In the last issue, we discovered the idea of a self-learning workplace. The self-learning workplace is where each of its individuals is engaged in a continuous, never-ending process of self-discovery. This, we call “True Learning,” to separate it from “learning” which is often used to describe memorizing of information.
A self-learning workplace unlocks the hidden talents, skills and wisdom of its people. In such a workplace, people find their own inspiration and creativity. In a self-learning workplace, people are self-assured about their own abilities and support the development of others. Such a workplace does not need external stimulus such as pay raises to keep them motivated. Their motivation comes from within them rather from outside of them.
How can we cultivate a self-learning workplace?
The first step is to understand that we can’t really make people “self-learning.” Nor can we “make” people learn. “True Learning” is a personal decision that can only be made by the learner, not by the teacher.
Common sense? May be.
The fact, though, is that most workplaces don’t practice this principle. In most workplaces, “education” is forced from the top down. Often, such efforts are shrouded in glossy terms such as change management, re-engineering, organization development or human resource development. They typically mean the same thing: our top people think that all the employees of our business should think, feel and behave in certain way. For those who don’t, we have a training program.
No wonder we get so many eye-rolls and snickering every time we talk about organizational development or workforce development. People think it’s designed to manipulate them into thinking, feeling and behaving in a way that benefits only the business and not them personally.
Don’t get me wrong. There is place for vision and mission. There is place for the executive team’s directions and leadership. There is certainly place for decision making at the top about the kinds of learning that needs to happen. But the mistake that’s often repeated is that the top people “force” education on its people to the point where learning becomes synonymous with forced change.
Forced change is fiercely resisted by people. But folks have to make their living so they won’t openly protest. The result is deep resentment and dissatisfaction, which often shows up as backbiting, complaining, bickering, sick leaves… the list goes on and on.
Which brings me to the second step. In a Truly Learning business, the role of the executive leadership is to create, nurture and support an environment where True Learning is not only accepted, but also encouraged and facilitated.
Finally, once True Learning begins to take place, the executive leadership’s job is to put in place processes and systems to cultivate, harness and channel the unlocked productivity, energy and creativity to achieve specific results that are important to the business.
Ultimately, the result is a dramatic increase in productivity and profits. And these profits are sustained over a longer period of time - because they result from the people who love their work and stick around longer.
Such a company has better chances of lasting a long time in the marketplace. Not because it’s profits are the highest in the industry. Nor because it employees are the happiest you can find. But because it’s committed to the practices and principles of True Learning.