Peter Senge introduced us to the concept of learning organisations in 1990; companies that continuously enhance capabilities through sharing their internal know-how and taking a real stake in furthering the skills of their employees. He argues leaders must be the ones to create the conditions within organisations that allow learning to flourish, but that individual employees need to embrace continuous learning in order for the organisation to fully shift.
With current developments in tech, we see that embracing life-long learning is not something done for the good of our employers but rather is a personal necessity in the age of automation. Senge kindly introduces us to this concept in the form of ‘Personal mastery’, one of his five disciplines after which his book is titled. Individuals who reach high levels of personal mastery view learning as a process, rather than an end-goal. This is synonymous with the type of approach needed in the workplace today, but how might we cultivate this mindset in our organisations?
- Provide opportunities for employees to constantly advance their professional skills This shouldn’t be limited to structured training programmes. For a less hierarchical approach, organisational learning can take the form of Communities of Practice or other types of peer-to-peer learning.
- Support employees in developing self-improvement and self-reflection Reflection is key if employees are to learn on the job. Agile practices like Stand-ups and Retrospectives are simple techniques you can use to develop a mindset of self-reflection within a team.
- Document learnings for others in the organisation All employees should record personal learning on the Enterprise Social Network or company wiki. Over time this can become a collaborative, searchable knowledge base of resources that can be used by all. Leadership can support this type of knowledge sharing by leading by example.
- Create a shared vision Another of Senge’s disciplines, a shared vision can seriously strengthen commitment and motivation in organisations, as employees can truly engage with the mission of their work. However, this is harder to achieve than it sounds. It requires the alignment of organisational and personal visions through ongoing communication and enthusiasm from leaders.
I’ve included some links below on the topic of future skills and you can find out more about the techniques I’ve mentioned (and a wealth of other interesting techniques & theories on new ways of working) over on our Shift*Base knowledge hub.
- IDEO Partner Sandy Speicher on how the Constructivist theory of learning helps her as leader
- Lee Bryant on why your enterprise social network needs a learning community
- Think-tank Nesta has created a quiz for you to find out if robots will take your job
- A NYT article on how tech giants are prepared to pay through the roof for the rare AI talent they need
- “The idea of a mechanistic relationship between education and wages has taken a knock“, a look into the changing nature of the modern economy
- US research conducted last year found that 87% of workers believe they will have to develop new skills throughout their career to keep pace