What are the first steps to building a learning organization?

You don’t have to be a large corporation to make the most of continuous learning. Learning organizations are good at creating and acquiring knowledge, then translating that knowledge into behaviors and actions that drive results. But where do you get started?

1. Support your team as they learn on the job

70% of all learning activities take place while working. Companies thrive when they empower their teams with the right tools for instantly consuming knowledge.

Knowledge bases and microlearning platforms can support fast learning and help minimize the time spent interrupting other people’s workday. With knowledge bases, employees gain immediate access to information precisely when they need it. Microlearning allows learners to consume training, but also learn practical skills in bite-sized pieces throughout the workday. It’s personalized and actionable.

2. Use data to inform decision making

Rather than fully relying on conventional wisdom, intuition or assumptions, learning organizations embrace a problem-solving approach and use relevant data to inform their decisions. Relevance is key, so you don’t waste time analyzing data that won’t have any impact. While single data sets are valuable, some conclusions will only come up when different data sets are examined together.

Data-driven companies are more innovative, have an edge on customer service and become more cost-efficient over time. Research shows that businesses using big data experienced an average 8% increase in revenues and a 10% reduction in costs.

Google famously created its People Analytics department to help the company make better HR decisions. Using this data, they managed to determine the eight behaviors for good managers, but also the top three reasons why leaders didn’t perform well in their jobs.

Remember that data is only as valuable as the insights you can derive from it and the actions that follow.

3. Encourage fast experimentation and don’t penalize mistakes

Experiments lead to innovation and continuous improvement. Learning can be distilled from every failed experiment, while successes can drive results and generate best practices. To foster experimentation, you need an organizational culture that favors risk-taking and doesn’t penalize mistakes. This can be particularly difficult for managers, as they need to deliver on their KPIs.

So how does a company go from penalizing mistakes to favoring experimentation?

A learning culture flourishes when leaders set the tone. They have to lead by example and show that risk-taking is encouraged.

Additionally, when transparency becomes a core value, the team can freely share ideas, but also feel comfortable to reveal their failures.

Finally, as mistakes are bound to happen, it’s important to fail fast. Building minimum viable products and making minimum valuable changes will allow teams to collect the maximum amount of validated learning while spending the least effort.

Continuous learning is critical for every successful company, but it’s OK not to have everything figured out. With a growth mindset and the right tools in place, we can all learn from mistakes and iterate on successful initiatives.