By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
The leaders have all shared their commitment to lifelong learning being the only way to succeed. They have all put money where their mouth is (even if that looks weird). Artificial Intelligence driven platforms are now recommending books, websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, seminars and more. “Learning is a lifelong process” is new poster found in every hip office space. These posters have now replaced the old posters that said, “People are our most important assets”. The writing on the wall is clear. But then why does the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, 2019 show a huge gap between the importance of learning and the readiness of the organization.
Learning in an era of abundance
The half-life of skills is reducing. Business models are becoming obsolete. Digital born companies are growing at a pace unprecedented in human history. Never ever have we had knowledge sources so accessible and free. There are hundreds of courses run by the Ivy League colleges that you can take for free. Learning has been made easy and abundant. Then how do you explain the gap?
There is no time. We all have books we have bought but not read. Taken subscriptions to journals and magazines that we have every intention of reading “sometime soon”. At work, the companies have made learning possibilities abundant. Ask any CHRO or L&D professional and they groan at not being able to get the people to “learn”.
Just-in-time is the jugaad version of learning
Many people will tell you that Alam Ara was the first talkie. Not too many people can tell you that the same Ardeshir Irani who released Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, on 14 March 1931 also produced the first south Indian talkie film Kalidas directed by H. M. Reddy released on 31 October 1931. I got that from Wikipedia (so don’t get impressed). I am no film historian. That is the jugaad version of learning. When someone follows a YouTube video to create a dish, it does not make the person a chef.
We “learn” something when a permanent pathway is created in our brain. Lifelong learning happens when we make time to create a permanent pathway. Repetition helps us build expertise. It means creating a habit by repeating the action enough number of times until it becomes a part of us. That means knowing several other related pieces that build context that helps us recall the information when we are using it.
Build the time to wobble and laugh
Second City, the famous improv and comedy studio uses their methods to train business leaders. “We use the improv methods pioneered on our stages to help people and companies improve their performance. Our Professional Development programs combine interactive exercises, facilitated debriefs, and practical application to get people excited about learning. That firsthand experience helps participants internalize better ways to communicate, collaborate, and innovate—all while building comfort with risk and change.”
To help employees build the habit of learning, providing them some slack time to learn and reflect plus the opportunity to try it out at work and get feedback. Letting the employee learn something (even of it unrelated to work) can help build a culture of curiosity. You cannot learn how to ride a cycle without wobbling in the early attempts. Making time available to wobble and learn may be the biggest cultural change needed in organizations.
In every performing art, the artists build time to practice their wobbly skills before the audience to get feedback. It is the equivalent of having a prototype of a new product that must get feedback from a client. So must a wobbly skill. We have to give the new skill or idea time to become a part of our repertoire and stabilize. That needs time to try it out without being evaluated. No wonder the tagline of Second City is, “learning works best when you are laughing”. That is how we learned as kids. Those are the ideas that we fall back upon even today. Building time to wobble and learn may be the way to go.