learning is the ultimate competitive advantage

Learning is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Originally posted at https://www.change4growth.com/ideas-4-growth/2020/4/29/learning-is-the-ultimate-competitive-advantage-are-you-ready

In today’s world everything is faster, more connected, and less predictable than ever before. As learning professionals, this rapid pace of change, means that we must move beyond the course-focused approach that has traditionally dominated most organizations.  

The durability of the things we learn is eroding quickly. According to “A New Culture of Learning” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown “The half-life of a learned skill is 5-years” – which means that much of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is irrelevant. 

A key implication of this fact is that the value of any static course depreciates faster and faster. For an increasing number of situations, taking months to create a course means that by the time it is published; it is already too late.  

In his book, “Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance“, Jay Cross recognized that “We’ve outgrown the definition of learning as the activity of an individual and moved back to an apprenticeship model, though at a higher level. We learn in context, with others, as we live and work. Recognizing this fact is the first step to crafting an effective learning strategy.” 

A critically important question that every learning and development leader must be considering right now is “How can we help our people participate in a flow of up-to-date information that’s both relevant and helpful to their on-the-job performance?” 

The good news for the field of L&D is that learning is more important than ever.  I believe that learning has always been the ultimate competitive advantage. But don’t just take my word for it. There is a growing body of research suggesting that “the long-term financial performance of learning companies is significantly superior to that of their closest competitors.”1 

So, what does that mean if you’re a leader who is looking to help your learning culture evolve to become a true competitive advantage? Here are a few things to consider:  

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways that give your organization a better capability for solving problems and innovating to keep ahead of competitors. 
  • Look outside your own walls and even beyond your industry to see what others are doing. There are some innovative ideas that others have already successfully implemented.  
  • Look at things from a different perspective. For example, consider how a marketing campaign approach might benefit some of your learning programs.  
  • Look for and tap into any sharing spaces available in your organization. Commonly available platforms like Microsoft Teams, Yammer, etc. can be a great way to facilitate conversations and introduce your teams to the idea of information flows.  

In times of rapid change, the key to success is learning. Those who are most receptive to change and able to learn the fastest are going to be the “winners”. 

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