What defines culture? Culture is not what you find when you travel to some remote island and discover a near distinct ethnic tribe. A group as small and modern as a Johannesburg based family of three can submit to a culture of their own creation. Culture is the establishment and fostering of customs that govern the way in which people think, perceive and behave, as has been claimed by cultural anthropologist Conrad P. Kottak (1991:17). Yet any behaviour of this nature can only truly be classified as cultural, if and when it is shared. Shared, these behaviours will often become known to be characteristic of the specific group.
Focusing on a group of corporate employees, whether it is a small company, a department within a company or a large enterprise, I would like to argue that a reputable culture of Lifelong Learning can be established and maintained.
Active participation and contagion
“Learning is fundamentally personal, social, distributed, ubiquitous, flexible, dynamic, and complex in nature.” (Mohamed Amine Chatti, 2010:67)
I would like to focus on the social and distributed aspect of learning. We learn, understand and are able to expand on acquired information if it is made social. The term ‘social’ is here used in the sense of ‘something shared’ – discussed, debated, where we can be challenged to form our own perspectives and opinions as influenced, in agreement with, or in contrast to those of others.
One of the key elements of being a leader is to inspire positivity through being an example thereof. Neuroscience tells us that emotions are contagious (Richard Boyatzis, 2012). The idea here is to spread a passion for continuous learning throughout the work environment. This does not mean that one should govern the process, but instead to strategically share and spread knowledge that will encourage others to want to know more. If employee development is encouraged and employees are challenged to keep themselves informed and updated on the industry that they work in, then learning becomes a positive experience aimed at a positive outcome.
Make a plan
There are hundreds of ways in which to put LLL into practice in the office, but here follows a few ideas that has been proven to work brilliantly.
Firstly, the Flipped Classroom model can be employed in the workplace. A group of +-5 employees can be appointed to study a couple of video lectures, a couple of eBooks and a couple of case studies through eLearning programs provided for them. They can then meet to discuss the content. Chances are that each person would have drawn different sections of interest from the same learning materials. Different ideas regarding how to apply the studied content to their jobs would also surface here. If all members are well prepared, such a meeting need not be longer than 15 minutes.
Secondly, learning content can be divided between employees. Each employee allocated with a custom set of learning materials available from an eLearning system, could present their own personal summary presentation to the group. This could then be discussed between members. Such a presentation need not take longer than 5 minutes. The same meetings can also be held virtually. Meetings can be set up in the eLearning portal, notifying and reminding group members to login to their person discussion forum at a specific negotiated time. Presentations can be set up within the eLearning portal and sent to others for perusal.
Another fantastic plan is to contribute to a company blog page on a weekly basis. This encourages employees to do research, form their own opinions, and communicate that to others in the form of a publicly posted blog article. I promise you this works, as I am busy doing it right now. My own method entails signing up for various eLearning courses online via www.coursera.com. I choose my courses bearing my specific industry in mind. On a weekly basis, I would then compose a blog article on what I have learnt in that week.
Responsibility and accountability
You are responsible for you own learning! For more on this topic see MOOCs: Making Education a Responsibility Irrespective of Social Status
I used to hate reading! All my friends read and they would talk about the books they read in recess. I had to read the books to know what they were on about and to be able to join in on the conversation. Within a couple of weeks, reading storybooks became a daily thing. (Anonymous)
Being accountable to others drives us to achievement. One of the benefits of eLearning is that you can learn at your own pace, however self-discipline and commitment to daily learning (especially if it is “lifelong”) is easier said than done. Your pace might just be a little bit too slow which could cause one to miss opportunities at being current and updated when your job position demands it. In this area, the group scenario is the answer. Along with group learning comes the responsibility of being accountable.
Accustomed to learning
Customs manifests themselves within the daily behaviours of groups when they make practical sense, when they make logical sense, when the benefits that they present are clear, and when enough people devote enough time and energy to them. Custom then becomes a routine, routine becomes commitment, and commitments evolve into a lifestyle – and finally a group that is actively employing the “custom” of lifelong learning has formed a culture in its own right.
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Carla van Straten is a Writer for Sound Idea Digital | Carla@soundidea.co.za | @SoundIdeaLMS | Sound Idea Digital l www.soundidea.co.za
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