The Future of Learning

The pace of change is the fastest it has ever been and the slowest it is ever going to be. In the face of ever-evolving technology, including advances in automation and artificial intelligence, how will today’s organisations adapt to maintain their competitive advantage and increase resilience? The answer lies in establishing a culture of deep learning that propels business performance forward.

Achieving engagement is about giving people the information they need at the time they need it (reducing friction) and providing them with opportunities to use that information in context, so they feel in line with its’ purpose. The old out-dated paradigm of business saw the Human Resources function become, through no fault of its own, disconnected with the real purpose of its existence.  Compliance, regulation and endless forms to adhere to have clouded the view of why people get into HR in the first place. HR is about cultivating a workplace that inspires and supports the people who work in it.

Gone are the days of boring box-ticking. Future-proofing organisations and making plans to improve business resilience are more important than ever before. A workforce of engaged learners is an organisation’s biggest asset, so it makes sense to ensure that engagement is optimised at all times to continually deliver value, even in the face of volatility. The digitisation of learning and development went into overdrive when the pandemic hit. This has seen corporate L&D catapulted to the top of the business agenda. It has been a revolutionary change for businesses, and more of a white-knuckled ride for many learning leaders.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

— Socrates

5 Emerging Learning and Development Trends in 2021

Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace). 21st century learning must be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis, from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can appear as formal learning or informal learning, classroom or self-directed learning:

1. Rapid Reskilling

The cataclysmic shift to remote work demanded immediate upskilling and reskilling of entire workforces, often disparately located, perhaps even speaking multiple languages. This is a far cry from little over a year ago when learning leaders were planning for skills gaps two years in advance. The pandemic has removed the luxury of time and, with new knowledge developing faster than ever, learning leaders can no longer spend months creating learning experiences that have a short sell-by date. Far-in-advance, set-and-forget L&D planning is no longer viable because, in today’s world, it is clearly nonsensical.

The order of the day is agility, and it is this that will dominate learning conversations in 2021. Agile learning methodologies that focus on speed, flexibility and collaboration are the future of L&D. This approach will enable leaders to better manage the revolving door of perpetual skills gaps by ensuring people are rapidly reskilled for the benefit of personal and business performance. It also presents wonderful opportunities to keep the company values and message front of mind for everyone in the organisation.

2. Performance Over Skills

It’s one thing to announce a culture of learning and quite another for learning leaders to demonstrate its tangible impact on the bottom line. Learning design is attracting more scrutiny for its ability to drive business performance and deliver a return on investment. A trend toward longer-lens focusing and holistic business performance is replacing skills development focus. While this is still an emerging trend, it will soon become a deafening drumbeat as learning programs are widely redesigned to drive performance ahead of skills.

3. Corporate Learning Everyday

It’s what you do every day that counts, not what you only do once in a while. For organisations to truly create a culture of learning, it must happen “on the job” or “in the flow of work”. In this way, learning can be integrated into everyday work as a means of developing applicable skills. The future of learning is an everyday activity where people are actively engaged in searching for the trusted answers and knowledge they need to satisfy their curiosity and excel to ever higher levels. 

4. Integrate Virtual and Digital

When the first wave of COVID hit, some learning leaders switched into reactive mode as they scrambled to make the transition from classroom learning to a digital-first model. The transformation to digital has been rapid in all areas, but the progression in L&D over the past 12 months is arguably greater than we have seen over the past decade. This means leaders received a crash-course in learning what does and doesn’t work in this pandemic. For example, the abrupt realisation that constant Zoom meetings can be draining and disengaging for learners, so it’s been known for some time that simply switching to a virtual classroom is not the solution.

The answer lies in marrying the best of reimagined virtual L&D with the best of digital learning – and striking the right balance is featuring high on the business priority list. Achieving the optimum blend may be more complex than we might first think. Any integration of virtual with digital must be underpinned by learning in context and, crucially, it must support remote learners’ heightened demand for value and social interaction.

