Humans are born to learn. Helpless though we are when we come into the world, we quickly evolve from a babe in arms into a young child, learning to crawl, walk and talk. This involves immense cognitive achievements to adapt to our environment, which set us apart from all other species. Learning how to become independent may well take significantly longer, but this ensures humans can adapt to suit current circumstances. Our ability to learn is thus one of the most valuable skills we humans possess.
There’s no such thing as a perpetual-motion machine. At some point, the concept or the idea that made you successful is going to run out of gas. So, you need new capability to go after new concepts. The only thing that’s going to enable you to keep building new capabilities and trying out new concepts long before they are conventional wisdom is culture.
Three success factors
Looking at the innovative strength of the above corporations, it’s possible to make out three success factors that promote an agile learning culture.
1. Learning must be seen as an active, social process that is linked to a specific need
What do learners, teams, the organization and external stakeholders need? What attitudes and misgivings do they have? And what does their specific work context look like? Only if these aspects come to the fore will learning processes take effect and create sustainable value.
2. Learning must lead to a sustainable change in behavior
As the saying goes – use it or lose it. That’s why there’s little sense in simply building up knowledge and doing nothing with it. It is only by getting to grips with what we have learned and putting it into practice that we can transfer this knowledge to our everyday activities and bring about a long-term change in our behavior.
3. Learning shapes the learning culture, which in turn shapes the organizational culture
Learning and organizational cultures are like shadows. We can only influence them indirectly through our actions. To instill a positive learning culture, companies must therefore consciously and systematically support learning. If they do, there is a good chance an organizational culture of learning will also ultimately take shape.
It is clear that only companies with an agile learning culture will be equipped to tackle the challenges of the VUCA world. Yet those focused on meeting requirements, transferring knowledge and creating an organizational culture will be in a prime position to ensure their workforce will still be able to create added value in the future.