Continuous learning : it’s a mindset not a technology or product

continuousIn this fast-moving world, we constantly need to learn new stuff. In the workplace, this is particularly important, as I showed in an earlier blog post, where Jacob Morgan talks of the future employee moving from “knowledge worker” (knowing stuff) to “learning worker” (learning new stuff).

So how can organisations support continuous learning at work?

  1. It doesn’t mean creating more training or e-learning and force-feeding it to people. It means encouraging and supporting individuals to continuously learn for themselves.
  2. It doesn’t mean trying to manage everyone’s learning for them – and trying to track it all in a LMS, It means everyone taking responsibility for their own learning, and managers measuring success in terms of job and team performance.

Of course, many individuals are already doing this – as a natural part of who they are – and that is what is giving them a personal competitive edge at work (as well as in life). They are always aware of what they learning, they seek out new opportunities to do so, and they share their thoughts (often in their blogs).

Although many organizations are implementing social technologies to support sharing at work,  it takes more than technology to underpin continuous learning

Continuous learning is a mindset not a product or technology.

It means ..

  • working with managers to help them build a learning mindset in their teams, and to provide the time and space to do so – and to measure success by changes in job and team performance.
  • working with individuals to encourage and support independent (self-organised, self-managed) learning, e.g. showing them how
    • to extract the “learning” from their daily work
    • to discover the wide range of learning opportunities on offer – not just internally but also on the Web through professional networking, “learning the new”– through both people and content, formal and informal; and
    • to share the good stuff with their colleagues
  • working with teams to support valued (rather than indiscriminate) sharing of learning and experiences

Whereas there is still a need for a L&D department to provide training (and manage that it has been done), continuous learning is not the sole responsibility of the L&D department – everyone has a part to play.

Note: These materials are part of the draft of my Modern Workplace Learning resource book

Want to find out more?
My How to become a Personal Learning Adviser online workshop running 15 June to 10 July
looks at how to support personal learning in the workplace.

More in my next post: The Web is my Workplace (and Learnplace)


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  2. Silke

    thanks for sharing you thoughts and insights on the topic of the continuous learning mindset – this is a very relevant topic for companies trying to establish and shift to a “learning culturel” and it gets often overlooked – I think- that learning is all about inspiring people and individuals to want to learn more, not because they have to but because they want to out of their own interest and because of relevancy to their situation and circumstances.

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  4. In this blog it says “managers measuring success in terms of job and team performance”, although it is great to do this, i think it could be a long term process to understand whether the team is improving from a productivity point of view and indeed whether there are any week links. I think it is very important to know how they are doing with any training and being able to measure that using intelligence. VAT training is very specific and needs to be measured.

    1. Tony, continuous learning is not about continuous training! Training is just a small part of workplace learning (see A training mindset is therefore about providing learning events; whereas a continuous learning mindset is one where every individual recognises they have a responsibility to continuously find out about new things professionally and personally – in many different ways (not just through training, but through their everyday experiences at work, as well as from their activities on the Social Web) – apply what they have learned in their work, and share what they have learn with others, so that their whole team thrives and grows. Hence the reason why the success of continuous workplace learning is measured in terms of performance improvement (unlike a training event which is generally measured in terms of how well the trainees have acquired the knowledge or skills).

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  7. Thanks for the post, Jane. What seems to be crucial to me is the necessity of realizing the need of constant learning. It’s about an attitude – if one’s not willing to learn then he/ she will quickly get tired of it and there’ll be no positive results.

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  9. Hello Jane,
    I’d agree that it takes more than technology to underpin continuous learning. I also believe that the old saying – “you can take the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink” – applies here. Managers and L&D professionals can guide and support, but the motivation to learn has to come from the individual. If that motivation is strong and the right encouragement is provided, then it can develop into a mindset – and that must be the ideal situation for all concerned.

    1. Margaret, thanks for your comment. I’d agree that motivation for personal learning is key. But in an organisational context, continuous learning is becoming increasingly important, so it’s the organisational mindset that needs to change – from just training people to support ongoing learning – and providing both the time and space for it to happen. And what’s more that it’s not just about planned learning but about extracting the learning from daily work experiences and sharing them with others. In my new book, Modern Workplace Learning, and in my workshops, I look at how to build that mindset and support it within an organisation.

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