Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and it’s ever more important at work.
With the furious pace of change technology is bringing to business, the calls for continuous learning are increasingly louder and urgent. Without it, careers derail and companies fail, a fact that leaders in every sector can’t stress enough.
Yet, even though we want to learn and companies need us to do so, learning at work is hard – and we get little space to do it, says Gianpiero Petriglieri, INSEAD Professor and expert on leadership and learning in the workplace.
So how can leaders make more space for learning at their companies and how can we as individuals tackle the work of learning, especially the sort that transforms careers and organizations?
Petriglieri unpacks these questions and offers insightful, actionable answers in the just-published Winter 2020 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. Learning more, and learning well, he says, starts with understanding that learning is plural, that there are two kinds of learning, and that each need their own space to stretch us and help us grow our business in different ways.
How to Make Space for Transformative Learning
Most of the learning we do every day is incremental, building on what we already know and do. Executive education programs, management retreats, boot camps and workshops typically favor such knowledge- and skills-based learning. Though valuable, incremental learning is not enough, argues Petriglieri. The future of work demands transformative learning.
Transformative learning requires something many executives have little appetite for: slowing down. “The work of transformative learning starts with the simplest and most radical of steps. Pay attention to your experience in the present…The ability to learn from experience in the present – from moments, not models – is what is needed when the past has become a hindrance and the future is unclear,” explains Petriglieri.
Companies sometimes double down on incremental learning, the most familiar type, when they need transformation. The results are all too familiar – frustration and stalled change. At the same time, Petriglieri concludes, transformative learning must not replace incremental learning. It must lay the foundation for it. Leaders and organizations need to make space for both.
“Transformative learning sets us free to envision and create a new future,” Petriglieri says. “Incremental learning makes us stronger as we pursue it.”