Building a learning culture? It’s child’s play…

Amy Brann examines how young children learn, and how organisations that follow their example can help nurture a learning culture.

In my experience, most organisations are playing small when it comes to their learning culture.

When I think about organic learning I can’t help but watch my two year old daughter. I have been amazed to see first-hand how she dives into learning and how accomplished she has become, in such a short space of time! She is curious, excitable, easily fascinated, self-motivated, loves exploring, thrives on feedback, is creative and imaginative, and much, much more.

Aren’t these the kind of qualities we look for in our team members in organisations? Could it be the case that they are innately present, and somehow we have stamped on them, extinguishing a lot of the great value that was once there?
Watching her play and how we interact with her has shown up some contrasts that I see in organisations:

Two year old Jessica v Organisations
When she achieves something, she immediately jumps up and down and shouts “Yippee” in a loud voice. We then join in. In organisations, celebrations happen in a planned manner, way after the achievement.

She responds positively to both ‘in the moment’ and later feedback, using it to her advantage and being grateful for the pointers.
People often experience the ‘threat response’ to planned, after-the-fact feedback.

She sets clear and realistic expectations of herself, constantly re-evaluating them – yesterday building a small tower of blocks, today using all the blocks she can find. We’re often not sure what is expected of us, or what we’re trying to develop in ourselves.

She is lovingly supported in her learning journey. When did you last get a hug every day at work for a week?

I believe that a learning culture should be informed by neuroscience and other disciplines, which we know have helped create happy people in successful companies. So the culture needs to be a celebratory one. It should spontaneously celebrate learning achievements. As a med student we would go for a drink with friends when we’d received good exam results, prior to that we’d give each other a hug after our first successful dissection or go out for a dance!

Feedback should be positioned as valuable. Rather than people feeling terrible about themselves when they are told they need to tweak something, wouldn’t it be amazing if they were grateful for the pointer?

You need to be intentional in what you are looking to learn. Considering just the old school components of skills and knowledge is no longer enough. We know that so much more determines the end, deliverable result. Build these into your development intentionally.

Being connected to others and supported, dare we say loved, by those who are with you daily in your learning journey is so underplayed by organisations currently.

Learning is vital to organisations. Enabling your people to develop themselves for their, and the organisation’s benefit, is a truly worthwhile investment.

About Amy Brann

Amy Brann is the author of Make Your Brain Work & Neuroscience for Coaches published by Kogan Page. A new book Engaged: the neuroscience behind creating productive people in successful organizations is due to be published in Autumn 2015.

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