5. Data-Designed Learning

Learning leaders are recognising they need more information so they can be empowered to ask the right questions at the right time. In this way, they need specific data to understand what matters most. In this way they can design learning solutions with both learner and organisational outcomes in mind. Data-driven learning design is now mainstream. Armed with data-driven insight, more and more organisations are swapping stand-alone learning for a culture of continuous learning for the benefit of work. This is positively transforming the world of corporate learning because it creates a self-perpetuating cycle of learning success that can be iterated when needed.

“A mental shift is required if we want to go from fear to faith, from scarcity to abundance,
from being average to being awesome.”
― Malcolm Johansson

Growth Culture = Exceptional Results

Why does one car dealership perform much better than another when they both sell the same cars and can hire from the same pool of candidates? Why does one consulting firm continue to outpace another when both have the same portfolio of services and access to the same sort of clientele? Why does one leader struggle to maintain a high-performing team, when the next leader manages to achieve world-class work from the same cast of characters? …The answer in all three cases is culture – the work environment that nurtures the commitment and ingenuity of real people doing real work. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

A quick review of companies that have successfully changed their culture, reveals that none of them actually “transformed” their culture. They didn’t do a complete tear down and rebuild. Rather, like renovating an old house, they kept the unique and hard-to-replace aspects of the organisation and went to work upgrading around them. While they tend to retain most aspects of their purpose and values, successful companies focus on changing aspects that improve employer brand, consumer brand, and shareholder value.

“Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.”

— Brian Chesky

Leading Indicator of Future Success

Organisational culture and financial performance are inextricably linked. In his first shareholder meeting as the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella said, “Our ability to change our culture is the leading indicator of our future success.” He went on to engineer an excellent example of how to succeed at culture change, and in the process catapulted Microsoft to the most valuable company in the world.

Microsoft’s culture renovation was based on some simple concepts, the most famous being Growth Mindset. Previously, Microsoft valued knowledge and intellect over everything else, and if you had critical knowledge you were considered quite powerful. This kind of thinking exists in a lot of organisations and it is damaging, and often ruinous to culture. People hoarding knowledge as a protection mechanism and to wield power is completely counterproductive to success in the collaboration age.

Using the concept of Growth Mindset, Microsoft changed to an attitude that knowledge sharing is power. To reinforce this, Satya very publicly declared he didn’t want a company with a bunch of know-it-alls. What he wanted was a culture of learn-it-alls. He continually stressed the importance of growth and development. These simple tweaks created an entirely different environment internally.

“You don’t become awakened by adding more content to your mind. In fact, those that have awakened say that they actually know less. What comes with awakening is the ability to embrace ‘not knowing.’”

— Eckhart Tolle

Growth Mindset

People who don’t succeed are often blocked by a fixed mindset — that is, a mindset that assumes abilities and talents are given, limited and minimally subject to improvement. These people believe they were born with certain qualities, both positive and negative, and that they are largely fixed throughout their life. While they usually recognise the value of training and education, when it comes to raising their horizons and imagining a bold and strikingly different future, it’s often simply beyond them.

A growth mindset is one in a constant state of flux. It’s at work improving, expanding and honing all inherent talents and gifts, as well as adding to and improving those acquired along the way. Consider for a few moments how the mind structures itself: your beliefs and feelings mould your perceptions and continuously broadcast a frequency of energy either repelling or attracting life’s events. Sometimes an event is dismissed, as if you were shooing away a fly, yet it is still imprinted with invisible ink in your subconscious mind. Some events you never forget because you have a flashbulb-like memory of the experience. Whether you consciously remember an event or not, the situation and your projected beliefs concerning it are faithfully stored in your memory banks, according to your perceptions.

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

— Peter Drucker

Drawbacks of a Fixed Mindset

Those with a fixed mindset are more likely to avoid learning situations because they are a direct challenge to the ego. With the stakes of success and failure dramatically heightened by the ego’s drive to protect itself, attending a class, for example, becomes less about learning and more about looking for an opportunity to show that they already know all the answers. Someone with a fixed mindset is more likely to avoid challenges, give up easily and see little point in making effort toward a goal.

