There is, in fact, a robust, six-point business case for learning. It has six connected elements. Interestingly, the case is the same for both organizations and individuals although, obviously, the language you might express it in would be different.
- Performance. You can increase productivity and improve quality through learning, becoming faster and better. This applies equally in a business and a personal context.
- Being better than your rivals. In an age where human capital is all important, learning may well be the only sustainable source of competitive advantage, just as in the last two centuries building and financial capital were critical. For a dot-com or a communications company this is easy to see. But, even in more conventional manufacturing businesses, where knowledge of customer databases is important, it is not difficult to see the importance of better information. For and individual, it has always been the case that learning, whether in the shape of qualifications or not, gives you the edge at work.
Knowledge as one of the outcomes of learning. As US academic Warren Bennis puts it: “The major challenges for leaders in the twenty-first century will be how to release the brainpower of their organizations.” In practice, this involves understanding that many of the things that individuals and organizations know remain at a tacit or implicit level too often. If they are going to be of any use, they have has just completed a very demanding project will have gained competences in a range of areas, which, unless they are described and shared, will be of no use to the rest of the business. Or, at an individual level, you probably do not stop to think about how you drive a car until you have to help a son or daughter learn. Then you need to be able to explain your knowledge explicitly to be helpful in the passenger seat.
There are at least three myths about knowledge management:
that is a new phenomenon, that it is mainly about computer systems, and that knowledge can be managed at all. Knowledge can only be acquired through learning. Something is understood and an insight is acquired. That insight is then shared. In this process, people are the key and the speed and effectiveness of their learning are the determinants of success.
- Change. In the twentieth century there were predictable cycle of innovation lasting several years. More than two decades ago, UK management guru Reg Revans taught that unless a company’s learning is faster than the speed of external change, it will not thrive. Accelerated learning is essential for survival, bringing flexibility and adaptability. Business need multiskilled employees, with the lifelong learner adding most value. Rapid learning is required just to survive. This applies in your private life too. How effectively you deal with an unexpected house move, with divorce, or with the loss of a parent or family member will be largely determined by how adaptable you have learned to become.
- Learning is the key to successful cultural change. Too often, people are simply told to do something differently. However, if you engage people in a dialog about how to do things differently and let them learn new ways for themselves, they will become involved and cultures will change.
- Learning is a great motivator. When employability is key to people retaining their jobs, they naturally wan t to improve their skills. The Campaign for Learning showed in a 1998 MORI poll that 77 percent of employees would prefer to work for an employer that supported their learning that one that gave them an increase in salary. Individuals who have, in their own time, taken courses or engaged in learning activities in their local community know just how positive such experiences can be and how much this can motivate them.
Learning pay, then, for organizations and for individuals. Indeed, in recognition of this fact, the British government launched a new financial product called an Individual Learning Account (ILA). The essential in the same way that they currently invest in their house, their health, or their future pension. Under this scheme, a kind of new-economy virtual saving bond, individuals can claim tax rebates of up to 80 percent on the cost of learning. The discount is given at the point of sale and can be as much as 400 per annum.
Long term, the idea could be for the ILA to be the means by which people might pay for all their learning throughout their lives. It would become the method of saving for learning and the account could also receive investments from third parties such as an employer, or, if opened at birth, from a grandparent, for example.
A world in which learning was normal, paid for just as we pay for the other important things in our lives, would doubles be a better place. Indeed, learning can become almost addictive, and it is important to remind yourself that, to quote Warren Bennis again,
“You can learn anything you want to learn.”
This is taken from Power Up your Mind:Learn faster, work smarter.
Written by Arshad. A