In my recent blog post titled Drawing as Thinking…and a Treasure Map about #MadMapMarch, I wrote how I delved into some journal articles that explained the benefits of using different ways to express ourselves as a challenge to the way we think. In this case, it was comic books.
That is, drawing our thoughts in a comic book format to allow us to present our ideas in a non-text, non-linear and structured way.
While I was drawing my own comics, I shared them on Twitter seeking feedback and also my in-the-moment reflections on Snapchat which I use as a daily video journal.
This got me thinking about a recent interview with the Modern Workplace Alliance (an alliance of 5 specialist partners who offer services in digital transformations) where they asked me to define learning in the modern workplace. I realised I had illustrated an example of it in my own way.
That is, I learn best when I dabble in experiments and then share my findings across different social platforms however, other people have their own ways too.
Now you may have some questions as to how it pertains to you at work.
You may be thinking, sharing thoughts as comics?
Are you encouraging people at work to draw AT WORK?
Are you telling people to show and share their work on PUBLIC social media for ALL to see?
Settings these tools and methods aside for a moment, let’s consider what I’m saying here.
What Does Learning in the Modern Workplace Look Like?
Learning in the modern workplace is about your people being able to express their thinking in different ways and methods and to start conversations.
Learning is making meaning; and making meaning comes in different forms of expression that cannot be dictated, mandated or controlled by any manager, team or department.
- Encouraging people to take time to reflect on what they’re doing and why so that they construct their own meaning of their daily work problems.
- Making thinking, stories and experiences visible to others and expressed in such a way that makes the most sense.
- Not restricting learning to mean “training” or using specific tools and platforms like a Learning Management System; or attendance to workshops and classroom events.
When you think of learning in the workplace, think of the projects that you are doing; the team that you work with; the organisation that you work for; the spaces you work and connect in; the networks that you are part; and the tools that allow you to communicate and collaborate.
Now think what ties these all together.
It’s people – and the conversations you have with them.
Your ‘aha’ moments usually come about when someone shares an idea that you may have never thought about.
That’s the learning I’m talking about.
Think of your work as a flow from which you can add your own unique insights that only you have because you bring completely different approaches, questions and considerations than others. By talking to your peers, opportunities emerge to innovate, see new patterns, form insights to construct new meaning and new possibilities.
Learning in the workplace is all about opening your mind up to new possibilities.
What Does a Modern Worker Who Learns at Work Look Like?
A modern worker who learns at work:
- Sees opportunities in their work and projects so that they grow and develop with each new interaction and challenge
- Resists the urge to make their work and projects familiar to them because that’s how they’ve always done it in the past and that’s how they’ll continue to do them in the future
- Is able to see different contexts in front of them and change to suit – and then change again tomorrow and the day after that
- Uses any tool, platform or medium to express themselves in their own unique way; and/or seek out people they need to connect with
- May not know what to do, but knows the questions to ask and the people to seek out to help them solve it
- Sees through the daily non-value add and mundane distractions of work to focus on things that really matter – relationships
- Sees trends and patterns where others have failed to make connections
- Doesn’t follow templates, best practice or use ‘one size fits all’ approaches
- Takes time to self-reflect on actions and outcomes and how they can further improve by taking a genuine interest in nurturing their need for curiosity and deep understanding of themselves and how they interact with others
- Shares their knowledge, skills and experiences openly, publicly and transparently helping others in the process.
You know when you’re a modern learning organisation when your people are comfortable in being uncomfortable that they don’t have all the answers; and they seek them out with others both inside and outside your organisation as you’ve given them a safe space in which to question, play, explore without fear or consequence.
How Can You Share What You’ve Learned To Others in Your Organisation?
Luckily we have a plethora of ways to do this and get creative in our expression beyond writing. With technology nowadays, we can capture it, link it, tag it and share it instantly too.
Take a look around you and see what people are using for their canvas. It’s not just paper notebooks anymore. It’s their laptops, tablets, mobile phones, stylus, social media accounts, enterprise social network, smartphone camera, augmented and virtual reality. Others are comfortable with pens, paper, sketch pads and sketch noting.
This opens up possibilities to express our thinking, experiences and stories in ways that capture our imagination.
Audio, video, live streams, text, gifs, stickers, emojis, sketches, images, annotations, screen grabs, web links and so much more create a far richer and contextual way to capture, share and create new knowledge. With that comes imagining new possibilities.
So how do you share your knowledge and learning to others in the workplace?
Easy. Don’t assume you have to copy the method of others.
Don’t assume it has to be in a written format or heavens forbid, on a PowerPoint slide.
Do what you feel is comfortable for you.
Usually, you’ll know what this form of expression is for you because you enjoy doing it, time passes rapidly because you get in the flow, others have given you positive feedback consistently and it seems to be your ‘unique signature’ for what your peers know you for because it seems to come naturally to you.
Do more of that.
What Can Organisations Do to Support Learning in the Modern Workplace?
Many organisations don’t understand, know or value the unique skills and talents of their workforce unless they are related directly to the job they are doing or the project they’re working on.
- Are you aware of what skills your employees have outside of their daily work environment?
- Do you know what networks they’re connected to inside and outside your organisation?
- Do you know if they are working on side projects that are entrepreneurial, creative and community-related?
- Are you incorporating these talents into solving organisational problems?
If not, start asking questions and look to your staff, not as workers but as people who have ideas that may be unexplored, unvoiced and unrecognised; experiences that may provide insight; and suggestions worthy of undertaking.
Some things an organisation can do are:
- Give your people an opportunity to work on exciting and challenging projects – inside and outside your organisation
- Understand that your workers are people who have skills, talents, experiences, capabilities, accreditations – and emotions – that are relatively unexplored and are just as important as the skills they demonstrate in their current job
- Make time for learning every day – it can be as simple as asking a couple of questions at the end of every interaction with people. How does this help me and others? Who needs to know?
- Allow your people to engage and contribute to social technologies such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams or even public social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn
- Empower people to show and share their work transparently without fear or consequence
- Create a safe space in which people can treat the workplace as a “playground/classroom/experimental space” – ask questions, explore ideas, test things out, connect with people, collaborate with each other, grow as people
- Help them be better versions of themselves that helps them in their next phase in work or life – whatever that may be.
The best thing organisations can do to enable learning to happen is to keep lines of communication – whether face to face or online – open and unhindered.
So there you have it. Learning in the modern workplace comes down to creating a trusted environment where people can work, connect and build new knowledge that not only adds value back to the organisation but also helps them develop as people.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can do this in your organisation, contact the Modern Workplace Alliance.