Exploring the Link between Continuous Learning and Organizational Innovation

Two gears labeled learning and continuous.
Continuous learning is the key to organizational innovation.

You may have been taking classes, conferring with colleagues and reading articles for years without realizing that you were engaging in continuous learning

Don’t Take Learning for Granted

Learning is likely now on your list of things to do, like getting the oil changed in your car or going to the dentist for a checkup. While you may think learning is just a normal part of life, the truth is, whatever goes on the to-do list is taken more seriously.

After all, why is it that certain professions require a preset number of hours of continuing education classes per year to remain certified to work? If regulators expected workers would do this on their own, they wouldn’t force the issue.

As a manager or CEO, you have certain expectations for your employees. You think they know what these expectations are, but do they? Even when you spell them out, differences in word usage and understanding can create confusion, skewing the odds that you’ll get the results you’re seeking. So simply expecting employees to work at learning more is unrealistic. 

Therefore, innovation leadership at your company must work to create a culture of continuous learning. That can include everything from peer coaching to reading an infographic on the wall over the water cooler to funding employees’ pursuits of master’s degrees.

Pursuing Continuous Learning

While learning can occur naturally, without a plan, it is less likely to happen.

Because everyone is always super busy, it should be a given that employees will have to give up something they’re doing now in favor of engaging in continuous learning. What should it be? Should they attend fewer meetings? Generate less email? Stay off social media? 

First, specify in what types of continuous learning you want your employees to engage. Maybe you want to bring in experts in the field to speak to groups of employees at your worksite. Maybe you would like some of them to attend classes and present what they’ve learned to others. Maybe you want to enlist the help of professionals to facilitate new ways for employees to interact that foster more learning.

While it’s usually good to plan before jumping headlong into any new venture, it’s hard to go wrong with innovations in continuous learning. Even if a speaker or a class wasn’t five-star worthy, participants likely learned something. Each participant experiences learning differently; this is one of the tenets of innovation. There’s no spontaneous generation. Innovation comes from looking at old problems and solutions in a new way, even if it’s by accident.

Group of people sitting next to each other with laptops.
Provide more, expect more; get your workers used to continuous learning.

Innovation Leadership: Your Dedication Is Showing

Merely making it known that as an innovation leader, you have a plan and that everyone is expected to take part puts employees in a better frame of mind. They take a step away from stagnation and open their minds to new concepts.

Further, these types of overtures by company leaders are regarded favorably by employees because they show your level of dedication to your company. Investing time and money in continuous learning shows that you value your employees, their time, and your company.

One more crucial ingredient in continuous learning for organizational innovation is humility. In competitive industries especially, idea-stealing is a major obstacle to innovation. To counteract this, establish a culture in which everyone works together for the common good. 

In reality, it usually takes many people to bring an idea to fruition. Rarely are everyone’s contributions equal, but they are all valuable and should be treated as such. 

Reduce backbiting by praising everyone’s contributions, no matter how big or small. Eventually, your team members will get on board with your philosophy or they’ll leave to work for a company that pits employees against each other. 

Partner with IdeaScale for Innovation

Don’t leave your company’s future to chance. Use your innovation leadership skills to foster a culture of continuous learning that encourages and welcomes curiosity, exploration, and experimentation. 

To learn more about continuous learning for innovation, download IdeaScale’s Innovation Starter Kit.

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