Friday, November 6, 2020

g-f(1)12 Learning for a Living: Learning at work is work, and we must make space for it

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Extra-condensed knowledge

Calls for learning have long been common at corporate retreats, professional conferences, and similar gatherings. But with the furious pace of change that technology has brought to business and society, they have become more urgent. Leaders in every sector seem to agree: Learning is an imperative, not a cliché. Without it, careers derail and companies fail. 
  • Transformative learning does not transcend incremental learning. It lays the foundations for it. Transformative learning sets us free to envision and create a new future. 
  • Incremental learning makes us stronger as we pursue it. We might not be able to do both at the same time, but we are better off doing both over time.

Genioux knowledge fact condensed as an image.

Condensed knowledge 10

  1. The keynote speaker was enjoying fielding questions from a large auditorium packed to the rafters with executives, aspiring entrepreneurs, and management students. “Get ready for an age in which we are all in tech”, “whether you work in the tech industry or not.” “What’s the best way to get ready?” a woman asked. “Be great at learning,” he said without hesitation. “The moment you stop learning is the moment you begin to die.”
  2. Talented people flock to employers that promise to invest in their development whether they will stay at the company or not. And companies spend heavily on it. By one estimate, in 2018, corporate outlays on learning and development initiatives topped $200 billion.
  3. Despite the lofty statements and steep investments, however, learning at work remains complicated. People are ambivalent about it, if not outright resistant. We want to learn, but we worry that we might not like what we learn. Or that learning will cost us too much. Or that we will have to give up cherished ideas.
  4. Most organizations are not as hospitable to learning as their rhetoric suggests. In my work, I hear the same complaints over and over again: “My manager does not care about learning.” “Pressure to perform trumps our need to learn.” “We are told to celebrate failure as a learning opportunity, but I never feel that I can afford to fail.”
  5. We seldom acknowledge that learning is work — work that, paradoxically, gets harder in successful careers and organizations, where shame is most unwelcome.
  6. Learning Is Plural. The pull of habits and the push of expectations are familiar to anyone who works hard to earn others’ trust. It is not just pride or fear that keeps us stuck. It is also the shame that comes with being exposed and letting others down. The more valuable our identities and commitments are, the less space we feel we have to question them. On the contrary, we shore them up, developing ways to keep potential shame at bay, such as focusing on performance and the organization’s demands.
  7. We are all, in fact, learning every day. Most of that learning, however, is incremental, improvements that build on what we already know and do. We expand our knowledge and refine our skills in ways that strengthen our identities and commitments.
  8. Learning that broadens our expertise is valuable, but it is not enough. Incremental learning does not alter the way we see others, the world, and ourselves. Therefore, we do not just miss opportunities to accelerate that learning. We often miss learning of another kind altogether, the kind that scholars call transformative because it changes our perspectives and relationships, laying the foundations for personal growth and innovative leaps. Both kinds of learning are necessary, of course. Incremental learning helps us deliver, while transformative learning helps us develop. When we make space for the former and avoid the latter, however, frustration ensues, change stalls, and investments go to waste.
  9. Making Space. The kind of space we need for learning, and the way to make the most of that space, depends on what kind of learning we are after. For incremental learning, we need a more focused, less distracting, safer replica of our workplace — a boot camp of sorts, where we can practice the best possible way of doing things, get feedback, and try again. If we are after transformative learning, what we need is a familiar yet open frame — a playground of sorts that magnifies our habits and the culture that breeds them so that we can examine both, and imagine and try new ways of being.
  10. Most organizations promise to help their members learn, but only those that provide both kinds of spaces truly keep that promise. We value and often remain loyal to them even after we leave, because they offer “identity work spaces” where we can learn to fit in and become who we aspire to be, as well as learn what it takes to deliver and what we need to develop. In such spaces, there is focus on a broad vision and freedom to bring the vision to life in our own way. But even when organizations recognize that learning is plural and provide spaces for incremental and transformative learning, efficiency and change are not guaranteed. Ultimately, learning is practice. We need to do the work to make the most of the spaces we are given — the work of learning from experts and experience.

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Category 1: A new, better world for everyone

[genioux fact extracted from MIT SMR]

Authors of the genioux fact

Fernando Machuca


Learning for a Living, Gianpiero Petriglieri, December 10, 2019, MIT Sloan Management Review, MAGAZINE WINTER 2020 ISSUE. 


Gianpiero Petriglieri (@gpetriglieri) is an associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD and an expert on leadership and learning in the workplace.

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