Turning chaos into calm: Building a culture of learning in your organisation

In this blog, Alicia Grimes, Co-founder at The Future Kind, shares her thoughts on building a culture of learning and how organisations can navigate uncertainty.

9th May 2024

Guest blog written by Alicia Grimes, Cofounder at The Future Kind

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, the ability to adapt and learn continuously is no longer just a nice-to-have but a necessity for an organisation’s survival. Companies that thrive amidst chaos are those that have created and invested in cultures of learning. And leaders who are focused on building strong, highly effective cultures know that through providing proactive learning environments, they can both build businesses that succeed throughout ongoing change whilst also providing their people with continuous development opportunities.

So, how can we build our own learning cultures that enable our organisations to navigate uncertainty? Well, first, we need two essential, and sometimes contradictory, foundational elements to be present:

Stability = Safety, Alignment, Empowerment

A stable culture is built on foundations of safety, where individuals feel secure to express themselves without fear of judgement. Alignment ensures that everyone is moving in the same direction, working towards common goals, and empowerment enables autonomy and accountability, so that individuals feel they have the structure and support to take ownership of their work.

Adaptability = Growth Mindset, Flexibility, Capability

On the other hand, adaptability thrives on a growth mindset, where challenges are seen as opportunities for learning and growth. Flexibility enables swift responses to changing circumstances, while also providing people with the choice of how they can do their best work, whilst capability ensures that individuals possess the skills and knowledge to tackle new challenges effectively.

When we have these essential foundations in place, we can then integrate proactive learning into our everyday interactions.

From adhoc to integrated learning

Whilst traditional learning often looks like formal, structured courses that are scheduled periodically, today's workplace and external environments means that learning needs to be integrated, active, and routine to be truly effective.

Learning can no longer be separate from work but an integral part of it. Rather than setting aside specific times for learning, it should be seamlessly woven into daily tasks, projects, and interactions. The way individuals, and teams, learn should be active, encouraging our teams to adopt a proactive mindset, actively seeking out opportunities for growth and development. When learning is ingrained into the rhythms and rituals of our teams, it becomes a collective responsibility, embraced by all members of the team, and reflected in the language used and the way people collaborate.

Traditional learning and development programs have their place, however the focus of a learning culture should shift towards everyday interactions and experiences. It's in these moments of engagement and collaboration that the most impactful learning occurs. And these moments can happen across the day, weeks, or months. They can happen in the times we make mistakes, when we try new things out, when we provide feedback, in how and when we recognise each other - these learning opportunities are dotted throughout our day and our weeks, and when we identify them we need to ensure we have the mechanisms and practices in place to optimise the learning opportunity and embed them through regular team rituals.

How we can design learning into our working rhythms and rituals

Given that every organisation has its unique rhythms, routines, and rituals, a one-size-fits-all approach to building a learning culture won't cut it. Instead, organisations need a framework to design tailored learning rituals that align with their specific context and objectives. At The Future Kind, we believe that designing learning cultures can be done so through both small and big interactions.

Here’s some prompts to help you frame how you design your learning rituals:

  • Summarise the learning need - What business need are you looking to respond to? What people needs are you hoping to meet?
  • Get clear on the desired outcome - What will this outcome enable for the business and your people? What skills will be gained? How will you measure the impact of this learning ritual?
  • Consider an end-to-end experience - Map out the learning ritual including the beginning, middle and end. Consider how this might fit into an existing ritual that your team has.
  • Consider the learning nudges needed - What reminders or prompts will need to happen to reinforce the learning during or in between rituals?
  • What will be gained? Consider emotional, social and occupational rewards.
  • Who will be involved? Who will be accountable to make this happen?
  • What systems are required to support this? Capture the technology, people or processes needed to support or embed this learning ritual.

An example of this could be as simple as marking those moments you make a mistake. At The Future Kind, as part of our end of week check-in, we share our high’s, low’s and uh-ohs.

Here's how it works: Each of us takes a turn to share our weekly highlights, low points, and those "uh-oh" moments that make us all human. 😅

The result? We understand what worked well, what needs more work and create a safe space by sharing our failures. And in a remote-first setup, it provides visibility of what people are experiencing behind the scenes. Another one is the “3 Whats”, 3 simple questions to help build trust and learning into the end of your week - whether you’ve wrapped up a project, delivered a workshop or tried a new sales technique, get your team together and ask:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • What are we going to do differently next time?

Building a culture of learning is not just a matter of offering training programs or workshops; it's about ingraining learning into the DNA of your organisation. By integrating learning into everyday interactions, fostering a growth mindset, and designing tailored learning rituals, you can create a culture that thrives amidst chaos, turning uncertainty into opportunity.

About The Future Kind

We’re on a mission to create a world where all people get to work for kinder, fairer and better designed companies. We do this by designing company Operating Systems that guide your team’s everyday for startups and scale ups. We discover your operating challenges and develop daily practices that propel your people and your growth. By defining and operationalising values and rituals that live beyond vague statements on your website, we deliver positive change that’ll improve your retention, streamline your strategy, and support every person touched by your company. Learn more about us and our work at https://www.thefuturekind.co/