I love to think about what our nature requires before I look at the “limits” of our systems. What would any employee need to learn better?
From my readings and experiences, here are the two types of drivers I came up with for any efficient learning process:
- Need driven learning: you need to resolve a problem (find food, find money, find inner peace, be happier in your relationships, make better products…). This type of learning happens in response to a question: “How can I ….. ?”. What follows is a quest of test & learn. If you really need it, you will try different things until you reach your purpose. The more self-motivated you are, and the more the need is essential, the faster and deeper the learning process will develop.
- Joy driven learning: joy is the positive feeling that appears when something you hadn’t expected but that you appreciate happens. This type of learning is a game of pursuit. You are discovering something new, and it fits with some of the knowledge your brain already possesses. So you are able to make sense of it, but it is new enough that you feel curiosity towards it. You are having a vision of what could get your life more enjoyable and interesting. This type of learning is connected to your personal potential and values.
Learning only happens when understanding is possible. Lots of companies offer their employees classes expecting them to download the new knowledge and skills and start using them, as if they were memory sticks. But, we are actually more like Lego parts. You need to build the bridges between each person’s specific knowledge and what you are trying to explain to them. If the parts don’t fit, you can’t build a space ship.
Here are 3 steps, I believe, will generate a self-learning ecosystem.
1/ Make your company’s vision very clear and very useful to humanity
The first thing you want to do is to attract the right people to your company. See your organization as a community of believers who want to act for the same cause, or live the same adventure. Again, it’s need driven or joy driven, or even better, both.
Lots of companies have “cosmetic” visions: pretty sentences that don’t even mean the same thing to two different employees. Some leaders are great project managers and business players, but they lack of deep passion for added value. When you ask them in what unique way their company contributes to making the world a better place, they look at you as if you were a utopian.
You may not be a charity, but if you are not making much difference, you will keep surviving in your market, and you will not lead much. Your main goal will be making money, and you will attract such opportunistic employees, who’ll take advantage of your system. Do not expect of them to be very motivated to give back to you, if generosity is not in your DNA. They may even take your trainings, learn a lot, and go use that knowledge elsewhere: where the purpose is clear and powerful. The biggest challenges you personally surpassed in your life will give the unique ambition and flavour to your company, and the people you attract need to know they can play with you and contribute to the evolution of the big dream with you. Learning is connected to freedom. If you just want people to do what they are told, their brains shut down and learning becomes suffering. Oh wait, just like it used to be at school for some of us… 😉
2/ Spend time and money to get to know what your employees love
As a French scientist, Idriss Aberkane, says, love = time*attention. You don’t want to employ workers; you want a community of shared passion. When people are truly interested in something, they don’t count the hours, and are hungry for discovery, experimenting, learning, and progressing. They are not in competition with another, they complete each other, and actually, they are playing instead of working.
The challenge here is that not so many people know what they love. Our generations did not learn in their youth how to analyse their emotions, how to define their values and purposes. Understanding others is not easy, but understanding oneself is not a child’s game either. To make sure that they take the right roles and missions in your organization, you need to give them the tools that will help them assess their own motivations, their needs and their sources of joy and curiosity. That will help them balance their personal energy. Once everyone is on his/her path, learning will become natural.
3/ Facilitate personal learning
After years of doing creative strategy, if I learnt one thing clearly it is that one should not spend money producing good content that already exists elsewhere.
In an egoless passion driven community of professionals, people already find the books, the apps, the courses and the mentors they need. In web we trust. Let them tell you what they would naturally choose as a source of learning, and then, see what you can afford to do.
And last but not least : don’t lose time with hype strategic methods.
Meaning sets learning free.