Creating a Culture of Lifelong Learning

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein

What do Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet have in common? Other than being wildly successful billionaires, they devote several hours a day to reading. These moguls are at the top of their fields.  They could retire today and never need another dime to live on, yet they choose to continue learning and work hard to build their own skills.

There is no such thing as “enough” wisdom. In life, work, and personal relationships, professional development, etc., there is always room for improvement. When we wake up, our goal should be to learn one new thing and teach someone else one new thing every day.

Learning Management Systems were all the rage in the 2000’s. Organizations paid tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to give their employees digital libraries full of learning content.  Want to learn how to be a better leader? There’s a 1-hour course on that. Want to improve your presentation skills? There’s a 1-hour video on that. In fact, these LMS’ were so full of 1-hour courses to address every business skill it’s a wonder organizations weren’t full of perfect employees.

The reverse actually happened.

In spite of the thousands of hours of learning content available to them, employees had no free time to access the digital library for anything other than mandatory courses (usually related to compliance training). In addition, because the organization spent so much money implementing the LMS, they reduced or eliminated many impactful in-person training programs that had been successful in the past

The few employees who did use their free time to access development courses rarely changed their behaviors.  Unsurprisingly, a non-interactive course on how to become a better leader does not, in fact, develop better leaders.

But the money has already been spent. There’s no greater example of corporate sunken costs fallacy than remaining focused on an LMS as a driver of skills development in spite of evidence to the contrary.

As leaders, if you want to improve the skills of your team, you must take ownership of their development needs. Use tools and resources outside of the traditional LMS. Assign stretch assignments. Utilize job rotations. Pair up employees with mentors. Think outside of the LMS box, and then reinforce the learning by checking in with team members frequently and asking how they’re working to develop themselves. 

Most importantly, be a vehicle for knowledge transfer. For every one thing you learn, share that knowledge with two people. Reward your team members for sharing the things they learn with one another. Everyone on the team becomes more capable, powerful, and competent when learning is shared, not hoarded.

“The best leaders are the best note-takers, best askers, and best learners.” – Tom Peters