The real culture of learning lives in the beliefs and attitudes of its people and namely around two key questions explored in this video.
- You'll find a lot of publications out there that talk about what a culture of learning is. Let's look at a couple of examples. Josh Bersin states that it's a collective set of organizational values, conventions, processes and practices that influence and encourage both individuals and the collective organization to continuously increase knowledge, competence and performance. The Corporate Executive Board defines it as a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization.
What's clear in all of the definitions is that a learning culture goes far beyond the workshops and training programs hosted by the learning team. Those offerings are certainly a big part of the picture, but the real culture of learning lives in the beliefs and attitudes of its people and namely around two key questions. How do we help people learn, grow, and improve? And perhaps more importantly, what do we do when people make a mistake or fail? The truth is that learning and failing are inherently linked.
You cannot have a positive and vibrant culture of learning if you do not also have a culture that is safe for taking risks and making mistakes, period. In fact, Harvard professor Dr. Amy Edmondson has coined the term psychological safety and has found it as the key differentiator for creating high-performing teams. She defines psychological safety as a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.
Both learning and failing are crucial. A metaphor that I find useful is that of a tree. For a tree to thrive and grow into its fullest potential, it needs to be rooted in soil, and the quality of that soil determines what we see above the surface. The soil represents how people are treated when they take risks and make mistakes. It's the very foundation in which the success of your organization is rooted. To grow a healthy tree, you must start with good soil. If it's sitting in toxic soil, it will never reach its full potential no matter how much sunlight and water it receives.
Water and sunlight represent the opportunities to learn and grow. And then you can add things that nurture and accelerate growth like fertilizer, deep root watering and pest control. All of these things happen above ground and are the elements most people think of when they talk about a culture of learning. Things like training events, leadership development programs, online learning resources, etc. And in the middle, you have the tree itself or an individual employee. They bring their mindset, current skills, and past experiences.
Let's take a deeper look at your current culture of learning by asking some questions. I've prepared a handout to help you do this and you'll find it in the exercise files for this course. First, let's explore how people really treat each other around taking risks and making mistakes. Some questions to consider include, do people admit when they don't know something or ask for help? What happens when someone makes a mistake or fails? Are they teased or shamed or are they encouraged to look at what happened and try again? When people make mistakes or challenge ideas, do they ultimately get sidelined, demoted, or fired? Do people admit their mistakes and take responsibility for fixing them or do they blame others? Do managers and leaders share stories of how they took risks or recovered from a failure? As you can see, this aspect of your culture is crucial.
All of the amazing training programs in the world won't help if people don't feel safe enough to stretch and grow. Now let's look above ground. Do managers and leaders role model a commitment to their own learning and improvement? Are there learning programs available for every level or employee from new hire to top executive? Is time for learning encouraged or seen as in addition to the quote-unquote real work? When people show progress or improvement, is it recognized and rewarded? Finally, let's look at the tree itself.
What stage of career are people in? What level of skills do they currently have and what do they want to develop or hone? Do they hold a fixed or growth mindset? What past experiences have they had with both toxic environments and learning opportunities? Together, all three pieces create the real culture of learning. In this course we'll focus on all of the elements so you can build the best and most vibrant one possible.
- Establishing a growth mindset
- Integrating learning into your organization
- Empowering through knowledge sharing
- Overcoming obstacles
- Addressing opportunities
- Measuring success