Stretching your mind to consider the symbolism and significance of any event can literally “switch” your point of view, if you clearly intend to understand. What mental closets must you clean to achieve that state? Do you practice self-hypnosis with some of your favourite limiting beliefs? “I have no control over the situation. I will always be poor. Money is hard to come by. Life is a struggle. Money is the root of all evil. There is nothing I can do. That’s just the way it is. I’ve always done it this way. There is no way that I can get out of this. Well never know. I don’t know. I could never. I forget. I didn’t see.”

“A growth mindset invites me to make every mistake a new one, to believe that I can choose to think differently, and thus to act differently.”
― David Taylor-Klaus

A Growth Mindset For Freedom

How often do you put yourself in a trance in order to stay right where you are? How often do you use sarcasm? The comfort of the old, familiar mental rut anchors you to the same old scenarios. The link between mind and matter is an essential lesson to master. You must change your core beliefs in order to see change in the outside world. You can change these limiting commands by replacing them with encouraging, self-empowered thoughts. Limitations come from inside your mind, and making the decision to let go of restricting beliefs is like taking off a pair of tight shoes or slipping out of a corset: you are filled with a new sense of freedom and relief.

With a focus on bettering, rather than protecting oneself, someone with a growth mindset will not feel threatened by the intelligence and success of others. Instead, they will be more likely to admire others, learn from them and find inspiration in their successes. A growth mindset offers more freedom to reach your full potential and stay in alignment with your values instead of being held back by limiting beliefs. With this freedom, anything is possible. It brings with it the courage and motivation to strive, fail and strive again. People who experience this type of freedom believe they have the ability to change not only their own lives but also the lives of others.

“To learn to read and write a simple language, you take 12 years of schooling to read, write, understand; that’s all you’re doing in school…For this you’re taking 12-years. To transform your life you want to do it in 2-minutes. So is that what your life is worth? So if your life is worthwhile, is it not important that you invest a certain amount of time and energy?” 

— Sadhguru

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Most failures in life occur not because of limited resources but because of limiting beliefs. With practice, determination and effort, you can develop a growth mindset. All choice is with you.

  1. Believe you can. Use a daily mantra or affirmations. You are in charge of your mind, so program it for success.
  1. Blame = avoiding responsibility. Blaming anyone for anything is literally giving away your ability to respond. Recognise you are responsible for your life and for making the most of your innate talents and abilities. The next time you hear yourself blaming something or someone, take a step back, own up to your responsibility, identify the lesson, and move on.
  1. Those seeking change must also be curious. Marvel at how much you don’t know. Get used to this feeling. Not knowing is not a reason for fear or shame, it is one for excitement! Follow up by asking questions and seeking more information.
  1. Allow yourself to fail. As uncomfortable as it may be to your ego, it’s essential that you try and fail, and try and fail again. You don’t learn anything by getting it right. Every failure is a stepping stone on the path to success.
  1. Aim to be uncomfortable. Leave your comfort zone and learn to enjoy operating outside it. For many of us, the comfort zone is a safe haven, free from challenges. Here’s the thing: “free from challenges” also means “free from growth.” Push yourself and grow.
  1. Process over results. While we may embark on a goal to achieve a result, it is the process and the journey itself that contain nuggets of happiness and learning. Well earned self-praise for a valiant attempt or for reaching a milestone can sustain you over the long haul. When the going gets tough, process is critical.
  1. Run Your Own Race. Comparison is the thief of joy. Envy is an ugly emotion which is only triggered when you believe that, on some level, you come up short. In order to adjust the measurements and neutralise your envy, you are faced with a choice point in the moment: diminish the source (unadvisable) or elevate yourself. When faced with another person’s success, choose to use their success as inspiration for what you want to achieve for you.
  1. Watch your ego. Don’t allow the protection of your ego to get between you and the changes that could make you happier and more successful. A growth mindset will push you into areas where you feel less comfortable, less accomplished and more afraid. The ego does not like this. Again, you will find yourself at a choice point. Will you choose to listen to your ego and stay on the path to mediocrity? If you want to shine and excel, you must be prepared to challenge your ego, limiting beliefs and assumed limitations.

 “Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.” 

