A continuous learning culture in a workplace is where you are encouraged to develop skills and knowledge through formal and informal learning channels.  Many companies provide career planning tools such as development plans and competency frameworks and you and your boss are encouraged to have conversations about your personal development needs.

Many of us thrive in such an environment.

If this is something your company provides you, they may be unintentionally short changing you and limiting your true potential through the way it encourages you to learn.

You see, much of the learning and development we acquire in our workplaces only activates and utilises a portion of our brain’s capacity and so we are learning what others already know.

We learn the skills and knowledge that someone else has already mastered.  We learn methods & procedures that have already been developed.  Whether it is a work skill, personal development program or a leadership skill, our normal way of learning at work is developing what someone else already knows.

This learning allows us to be more efficient in doing what is already known.

We all know that technological development has vastly increased the rate of change, so much so that in some instances what we know or strive to know may never keep pace.

A new culture of learning

What we need is a new culture of learning.

We’ve heard the same thing over and over that “we can no longer rely on the knowledge and skills we already have to solve today’s problems”.

This, then, must equally apply to how and what we learn.

Maintaining a culture of learning yesterday’s skills and knowledge is not going to help us tomorrow.

We need to develop new ways of creating skill and knowledge.

A way that is less about learning what is known and more about developing what we don’t know.  We need to know how to have the right conversations.


A bit of brain science

We all have a part of the brain called the Prefrontal Cortex which, when activated, allows us to be open, curious and creative.  It is this part of the brain that opens us up to new discoveries and insights.  It allows us to think critically and to take disparate pieces of knowledge and skills combining them to create something completely new.

Who would have thought about combining a mobile phone and a camera?  It seems so normal today however 30 years ago it hadn’t been thought of.

We all have the capability in our prefrontal cortex to discover, create, and innovate.

This is what is beyond our learning culture.

Our prefrontal cortex activates when we feel trust and our decision to trust comes largely through the conversations we hold with one another.  The better the conversation, the more trust is developed and the more we want to connect and engage with others to co-create and envision a new future state.

This is the magic, it’s the potential that lays beyond our current learning mindset.

No one knows the capacity of the prefrontal cortex, and therefore you have no idea about what you are truly capable of.  We see what is possible in technology disruptors such as Uber & Airbnb, smart TV’s, and social media, none of which were around 20 years ago.  As a result of these forward thinkers, we can look forward to curing diseases using nano technology and heading off to Mars.

What is your potential?

Most of our business learning and development conversations support developing what is already known and there is nothing wrong with this.  A lot of your skills and knowledge can be used in discovering the unknown.

A new conversation

However, if you or your business is keen to push itself, and unlock its true potential, then you need a new conversation.  One that unlocks our brain to think deeply, discover, and create.

Can you imagine what would be possible by having a conversation that activated and promoted learning the unknown?

Now that’s exciting, but it can also be difficult.

You see, your primitive brain will actively resist your efforts to step out of your comfort zone. Its role is to keep you alive and safe from harm.  So, whilst learning what is already known might be okay, discovering the unknown is a quantum leap for your brain.

Our primitive brain is highly tuned to locate potential threat, real or perceived.  It doesn’t tolerate uncertainty and we can respond very negatively toward it.  Have you resisted learning something new such as a new app, work procedure, or a dance move, for fear of embarrassment or failure?  That’s your primitive brain in action.

You will be a brave and courageous person to push through the resistance your brain naturally trigger.  To do so allows you to deliver solutions and ideas that no one would have ever thought possible.

Our conversations hold the key

The good news is that it all happens through conversations we have.  Good meaningful conversations that create safe spaces where we can think deeply, share ideas, and unlock our potential.  These include

  • The conversations we have with ourselves settling our fears and encouraging our curiosity
  • Conversations we have with others that focus on building trust, and,
  • Conversations we have without judgement, blame or denial.

Our brain loves challenges, finding solutions, and being creative, and we are all capable of all of this.  We can all learn how to open ourselves up to possibility and opportunity.  A culture that masters healthy conversation is the culture that creates, grows, and succeeds.

Learning to create the unknown is profound.

You will find it significant.

It is possible.

It is called Conversational Intelligence®