Blog Post

Blog: A continuously learning organisation, when adaptability must be at the top of the agenda

Pia-Maria Thorén

Inspirational Director and founder of Agile People also an author of Agile People - A Radical Approach for HR and Managers (That Leads to Motivated Employees)

Agility is the same as adaptability or flexibility. Today, as things happen in our surroundings, we must constantly adapt and change our direction. The Corona virus is an example of this. We had no chance to anticipate it, it had consequences that we could only dream of and for many companies, it meant that business conditions completely changed overnight. Personally, I witnessed all my assignments, training, and conference speeches booked all over the world, 6 months ahead, disappear in a week. The prerequisites on which I built all my income, agile HR and leadership training in different parts of the world, disappeared as if by magic. Without income, my company Agile People cannot continue to exist. Sure, overall, we have fairly low costs, however, salaries and consulting fees must be paid every month, if not, there is no business left, as we are a typical knowledge company.

At this point, I had two choices:

  1. Panic and think that it is all over, I will go out of business.
  2. Think about what would be the best thing to do and then start trying to save my business.

I choose option 2. The most obvious thing to do was to transform all offline activity online. Said and done, I started recording videos, developed online course material, invested in a learning management online system, and started to deliver my training in a new way – same content but delivered in a whole new way.

Today, I’m not sure if I want to go back to the constant traveling and living out of a suitcase. I’ve discovered that I can sit in my home in Gothenburg, or in my summer house and run my online training for participants all over the world, and it’s actually very comfortable. And the technical development of digital tools makes it possible to work with people from all over the globe, from New Zealand to Brazil. The feedback I get in my online training is actually more positive than the one I usually get in in-person workshops. Online, you meet people from a variety of places, backgrounds and cultures. Discussions are richer and you get more diverse perspectives compared to offline training in for example Stockholm, where most people come from somewhere nearby.

Creating a learning organisation that run experiments all the time, and uses mistakes or challenges in the world as a way of learning, will be necessary for survival and competitiveness in the future. We need to use all our co-workers’ competence if we want to increase innovation and creativity to develop new products and services. Innovation in delivery so to speak. Sometimes that is about improving we produce something, do marketing in new ways, or developing complementary services for an existing offer.

Today and in the future, we constantly have to have one ear to the ground, listening to what goes on in the world, to what our customers and competitors are doing. It’s not enough to have an R&D department and think that it is their responsibility to develop new products. ALL co-workers have to develop all the time, and come up with thoughts and ideas that will make our organisation a better workplace for our employees, but also to improve our client offer.

What will be the difference between how we in the past worked with learning and development of skills, and how we need to work in the future? When I implemented Talent Management Systems, the learning module was often one of the most important modules, that many customers prioritised to include in the implementation project. Of course, we must constantly support the development of our employees. But the way we work with the learning process today is, as I said, somewhat different from how it was then. A summary of what it might look like can be seen below.

Today, there are so many different ways to learn, and the greatest learning probably takes place when you complete your daily tasks, especially if you challenge yourself and constantly try to find more creative ways to do your job.

The learning process is becoming faster, it is divided into smaller pieces, occurs more often and linked to demand, and it is adapted to the individual, and to the current climate. Access to knowledge needs to be easy and available when we need it, on-demand. We are moving away from the process of educating ourselves for a long time, forgetting half of it, to a world where the knowledge is in front of us just when it is needed. We use more internal expertise and less external "experts". We can learn a lot from our colleagues, especially if we work towards a T-shaped competence.

In the next part, we dive into what T-shaped competence is and why it is important to develop a learning organisation.

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