by Tony Richards
You may have heard that all great leaders are lifelong learners. Not only is this true for individual leaders, it’s very true for the cultures of organizations as well.
The concept of learning leaders and learning cultures is simple. They find and share knowledge almost constantly in every way possible. This provides an excellent competitive advantage which when leveraged properly creates amazing growth.
These learning leaders believe that somewhere, someone has a better idea on everything and they are very intentional about finding it. Once it is found, they must learn all they can about it and figure out how to put it into action as fast as possible. This is the huge advantage of the learning leader. The opposite of this are leaders who build silos in organizations and cut off sharing and communications. This may not be done intentionally, but rather, just the way it’s always been. Sales just does not share with Manufacturing, to each his own, right?
The maximum amount of growth of any organization is strongly due to all of it’s parts growing together. Teamwork. Communication. Sharing.
Even for the world’s most innovative and focused company, many of Steve Jobs’ and Apple’s ideas came from outside Apple. Steve had epiphanies at Xerox and other companies and either took the idea, modified it into something else or bought the technology, not everything originated within Apple.
Key #1: A learning culture in an organization must be driven by a learning leader, who not only has a desire to learn but to share across the board with everyone for the growth of the entire organization.
Key #2: The organization must have enough awareness to understand that it can not possibly know everything today that it needs to know, and that somewhere, someone has a better idea that can be learned and put to use, fast.
Here are some other quick tips to build a learning organization
Emphasize The Importance Of Ideas- You should find ways to make sure that ideas are shared throughout your organization. If you don’t think everyone knows what is important to you and what is not, you are deceiving yourself. Make sure you emphasize that ideas are important to you.
Don’t Care Where The Ideas Come From- Don’t judge a good idea based on whether it comes from the top of your organization, the middle or the bottom. Don’t worry about whether it comes from within or outside your organization, Make sure it matters not, as you are modeling this behavior for everyone to follow. You might even have to emphasize one of these areas especially if your organization is not used to looking for learning this way. For example, if you learned something great from another organization, and your organization does not usually look in other organizations for learning opportunities, you may have to emphasize that point.
Make Sure Learning Isn’t Where It Ends- It’s not enough to just find or create new ideas, but make sure everyone knows that all ideas must be accompanied by a sharp implementation plan. Make sure you have strong follow-up and reporting processes in place to ensure the ideas do not just stay ideas, but they are being implemented and assimilated into your culture and company.