Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Culture of Learning

Culture is the residue of learning.

Culture is the collective mindset, attitude, and behavior. Culture is the residue of learning. In other words, leaders set a culture based on their vision and leadership substance and style. Much of this becomes "the way we do things around here." What are the factors that shape up an organization's culture? What are they, and how to change organizations and for that matter societal culture to become more learning agile in order to adapt to the "VUCA" characteristics of the digital age? And how can you align business scorecards, awards and recognition, policies and procedures which drive behaviors from the "old" culture, to reinvent the digital culture of learning?

Creating a learning culture requires a seismic shift in leadership and management attitudes and behaviors. The spirit comes from the top. Managers need to be role models and coaches of innovation and improvement and take calculated risks. Errors/failures can then be seen as opportunities and drivers for learning and improvement - and not reasons to blame and punish. Learning, innovation and improvement will come from all of the workforce and not just the chosen few who believe they have all the answers. And at the core of all of this learning needs to be a deep understanding of systemic thinking and the psychology of how people learn. Learning is a lifelong process, not one-off events. To create a culture of learning means having the right pro-learning mindset, particularly from leaders and managers. Culture is about values and behaviors, so you can't just rely on processes. Start with developing leaders that value learning, then find a way to evaluate the benefits, so that everyone can see how it works.

The thought leaders are empowered and curiosity is encouraged in building a culture of learning. Most of the hierarchical organizations are process and control driven. Emphasis is on compliance with the result people forget to think freely. Why organizations are not realizing that the very process and controls instituted emanated from the thought process of people and to be robust and helpful must allow people to think and contribute to the design and restructure the process. But to enable lateral thinking, opportunities must be created for learning both within and outside. Most of the organizations do not think on these lines. They feel it costs a lot of money and serves very little purpose. What a short-sighted view and an outdated idea! Despite the fact that it is proved time and again that organizations attaching great significance to learning and training go a long way and are leaders.

The culture of learning fosters openness, information sharing, critical and independent thinking. In a positive working environment, people focus on the learning opportunities offered by assignment, rather than on the status quo that goes with them. The “we always do things like this,” or the graduation attitudes are discouraged, ideas and experience are shared, communication and collaboration are harnessed, and the positive energy flows like water and innovation sparks like rainbow. So there is no space for the negative emotions or behaviors, such as envy, gossiping or any kind of unprofessionalism. The organization’s learning culture is the basis of the company diversity of staffing, outlining the types of duties assigned to perform with the requirement of job details, and it takes the high innovative and intelligent methodology to achieve workforce success.

A learning culture is something that must be ubiquitous in the organization, and this is not an easy task, people at the top must be on board, bought in and role modelling to encouraging the 'new way of doing things.' Making learning a priority helps with succession planning and knowledge transfer. Be open to learning and sharing new knowledge. A focus on learning and development reduces attrition and has a great quantitative ROI. Culture innovation comes from the top and any time there is a shift in culture, it can take years to establish the trust required to make it work. However, for business or society’s long-term prosperity, it worths the effort.


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