20 reasons why businesses should rethink their approach to organisational learning

Business and work have changed. The role and priorities for workplace learning need to reflect and accelerate these shifts.

Businesses struggle with change and adaptability – learning is the best enabler and accelerator for these.

Most corporate L&D investments are focused on making things stay the same. This is a huge risk to growth.

Most corporate ‘L&D’ investments also (probably) won’t be focused on what will be most valuable and differentiating for the business.

It’s impossible to have a truly diverse organisation without a commitment to continual learning, reflection and growth.

Continuing to separate the ‘doers’ and ‘thinkers’ is commercial suicide.

Work is moving away from (just) completing tasks to creating value – which means that to grow organisations need to invest in enabling inquiry, new questions and bringing the ‘outside in’.

Aiming to develop only interchangeable, ‘standardised workers’ is a risk to growth (see above).

The “reskilling emergency!” is a symptom of the failure of the current system and the environment it has created and rewarded.

The current barriers that prevent teams connecting and learning from one another is acting as a ‘brake’ to new growth.

There is experience, ideas, wisdom and possibilities everywhere in organisation. The way we approach learning doesn’t enable others to benefit from this.

Because we’ve separated ‘L&D’ into a ‘department’ it’s disconnected from the ‘real’ organisation – its goals, strategy, operations, management model and cultures.

Organisations that have thrived through ‘control’ now struggle with continual learning – which needs people to be curious, ask new questions and feel ‘safe to try’. So, the goals, strategies and tactics around ‘L&D’ should recognise and help to enable this shift.

Most organisations over-focus on individual performance and individual education. This is a problem because an individual’s performance is impacted by the system they’re working in – which we don’t spend enough time understanding and improving.

There is a vicious circle: L&D trying to fix problems caused elsewhere (upstream), L&D’s approach undoing improvements coming from other parts of the business. We need to join things up.

People have different expectations of employment now – of their boss, of the ‘purpose’ of the organisation and of the contribution they expect to be able to bring. The approach to learning needs to reflect and support this. (Or they’ll take their ideas and potential elsewhere).

Having the right ambition and infrastructure around continuous learning is increasingly ‘table stakes’ for new hires. (See above).

Training only works when we have all the answers; (think the old ‘factory’ model). Increasingly this isn’t true for complex businesses which need new ideas to grow.

When we focus on training ‘solutions’ businesses inevitably create ‘success measures’ that reinforce the wrong things – attendance, completion, compliance. These don’t help us understand if the work is improving.

The ‘training’ part – getting people to understand and comply used to be valuable and differentiating for a business. This is now easier because of the internet – so the hard and valuable part is creating an environment where people can think, work and learn together effectively to enable growth.

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