June 13, 2020

Learning culture – some thoughts

Reading glasses and book

Someone asked me how to go about creating a learning culture and I sent them this response…

I have always been a little bit leery of the concept of a learning culture. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just that I’m not convinced that it should be put on a pedestal as an outcome in its own right.

From an organisational perspective, we want a culture that promotes good performance when executing the organisational strategy. If that requires learning, and it usually does, then we need to promote learning as a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself.

If we promote a performance culture, people will automatically learn when they need to, given that someone is delivering to them what they need in order to learn when they need to learn. That is, someone is making learning easy.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to promote learning when it is in pursuit of a common vision that fulfils a common purpose. People will learn what they need to learn in order to participate in that pursuit. The key to a learning culture is not so much about encouraging learning. It is more about ensuring people have good leadership and are doing meaningful work.

With good leadership, people become fully engaged in executing the organisational strategy, and that engagement ensures they will want to learn. They want to succeed, so they will learn to enable that success. If there are barriers to the learning they need, then the engagement has to be extremely high for them to work harder to overcome those barriers. Removing the barriers to learning and providing easy learning opportunities that are relevant to executing the organisational strategy will lead to a learning-oriented culture, but only if the right level of leadership is in place. If leadership is missing, and therefore there is no compelling vision or purpose, people will not be moved to do anything different, and therefore there will be little motivation to learn, even if you have provided easy access to all of the learning opportunities that are possible.

I guess what I’m saying, is that a learning culture is a side effect rather than something that happens as a result of somebody saying, “I am going to build a learning culture”.

What do you think?

My best wishes, Paul

Paul Matthews

CEO and Founder of People Alchemy

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