Embracing a Culture of Continuous Learning in Government

Group of colleagues sitting outside on the grass discussing ideas.
Learning leads to growth.

We never stop learning, on a personal level, and that should be transferred over to the professional world. Yet, prioritizing continuous learning can sometimes be a difficult task in government. Here’s what you need to know to implement continuous learning to breed innovation leadership, at all levels.

Build A Learning Mindset

It all starts with the right mindset. In any organization, there’s an issue of “we’ve always done it this way,” and governments have an added incentive to stick to the same procedures by legal and transparency requirements. So change – even minor change – can be disruptive. Approach it as a learning opportunity, a chance to build new skills and try new techniques, and encourage others to do the same. Mindset is often key to dealing with challenges.

Set Reasonable Standards

One of the core struggles of a learning mindset is the fear that you just won’t get it, no matter how you try to approach it. As a society, we attach a lot of shame to “failing,” regardless of our personal circumstances and resources. Setting reasonable, modest goals and standards for reaching those goals will remove that shame while making it easy to fit learning and developing knowledge into the workday. It’ll also give everyone a flexible, sensible path to develop skills, which will be useful for those who’ve been away from the classroom or have little experience with self-guided learning.

Provide Resources

In order to learn, people need tools; books, video classes, projects to work on, and the like. Fortunately, it’s never been easier, or cheaper, to find these resources. Investing in online classes, or vetting free resources such, as Khan Academy or YouTube videos from reliable sources, will provide handy resources. They can even enable collaborative learning, where someone a class or two ahead can pitch in and help a coworker.

Person sitting at a table writing notes in a note book.
Never stop learning.

Find Mentors

Not everything can be mastered with some reading and a few online courses, unfortunately. Even getting a solid proficiency in a new piece of software, a skill, or a technique doesn’t mean you’ve developed the intimate knowledge required. Therefore, you should find mentors within your organization, who can show you the tricks and techniques, and guide you through common frustrations and errors everyone makes.

Forget “Failure”

Everyone involved should understand that “failure” as a concept needs to be left aside. The simple truth is that there’s no 100% efficient system, and that’s as true of abstract systems like innovation and learning as it is about machines. What’s key is that something is learned from the process.

For example, Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, makes “failure parties” part of their drug development process. Instead of just dumping all the work they’ve done into a folder and forgetting about it, they sit down and look objectively at the data they collected and their hypothesis. What went right? What challenges emerged as the project moved forward? What can be applied to future projects? How can it be documented so future projects can more easily overcome the same challenges?

Learning is key to innovation, and government thrives on innovation. To learn more, contact us!

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