We know what a good learning culture looks like – teams who seek out, communicate and share knowledge and skills openly and without hesitation. And we know the benefits of a positive learning culture – there is greater tolerance, open-mindedness, continuous improvement and adaptability across the business.
But how many of us have successfully embedded a learning culture?
Only a handful of businesses have built learning cultures that really work, while many of us haven’t yet fully realised the potential. The mistakes are easy to make and many business tend to:
- focus on the idea of a learning culture rather than on how it works in practice
- fail to foster an inclusive learning culture that considers diverse needs
- set up a learning culture with insufficient or inferior tools and resources.
The good news is there are three building blocks that can help us work around these problems, so we can create a learning culture that sticks.
- A supportive learning environment
A supportive learning environment is a workplace free from judgement, and one which appreciates differences, celebrates new ideas and values time for reflection. The absence of knowledge shouldn’t be looked down on or shamed, but instead viewed as an opportunity for learning and growth.
Here at Thinka, we use a variety of approaches to support learning and development. Our leaders constantly instil the value of sharing new ideas in the team. We practice continuous improvement, and constantly cycle back through our processes to ensure we’re working in the most productive, efficient ways we can. We spruik growth mindset; the idea that all skills are learnable and there are no limits to our ability to accomplish new things.
Finding the time for reviewing processes is an essential part of fully realising a learning culture. A pause in action is key, as it allows us a moment to step back and revaluate what’s working and what isn’t.
- Concrete learning practices
To make sure knowledge and skills are shared, we need to create opportunities for learning practices in clearly defined ways. Top-down approaches are the responsibility of leadership and look at strategies used to create a learning environment – things like feedback, coaching, discussion forums and learning platforms shared by teams. Bottom-up learning is more focused on how we can motivate individuals so they prioritise time for their own learning and see its value.
A successful learning culture should be made up of both approaches. For example, the Thinka team stays connected via Microsoft Teams and daily stand-up meetings where we can share new experiences. We also have ‘Sharing Sessions’ where we discuss our different processes, values and strengths. Our one-on-one coaching sessions enable us to discover our own development paths, and build our own learning practices through the use of online tools, research, and reflective thinking practices.
- Leaders who reinforce learning culture
Leaders set the example – and a learning culture is strongly influenced by how they behave and the way they build relationships. Good leaders ask questions and listen to their team members, prompting discussion and encouraging learning.
When leaders spend time on problem solving, on growth, and on feedback, these actions are echoed by their team. Their own willingness to be open-minded helps team members feel empowered to share their own views and ideas themselves.
The learning culture at Thinka is successful because our leaders practice what they preach. They role model our ethos of continuous improvement and work hard to implement learning strategies from the top-down. They approach projects and ideas from different angles and develop processes that allow for out-of-the-box thinking.
These capabilities work well together to establish the foundation for our learning culture. In order for one to function as it should, the others also need to be performing. At Thinka, we don’t like to sit still for very long and we are always striving to do better, respond quicky and learn from what we’ve experienced.
At the heart of a robust team that thrives on change, is an established learning culture. When the business makes time for learning, when leaders role model learning, and when peers share learning, knowledge and skills grow at a faster rate. Flexibility and adaptability become the norm across the business instead of something people resist – because as we know, the only thing that remains constant is change.