- The half-life of newly learned skills is now less than five years.
- Cultures of continuous learning are the new standard of practice.
- Learning is moving from individual to cohort or team learning.
- We learn best in context, with others, as we live and work. For this reason, learning should include real-world projects that matter.
When you think of the words “learning” and “company,” what comes to mind?
For most of us, it’s probably something like: “I went to school, and now I’m doing this job.” Or: “My company manages my learning needs.” But when we look at the world around us today, this isn’t enough. We live in a digital-knowledge age—a time when the rate of change is faster than at any other point in history. That means it’s more important than ever you and your teammates have the skills you need to succeed.
But how do you do that? How do you make sure you and your teammates are learning what you need to learn so you can keep moving forward together?
Some companies are starting to see that learning isn’t just about sending people off campus or out of their offices for training sessions. Instead, they’re creating cultures of continuous learning, where employees feel empowered to build skills at their own pace—and where they’re supported by managers who want them to succeed.
We know that forward-thinking companies like Unilever, Bank of America, Mastercard, and Airbnb are taking a whole new mindset in how they think about learning. Instead of having a command-and-control model in which the company pushes training to people, they’ve started by creating a culture of learning, letting people know that they support their learning and development and that they want to encourage people to continuously grow and build skills.
Rather than taking people out of their work and into a classroom and expecting them to come back and apply those skills without practice or support, these best-in-class companies are helping people learn more flexibly—a practice called “cohort learning.” This approach helps employees develop skills together through online resources or with the help of an instructional designer who can guide them through specific learning activities.
How we think about learning itself has transformed. The durability of what we learn is eroding faster. According to “A New Culture of Learning” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown “The half-life of a learned skill is now 5-years” – which means that most of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is already irrelevant. A key implication of this fact is that the value of any new knowledge depreciates faster and faster.
We’ve outgrown the definition of learning as the activity of a lone individual and moved forward to the cohort learning model, including real projects to apply the learning. We learn best in context, with others, as we live and work. Recognizing this fact is the first step to crafting an effective learning strategy.
A critically important question that every manager must be considering right now is “How can I help my teammates discover and acquire new skills and capabilities that are both relevant and helpful to their on-the-job performance?”
The good news for everyone is that learning is more important than ever. There is a growing body of research suggesting that the long-term financial performance of learning companies is significantly superior to that of their closest competitors.
So, what does that mean if you’re a leader who is looking to help your learning culture evolve to become a true competitive advantage? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the cohort model to deepen transformation and leap ahead of your competitors.
2. Look outside your own walls and even beyond your industry to see what novel development ideas are out there. You can be sure there are innovative ideas that others have already successfully implemented.
3. Rethink Online learning. Thanks to Zoom Rooms, Teams, Dropbox, Trello, and others remote learning is a thing now – which means people can learn from anywhere.
4. Look for and tap into any sharing spaces available in your organization. Commonly available platforms like Sharepoint and Slack can be a great way to facilitate conversations and introduce your teams to all manner of new learning modalities and content.
In summation, to paraphrase Charles Darwin, In times of rapid change, the key to success is learning. Those who are most adaptable to change and able to learn the fastest are going to own the future.
Shift Academy is your premier organization for Total System Transformation (TST) learning. Our intensive programs are cohort and project-based, designed to rapidly equip TST Agents and Agencies with the skills and knowledge they need in order to be effective in their vital positions.
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