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June 09, 2017
Re-learning to learn
By: Alexandra Van Sant


If I could have one superpower, it would be the ability to convince my clients of the power of learning. Okay, not really – I wish I could fly – but in a work context, it would be the power of learning. I recently came off a six-month placement within our London Innovation Centre. The purpose of the Innovation Centre is to help our clients tackle what we describe as "The problems that keep them up at night," using breakthrough thinking methodology and design thinking principles.

As an observer of a number of these workshops, there was one thing that stood out for me as a common thread: We all need to stop, learn and innovate. What do I mean by this? In short, technology and people are changing at an unprecedented rate, and many of us are scrambling to keep up. In order to do this, we need to invest in our people – we need to develop a community of individuals who are curious; curious to keep up, curious to stay ahead of the curve, curious to respond… curious to innovate. We need to create a community of avid learners, and what is even more important is that your people expect this.

So how can organisations adapt their learning strategies to meet the demands of a changing world and workforce? Here are my three quick-fixes that can be implemented tomorrow to start you on your journey of learning and ultimately innovation and discovery:

  1. If you’re so smart, why don’t you share it?
    What do your people already know that they aren’t talking about in the tea room, in the elevator or at lunch? Challenge your people to start sharing what interests them and don’t limit it to key themes or buzzwords. What did you read on the tube today that changed the way you think? Did someone mention something at the pub that could change the way your team works? If you want to formalise sharing, think about the tools that you already have in place that are natural platforms for collaboration: social media, team meetings etc.

  2. Learning everyday
    How do we learn in our everyday life? I learn on the tube when I watch a Ted Talk or a YouTube Video. I learn when my friend or co-worker sends me an HBR article to read. I learn when I stop and take five minutes to read something new. So why not enable your people to do the same? Start by reducing every meeting by five minutes. If you put in a meeting for an hour, make it 55 minutes. Collectively, this will add up to 15-20 minutes a day that you are giving back to your people to learn. Simultaneously, it means individuals need to be smart with how they use the meeting time that they schedule.

  3. Make it matter
    It’s time to reward learning. In a state of utopia, I would make learning journeys imperative to any performance discussion – what are you going to learn this year? What skills are you going to develop and how? But in the interim, send an email out to your mentors and tell them to start asking these questions as part of the discussions they are already have with their mentees. Create a template to guide them; challenge them to think about what they need to know and what they want to know.

Realistically, I won’t be able to learn to fly tomorrow, but wouldn’t it be great if I convinced just one of the readers of this blog to stop, learn and innovate?

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