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The Benefits of a “Culture of Learning”

Expertise in Learning?

Starting a new job or entering a new industry always entails a learning curve. People understand they have to learn quickly in order to survive. It’s the key to their success.

When people work closely in a business or specific industry, as experience builds and time accumulates they often forget this sense of voracious learning. It becomes more and more difficult to see things in a new light. And some top leaders are stuck thinking in a silo.

Some call this ‘the paradox of expertise.’ As expertise increases, people struggle to notice possibilities, discern novel patterns, or see new prospects, ideas, or insights.

Out-Learning the Competition

Learning — studying and absorbing trends, market forces, new technology, research, and happenings within your industry and outside it — is key to success today. It will drive your business towards the future, keep your brand agile and able to shift as fast as the world you work within. Building a culture of voracious learners is one of the best things you can do for your business.

Here’s how to build a learning culture:

1. Look wide and far:

If you gather information from the same, ingrained sources as your competition, the findings and the decisions you make from those findings won’t stand out. Shifting perceptions requires widening the lens of where you’re looking. And innovation and creativity thrive on perception shifting.

Expanding your point of view and discovering a different angle requires bringing people with a diverse array of mindsets into the conversation. Experiment and adopt new ways of thinking, seeing, and working. What you do and how you think should never be contained. So examine what’s happening in other industries and draw parallels and note constrasts. In fact, the most established practices in one industry could be revolutionary when translated into another.

Interconnectivity is key to successful business today. And understanding a business and where it can go requires learning about the world at large and where you are situated within it. A learning culture can help bring new thinking, ideas, and opportunities to your business.

2. Learn collaboratively:

Collaboration hinges on humility. It’s important to listen as if you can learn something — asking questions, engaging fully, and being open to other angles. Everyone within your organization should have the mindset “I’m still learning” — no matter your role.

Admit when you don’t know something. Ask for help from different people. Gather an opinion from someone you don’t usually talk with. These kind of collaborative practices can be quite valuable.

A designer can learn a lot from a strategist, an accountant from a writer, a C-Suite leader from a new recruit, and vice versa. And always share your findings. Engaging in collaborative learning can take an organization to the next level.

3. Be open to what’s possible:

Don’t settle for the status quo. Ask: What can I learn now? What’s possible for my knowledge? My organization? Its products and/or services? Its people? The brand? The best brands of today are built for the future. By being open to what’s possible, you can position yourself to be at the cutting edge of that future.

So take interest in what you don’t know. Strive to gain new perspectives and new information. Expand your knowledge and the scope of your learning in order to fuel creativity, innovation, and agile decision making.

Learn to Thrive

Consider some learning-focused companies today that are thriving. The CEO of WD-40 Company, Garry Ridge, prides himself on building a learning-obsessed company culture. And rightly so. The focus Ridge placed on a voracious learning culture explains how how the company nearly tripled its share price since 2009.

Google has formalized informal and continuous learning, giving employees allocated time to explore their own interests within the workplace. GE has created programs such as Change Acceleration Process, meant to foster experiential and continuous learning and fuel innovation.

The examples are many. No innovative, cutting edge, top company today is at the top because they stopped asking questions. These companies are always curious and always learning.

Creating a learning culture can foster the business agility and open mindedness that businesses and brands require today. And leaders who put a premium on learning can help fuel a culture of learners that will shine from the inside out. So focus on learning as an asset and position your business for greatness.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

Originally published at www.emotivebrand.com on September 22, 2016.

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