of expertise. Remember Sarah? Ask her to make some “how-to” videos of that complicated software she’s using. Have her get her co-workers involved.
  • Ask team members for their examples of typical situations that a coach could address. Create simple job aids that provide an on-the-spot tool for a coach or manager to use.
  • Stop the boring Excel and PowerPoint presentations. Simplify complicated data into interesting and easy-to-digest infographics that can be referred to independently and at-a-glance.
  • Have some busy experts in the company? Record simple short interviews with them that can be accessed via iTunes or other music-sharing sites for the ride home.
  • Provide a list of blogs, YouTube channels or iTunes U courses that are applicable to your organization and encourage team members to subscribe. Teach them how to build their own personal learning network.