— Eugene S. Wilson

A Long Life of Lifelong Learning

Most people will learn something new at some point in their daily routine simply by talking with other people, browsing the internet, or engaging in some personal interest. However, if you really want to become a lifelong learner, you may need a more organised structure:

What Lights You Up?

Lifelong learning is about you, not about what other people expect or want of you. What lights you up? What do you envision for your own future? Is there something you want to contribute to humanity? You are so much more powerful and capable than you realise. You have been given this passion and these visionary ideas for a specific reason … because this is how you are meant to change the world.

Find Your Why

Once you’ve identified what lights you up, explore what it is about that particular thing that makes you want to achieve it. Discovering why you want to do something will help you maintain focus.

What Do You Need?

What resources, people or further information do you need to get you there? What one thing can you do today to move yourself forward?

Structure Your Time

Fitting a new learning goal into your busy life takes consideration and effort. If you don’t make time and space for it, it won’t happen. Without discipline, you can easily slide into discouragement or give up altogether. Discipline will take you places motivation cannot.

Make a Commitment

Committing to doing something each and every day that moves you towards your goal – even if it’s only a baby step – will absolutely eventually get you to where you want to be.

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” 

— Eric Hoffer

Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Humans are growth oriented. When we are not learning, we are not growing, and when we are not growing, we are stagnating. Incorporating lifelong learning in your life can offer many long-term benefits, including:

1. Renewed self-motivation

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut doing things simply because we have to do them, like going to work or cleaning the house. Figuring out what inspires you puts you back in the driver’s seat and is a reminder that you are the CEO of your life. You are in charge. You call the shots.

2. Re-igniting your passion

The fire of a burning desire melts the ice cube of mediocrity and boredom. Passion makes life more interesting, it can burn away barriers to future opportunities. 

3. Improved self-confidence

Becoming more knowledgeable or skilled in something can increase our self-confidence in both our personal and professional lives. Devoting time and effort to learning and improving, gives us a sense of accomplishment, expands us and makes us more interesting.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” 

— Lao Tzu

YOU are the Star Pupil at Earth School

The truth is that the only education is self-education. Teachers can impart information and make suggestions, but they are like sign-posts – they can only point out the way by example. A sign-post is of no earthly use unless the person who consults it wants to go somewhere. You are here to learn. Learning is your reason for being – that’s the whole point of evolution. We need only make ourselves open receptors of the information, and we can have all of this abundance, infinite possibilities, and wisdom right at our fingertips.

What does it mean to live a spark-filled life? It means waking up to a morning of possibility and potential that you intentionally plug into. It means leaving your past in the past and learning to show up fully in the present moment to create the kind of future you want, full of joy, abundance and breathtaking moments. You are a configuration of informed energy. The world runs on information that causes you to be “in-formation”. To make the transformation and to embody the choice to be present, means that we have to undo our past programming rewire our brains. Transformation can be painful and difficult, but that doesn’t mean we should back pedal from it to avoid the pain. Pain is an essential part of healing. The painful experiences we have in life are catalysts for massive growth and enlightenment.

“The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” 

— Plutarch

You Are Learning to Fly

…even as you are being brought to your knees. Humanity is currently being upgraded and recalibrated. If you reflect back over the past year or three, you will feel the changes occurring within you. You are not the same person you were then. For some, this can be confusing as we experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – the intellectual mind is trying to make sense of what is happening. As you feel the urge to learn and expand, you will begin to see glimpses of a greater ability to connect with others who are like-minded, to use your intuition, and to create a positive effect for our collective future.

You are not alone. These times are SO incredibly challenging to navigate. The energies are tremendously intense and rapidly fluctuating. No human beings have ever before lived at a time quite like this – when the future of life itself hangs in the balance. We who are alive on Earth at this moment have a deep and essential knowing that we are responsible for creating the great shift that is needed. It is time to dig deep and find the courage you need to take decisive steps forward. To learn and grow and actually become the best possible version of yourself that will bring about the tremendous positive change our world so deeply needs.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

“Learning without doing is wasted.” 

— Derek Sivers

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