Learning has and will become a key factor in the survival and success of all organisations. In fact, it is also the most crucial ability of all humankind to lengthen our species’ existence on Tellus. In order to safeguard our future, we actually need to learn new ways to think and act globally, not just to continuously improve, but to revolutionise our culture.
What is learning? I will respond differently today than I did over 40 years ago when an educator’s ethos was calling me. Even though we used to question the idea at the time, educating and learning were still based on the idea that there was already something that was complete, researched and known. It was our job to guide the pupils to learn and understand these things. I am not saying that there is nothing like this to learn anymore. The focus of learning is just different these days.
LEARNING IN THE NEW ERA
The world seems to be so fickle, its rhythm is constantly accelerating, it shakes common truths to the core, and it acts like a complex kaleidoscope. It is not enough to master things that are already known. Instead, we need to create a new understanding of global phenomena. Few things are best understood alone. Even the brightest of individuals do not have the capacity to reach such understanding and knowledge that would intertwine with our daily work and actions in a meaningful manner. That is where we need each other.
WHAT IS AT THE CORE OF LEARNING?
I am not trying to define learning as a concept, but to open a few illustrative windows to examine it further. In my opinion, it is important to understand the following aspects of learning in this era:
- Learning is about giving up. This means that we need to be able to identify the kind of knowledge and activity that have served us well, but whose time has run out. When we identify these well-established models, we can give them up to create a new understanding. For example, a precise and systematic industrial way to steer work performances no longer serves the work of today and the future, where, instead of being systematic, we need to be more flexible and sensitive to the situation.
- Learning is courage. Courage means openness to be unaware and inexperienced. A new understanding and knowledge can only be built in the state of open confusion. Experiments that accelerate learning require courage to act outside the box without any certainty of the result. We are all novices in the face of our future. One obstacle to opening up to learning is sticking to something that is familiar. We act as if we can and know while rejecting new observations and reflecting them. By doing this, we refuse to see our own impact on the natural phenomena tantalising the world, or features that make our working culture degenerate, and sabotage any opportunities for learning.
- Learning is fun – and it hurts. At the core of humanity’s learning is a game that involves a childish trust, experimentation, and humour. New findings through experiments, practise, and imagination bring joy and pleasure not only to growing children, but also to adult working life. I still insist that no relevant learning can take place without some kind of pain. In particular, learning away from old, useless, or harmful ways can be really hard work. We can easily steer back to familiar operating methods. In this, we need wilfulness, endurance of the threat of continuous stumbling, and an acceptance of incompleteness.
- Learning takes place in a community. Dialogue is essential to the ability to learn. Interaction involving dialogue allows for and encourages a variety of perspectives and also the tensions between them to work as catalysts for learning. Creative friction between them is likely to create new, unseen solutions.
- Learning will make a difference. The idea of continuous improvement and fine-tuning practices so that they become even more efficient are no longer enough for renewal – we need transformation. This means bringing the beliefs, ways of thinking and cooperative structures hidden beneath our culture to the surface and questioning them. Learning is guided by the key question: Could it be different?
CONTINUOUS LEARNING IS A WAY OF THINKING
Sometimes it is said that life is a never-ending learning process. I think that it could be possible, but it is not inevitable. I believe that the only way we can learn is if we practise observation, reflective thinking, being bold in acting differently, and experimenting.
We at Humap speak of a new era that requires new thoughts on leadership, building well-being, and guiding change. The “new” here consists of an idea of a reforming change that helps us to cherish our vitality both as communities and individuals. We see this change as a cooperative learning process. The process requires facilities and structures where it is possible to make observations, reflect, and mutually decide on new experiments.
I believe that all organisation in the new era is guided specifically by the ability to learn. That is our lifeline.