Let’s start with this premise: learning is a common denominator when it comes to success for the individual and for the organization.
A learning organization positively impacts business performance. Decades of research back this up. In 1978 the concept of a learning organization was first introduced by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon in their book, Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective.
Almost 10 years later, Marlene Fiol and Marjorie Lyles expanded on the concept and defined organizational learning as the process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding.
The research by Pilar Jerez-Gómez, et al., solidified the link between organizational learning and performance published in their study, “Organizational learning capability: a proposal of measurement” (2005). I like how they connected organizational learning to performance: “[…] the capability of an organization to process knowledge–in other words, to create, acquire, transfer, and integrate knowledge, and to modify its behavior to reflect the new cognitive situation, with a view to improving its performance.”
Learning Serves as a Competitive Advantage for Your Career and For the Business
As the idea that a learning organization improves performance took root, so did the perspective that a learning organization has a competitive advantage. In the 1988 Harvard Business Review article “Planning as Learning,” Arie de Geus declared that “the ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
In their Human Capital Trends survey, Deloitte wrote that “as companies build the organization of the future, continuous learning is critical for business success.” Barrett Cordero, president of BigSpeak, boldly said, “if your company isn’t currently placing learning as one of its top values, you might want to reconsider it.” He believes that learning helped his company’s revenue grow by more than 100%.
Today, companies regularly invest in creating a learning organization because they believe this is what enables them to be adaptive, flexible, and open to new concepts and innovation.
Tapaswee Chandele, Global Head of Talent & Development at The Coca-Cola Company, asserts that transforming into a learning organization “requires a growth mindset—a shared belief in continuous learning to improve the business and ourselves.”
It makes sense that a learning organization is better primed for success. Does the same hold true for individuals? Yes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ "Employee Tenure Summary," the average person in the U.S. will change careers 5-7 times during their working life with 30% of the workforce changing careers or jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42, many may have already had about ten jobs. Willingness to learn new skills is one attribute companies look for when hiring new and promoting current employees.
And for those of us with decades of experience in our profession, we cannot rest on what we already know. We must demonstrate we are active learners. This is where personal learning and professional development, the learning organization and business performance intersect. How quickly individuals and the organization can implement new learning becomes a measure of competitive advantage and success.
Success and the Benefits of Practicing Learning Every Day
While it’s imperative for organizations to provide continuous learning opportunities to its employees, it is just as critical for all of us to personally commit to learning. Learning is something that takes practice every day. Learning isn’t only about earning a formal degree or certificate, attending a conference or participating in a workshop or class, although these are certainly learning opportunities. Learning is something anyone can accomplish with very little financial investment.
Here are 5 cost-effective ways to make lifelong learning a part of your daily routine:
- Stay on top of trends. Subscribe to and read industry-specific newsletters and blogs, and watch industry videos. Many of these are free.
- Learn from internal peers. Set up an internal lunch and learn (onsite or virtually). Assign a topic to each person to share with the group.
- Create a learning group of external peers. Leverage your LinkedIn network to find peers who share your passion for learning and establish a group that meets at least monthly.
- Tap experts. One of the best ways is to tap their content and sign up and join their webinars or listen to a recorded version, or attend an event where they are speaking. There are numerous free webinars offered every day.
- Learn from those who came before you. Consume content by people who have succeeded in your role or the one you want. Many of these people may have blogs, podcasts, and videos.
Learning, whether at the individual level or the company level, enables both people and organizations to reinvent themselves and be better prepared for the future. What steps are you and your organization taking to make learning a priority? Share your ideas with us and be sure to check out our opportunities for learning.
Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc., a recognized leader in enabling organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability.
Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization (Racom: www.racombooks.com ), is a useful primer for improving marketing measurement and performance. Visit: www.visionedgemarketing.com
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