How may we teach people to learn, unlearn and relearn in order to cope better with the pace of change?
This was the key question that I posed a couple of weeks ago and I have been amazed by the level of interest and insight this question has generated. I ran a Think Tank on the 1st of September in which I bought a group of diverse thinkers together to try and come up with an answer to this question. During the session the group of 15 generated over 300 insights and distilled that into 100 ideas that could be actioned. I’m working my way through all these insights and ideas and I have managed to so far consolidate them into four key themes.
In today’s society, technology and knowledge are moving at such a rapid pace that it is getting eternally harder for people to maintain pace. Within corporate organisations, learning functions are grappling with the challenge of ensuring that staff are receiving learning that is meaningful and impactful whilst dealing with all this change. One of the critical failings of learning and development is that the majority of learning is still developed with methodologies of knowledge retention which is fast becoming a redundant form of learning. When 90% of the world’s knowledge has been created in the last 5 years, knowledge retention strategies soon will no longer be relevant.
To deal with this challenge, how does learning and development help organisations to Learn, Unlearn and Relearn?
I want to thank the group involved in the session once again for their thinking and participation which was invaluable, and the skilled Design Thinking facilitation of James Merchant for keeping us on track and un-earthing these insights.
Here is a summary of the early key themes that have been identified so far from the initial Think Tank:
Leadership – The influence of the direct leader on the learner was identified over and over as a critical part of the ability for someone to learn and unlearn. Their attitude and support are things that everyone always talks about and often we focus on this as how they coach and mentor their staff. However beyond this there is a clear link between the ‘unintended punishments for doing the right thing and unintended rewards for doing the wrong thing’ that leaders impart on their people through their leadership actions. This in particular plays a vital role in how you can create the right behaviours for people to learn and unlearn more effectively. Knowing that a leader will support you in both their words and actions plays a vital role in helping set the right tone for your ability to learn.
Environment – The organisational attitude towards learning, the physical spaces that are created for learning and the culture of the organisation are all key here. Beyond this though the views of the organisation on strategy execution seem to have the strongest impact. Specifically does the organisation view strategy execution as doing, when in fact they should view it as learning. This creates an environment more conducive to the behaviours needed for unlearning in particular, especially for organisations with an innovation agenda.
Aptitude – What are the skills and behaviours needed from the learners in order to be able to learn effectively in the first place. Specifically: Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Emotional Intelligence, Judgement & Decision Making, Design Thinking, Cognitive Flexibility. These skills are a little different to what we traditionally focus on and have been deemed necessary as the ones needed to take people into the right headspace to be able to learn.
Purpose – Finally but possibly most importantly it was strongly identified that the right mindset was needed to be present within the learner in order for learning and unlearning to occur. This was deemed as purpose – how can you create purpose within the learner to ensure that they are able to devote the right mindset to the learning needed.
Obviously a lot more is needed to be done around all the above but I’m really happy with where this has come to so far. I will be expanding on those themes, generating more insight from the community and determining what is required to answer that initial question.
Join the discussion on October 20th in the next Think Tank Workshop
I am running this same Think Tank again, in order to generate more insight and ideas in Melbourne on October 20th. If you would like to be part of the discussion and collaborate with your peers on identifying actionable ideas, then RSVP attendance to this event.