Once you come to the realization that learning holds the potential for dramatic organizational improvement and that it should be a part of what people do with the first 40 hours of their week, you might wonder how to get the most out of it.
First, let’s differentiate spontaneous learning from intentional learning. Every day you have to look things up. You have to expand what you already know. You may be learning something to solve a challenge specific to a project you’re working on. You may run into a problem and need to find a solution. These are the some of the spontaneous ways in which we learn on the job.
Spontaneous learning is also pretty common when you rely on people learning on their own time.
Then there’s another style of learning. It’s intentional. And it’s rarely used whether on or off the job. It focuses on a desired improvement and the learning necessary to achieve that improvement. The improvement constrains the learning necessary.
This is tactical learning. You have a specific purpose in mind. You do what’s necessary to achieve that purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. Along the way you can gauge your progress. And you always have a guiding objective to keep you on your path. This can be especially helpful when the learning investment will spans weeks and months.
Have you ever finished a book and wondered why you picked it up in the first place? Do you ever wonder if you got what you needed out of it? Do you ever wonder if it’s just another notch on your list of books.
The desired improvement should pay dividends that justify the learning. The intentional nature transforms learning from an effort into an investment. Before making the investment, you’ll know why it’s worthwhile. How can you go wrong? Perhaps you fail to learn what’s necessary, but most of the time you’ll be successful.
Oh and don’t bother with marginal improvements until you’ve exhausted your creativity in identifying highly valuable improvements. If the way you do things now isn’t a problem, don’t waste your time learning alternatives. Even if there are marginal improvements in an alternative.
So when you adopt institutionalized learning, make sure you make intentional investments in tactical learning. You will literally create your own success. Bring people together under the common goal of mutual improvement. Share their success with others. And build a culture of lifelong learners.