Learning Isn’t Just For Learning At Work Week

As I write it’s Learning at Work Week here in the UK and that set me thinking about how much learning takes place without there needing to be a formal structure to it.

I can think of so many instances where I have learnt something which I have then been able to apply in my own work. As an example I well recall being in a meeting where the discussion was getting quite heated and noticing how the person chairing the meeting dealt with it to diffuse the situation and leave all parties happy. That was real learning at work which I was able to observe, reflect on, implement when I encountered a similar situation and then evaluate the learning that had occurred.

Now, I am not suggesting that for Learning at Work Week you go in search of heated discussions in meetings! However, I want to look at some ways in which you and I can learn without having to participate in a formal “learning” event.

Start With a Personal Learning Journal or Portfolio.

Learning at Work is not a simple A to B journey from a single goal to a single outcome, it is a process of continuous discovery and a Personal Learning Portfolio or Learning Journal helps you to keep track of and reflect on what you have learnt and discovered as you progress. You might be thinking that it seem a little time consuming to record your findings and thoughts but I have consistently found that being able to revisit the notes I have made over the years has sparked new learning and new avenues to investigate so it is something I highly recommend to you.

Engage With Your Colleagues

Talking to colleagues about what they are doing, what they have learnt or discovered, how they have tackled issues and so offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from them. People love to talk about their successes and as you establish a rapport with people they will be more open to talking about the failures that led to their successes. Engage with your colleagues at work and talk about how they overcame problems, what approaches they took to particular issues and challenges and how they managed to deal with them. Look around you now, if you are reading this at work, and just consider for a moment the amazing opportunities for personal learning that are available from the collective experience and knowledge of your colleagues!

Chat with them about their experiences, so that you can learn from past problems, develop potential solutions and work towards improving your performance – both as an individual and ultimately as a department or organisation.

Informal Group/Social Interactions

Following on from this idea of learning at work by talking with colleagues, there are many ways to use social, informal learning to interact with others in the workplace. If there are a group of you who would like to learn about the role of an individual within the organisation or perhaps discover how someone deals with their challenges then why not invite them to a lunchtime or after work session with a whiteboard in the staffroom? It can be a great way to share ideas and to learn new things. The results achieved are not just about personal, individual gains; the group effort can also improve interpersonal skills and even help with communication between departments.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Obviously you are keeping up to date with what is happening within your own workplace and staying on top of the goals of the organisation and the challenges it faces. However think about expanding your horizons,to keep up to date with news and events in your industry as a whole.

This can be done in many ways: social media is a great tool for engaging with other in the industry which I talked about in my post Social Media for Learning. But in summary, online discussion groups with others in similar roles offer an informal forum for discussion, news outlets are a constant source of up-to-date information and blogs can offer insights on potential trends and forecasts with alternative viewpoints. Gather as much information as possible and don’t be put off by the source – speculation on a niche blog from a real professional in your industry can be a great way of learning new things and stretching your mind.

I wrote about taking up the opportunities which many organisations offer to learn new things outside of work. If that is something that appeals to you and you want or need to learn aboout project management, public speaking, leadership and much more do take a look at A World of Learning Opportunities.

Enjoy Learning at Work week if you are in the UK! Take the opportunity to start the incredible journey available to you and remember Learning isn’t just for Learning at Work Week – it’s for ever!

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