Connecting to learn, reflecting to learn

This week is National Learning at Work Week, led by Campaign for Learning, with “Connect” as the theme for 2016.

Naturally, as an OD person, I’m inclined to take a broad view of what we mean by learning. For me, it’s less about traditional teaching in a classroom setting and more about embracing change; actively seeking out opportunities to improve and pushing yourself to try new things.

I think learning and improvement are inextricably linked.

“The NHS should continually and forever reduce patient harm by embracing wholeheartedly an ethic of learning.” – Recommendation in the Berwick Report, 2013.


Chris Myers, who is a professor in Organisational Behaviour at Harvard Business School, has done a lot of research on what psychologists call “vicarious learning” in the workplace.  He describes that we do a huge amount of our learning by being exposed to and coming to understand other people’s experiences, rather than necessarily through our own direct experiences.  We learn from other people’s learning.

Of course, it’s important to recognise that different people learn in different ways, but with 3500 people working in our organisation, and 1.3 million people working in our National Health Service, there has to be a massive opportunity – or lots of individual opportunities to learn all around us.

The value of connecting with people to share experiences and reflections is huge, but we often overlook that value when we’re talking about learning.  It is also easy, when we are in the throes of improvement project rigour, delivery deadlines and meeting discipline to dismiss reflective conversation as non-value added activity.

However, if other people’s experiences = learning and learning = improvement, then we probably need to keep that thinking in check.

Some tips for you to consider:

  • Take time to build quality relationships rather than transactional ones
  • Tackle improvement work with a buddy rather than alone
  • Ask people questions

In summary, Learning at Work week is a useful reminder that we should all elect to learn, connect to learn and reflect to learn.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below and thanks.

Rebecca – @Rebecca3005

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