People love to learn. The evidence surrounds us – on fan sites and Facebook, compiled for personal and public blogs, on shelves at our favorite stores, in memes that spread with speed marketing teams envy. We want to collect and share experience that impact us; we do it all the time.
But we also differentiate that from “real” learning – the stuff that gets you jobs and promotions and bigger paychecks. “Real” learning is hard. Expensive. Boring. Sometimes (oh, who are we kidding, usually) all three. And that does a disservice to learning.
Devaluing the everyday as “not real learning” means three things:
- We don’t open our eyes to the learning experiences that occur naturally around us – meaning individuals miss chances to learn and organizations miss changes to pass on the knowledge and skills they want people to pick up.
- We see learning as a separate activity from living, as if we only absorb things when we’re told that’s the purpose of the experience.
- We develop a distaste for the concept of “learning.” Let’s face it – if it costs you money and time, takes a lot of work, and bores you to tears, why would you want to do it?
This, I think, is one of the main reasons we have a corporate culture in which companies regularly rank communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills as both the most important and least developed skills in their new hires. Schools don’t prepare students to learn outside the classroom, and companies aren’t prepared to help them make that adjustment.
As an adult learning professional who works with companies, then, I advocate making learning the very backbone of work – something that’s natural, encouraged, and celebrated. In a world where Alexa or Google can give us any fact we want in less time than it took us to ask for it, we simply can’t say that it’s too hard or too expensive to make this shift. We have the technology and the expertise – now, we just need the dedication and the drive. We’ll see companies succeed (and die) by their learning opportunities in the future. Heck, we’re seeing it now.
I can’t tell you what those opportunities look like for your organization. Learning is context-specific. First, you first need to understand what your organization has, what it lacks, what it refuses and embraces and tolerates. Then, you can figure out what learning foundation your company’s people will both support and embrace.
I can tell you, because I’ve seen it, that if you weave learning into the culture you have, you can transform it. And if you don’t, you’ll transform it anyway – you just may not like the lessons people are learning.
I’d love to talk to you about building a learning culture. If you want to chat, contact me.