Our organizations are either growing or they’re dying. The key thing that drives growth in organizations is when their employees are learning. To strengthen our organizations, our teams, ourselves we need to ensure our culture allows people to be exposed to new and challenging opportunities to learn.
We learn constantly. Most of that learning, however, is incremental, improvements that build on what we already know and do. We expand our knowledge and refine our skills in ways that strengthen our identities and commitments. This process sharpens competence and broadens expertise, and is key in building subject matter experts.
Incremental learning can allow people to grow in a workplace until they reach the limit on their resources for new learning – think of it as an S-curve. Eventually, there isn’t enough opportunities to learn. Furthermore, learning that broadens our expertise is valuable, but it is not enough. Incremental learning does not alter the way we see others, the world, and ourselves.
The second type of learning is called transformative, it changes our perspectives laying the foundations for growth and innovative leaps.
Both kinds of learning are necessary. Incremental learning helps us deliver, while transformative learning helps us develop. Both are necessary, but too often we allow incremental learning to be haphazard and make no space for transformative learning.
In both cases we need to build spaces to drive learning.
We often see incremental in our training programs, while transformative is critical for culture building.
|Incremental Learning||Transformative Learning|
|Good for||Knowledge and Skills||Purpose and Presence|
|Source of Learning||Experts (models)||Experience (moments)|
|Work required||Deliberate Practice||Reflective engagement|
|Aim of process||New action (a better way)||New meaning (a better why)|
|Role of others||Focusing practice||Inviting Interpretation|
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- Brown D., & Starkey, K. (2000). Organizational identity and learning: A psychodynamic perspective. The Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 102. doi:10.2307/259265
- Hoffman, R., Yeh, C., & Casnocha, B. (2019). Learn from people, not classes. Harvard Business Review, 97(3). Retrieved December 31, 2019, from https://hbr.org/2019/03/educating-the-next-generation-of-leaders
- Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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