Real life as a basis for learning at work


A perfect marriage?

Learning is one of the most important and fundamental human activities. From children to adults, we are constantly learning and evolving. However, when it comes to learning in the corporate context, it’s not always easy. The education system often doesn’t keep up with the speed of change in the business world, and technology often forces us to learn differently. What’s more, professions and fields of work are becoming increasingly holistic, which makes learning in the workplace even more relevant… and far removed from the current school curriculum. Just think how much of our day-to-day lives we actually learn in a teaching context before our first job. That’s right. Very, very little.

Although learning is essential, maintaining a “lifelong learning” mindset can be challenging, especially when you have to deliver desired results. But recently we’ve been challenging companies to adopt a different approach: using real-life experiences to deliver relevant and meaningful learning to their employees.

The idea behind this approach is that real-life experiences have many similarities to work experiences. For example, a wedding is a celebration of the union between two people, and a merger between two companies is a celebration of the union between two organizations. By creating a similar experience, people recognize what is expected of them and how to behave in that situation. This makes the transfer of learning much easier. Let’s imagine a “merger” between two companies.

Let’s think of two CEOs proclaiming vows, at the ceremony, at the reception, at the party, sharing and getting to know the other family… Do you know how to behave in real life at this point? It’s to behave in the same way towards this corporate union.

When we started thinking about this, we realized that there are countless concrete possibilities for how companies can use these experiences to provide relevant and meaningful learning for their employees. For example, they can create mentoring and coaching programs in hair salons, where employees learn how to deal with difficult clients, or use business trips as opportunities to teach employees intercultural skills. Learning a new hobby to parallel learning a new mission. Imagine a “town hall” transformed into a lively condominium meeting, with employees debating company issues as if they were discussing the color of the building’s walls!

These are just a few ideas, but the real insight here is that there is huge potential in using real-life experiences to deliver relevant and meaningful learning to employees. We can even create a learning culture in the workplace and make it an integral part of our daily routine by drawing on artefacts from the organizational culture, projecting them onto real-life events through experiences and reaping the immediate benefits. This is one of our beliefs.

At the end of the day, learning is a constant and individual journey. Each of us must take responsibility for our own development, but companies have an important role to play in creating a culture of learning in the workplace.

Using real-life experiences as a basis for learning can make it more relevant and meaningful, while preparing employees to face future challenges (and for condo meetings).

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Real life as a basis for learning at work