Enable Curiosity to Propel Continuous Learning

In our world of work, change is constant. That means learning must be constant, too. 

For years, we’ve have been talking about creating a culture of continuous learning and learning in the flow of work. But employers and employees still struggle to make continuous learning a reality. Too often, employees still view learning as an activity separate from their job. Instead, they must believe that learning is their job.

“The real challenge today is to stay relevant; to learn how to learn,” said Bob Rosen, CEO of The Healthy Leader, a Brandon Hall Group Excellence Award-winning consultancy that helps organizations grow, adapt and thrive in the new era of work. 

“Curiosity, imagination and creativity are the core drivers to 21st-century learning,” he said. “Just like Google’s search engine, our mind needs to continuously refresh itself. With a Google mind, new insights are created, which expands our possibilities.”

Rosen’s vision is a great way to look at continuous learning; always refreshing your mind and gaining insights through a variety of resources. The responsibility for accomplishing that falls on both employees and the organization. 

For employees, it starts with embracing a growth mindset; the belief that learning anything new is possible and that intelligence and talent are merely the foundation. With a mindset of curiosity, you open yourself to discovery.

But facing heavy workloads and tight deadlines, employees are often drawn into a production trap where they don’t believe they have time to learn because they have too much to do. It’s a self-limiting paradigm that hurts employees’ — and employer’s — ability to grow. 

Employees must think more like entrepreneurs, Rosen said. “Entrepreneurs ask a lot of questions to a lot of different people. They shape their future rather than trying to predict it. They throw themselves into a sea of unknowns and challenge themselves to swim out. They imagine possibilities before they exist.”

Employers must enable that level of curiosity by balancing productivity demands with providing employees time to learn and reflect.

Organizations must also provide a variety of ways to learn. They have long been wedded to live instructor-led learning (ILT), which is often quickly forgotten and pulls learners away from work. Even during the pandemic, learning has shifted to virtual ILT, which still takes employees away from work and remains susceptible to erosion unless it is regularly reinforced, which is rarely the case.

It’s hard to blame employees for seeing learning as a hindrance rather than an opportunity. There is good news, though: Brandon Hall Group research shows more employers realize immersive and experiential approaches to learning are more effective because they enable employees to apply what they learn, work in teams and collaborate. This needs to be balanced with tools that allow employees to learn when, where and how they need it, such as:

  • On-demand, how-to videos
  • Microlearning
  • Mobile delivery
  • Ability to chat in the flow of work with peers who can offer guidance

Without a balance of immersive, learning-by-doing and on-demand learning tools, employers are erecting barriers to employees embracing a growth mindset. They can’t be curious, agile and seek more insight if they don’t have the resources — and freedom — to do it.

Employers must encourage, and employees must embrace, making curiosity a part of the daily routine.

“Channel your inner childhood curiosity,” Rosen recommended. “Remember those younger days when learning was fun and having an ‘ah-ha’ moment made a light go off in your head. Activate the search engine of your mind. Realize you are learning, unlearning and relearning every day. Learn how to learn again — and enjoy it!”

-Claude Werder, Senior VP and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.