Diving into the captivating realm of learning excellence, Greg Orme, Author, Facilitator, and Coach, explored the five symptoms of learning addiction in an insightful session titled 'The Heart of Change: The Human Edge in Transformation' at People Matters L&D India Conference.
Kickstarting the keynote, Greg identified his passion for learning by quoting Cicero:
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything."
How to identify you have an addiction to learning?
To identify learning addiction, Greg pointed out key factors saying, “As learning addicts, we may exhibit certain symptoms:
- If you have a towering stack of books waiting to be devoured
- If new knowledge starts appearing everywhere in your life,
- If you constantly connect new information with what you already know,
- If you feel the urge to experiment with freshly acquired knowledge,
- If you secretly relish long-haul flights as an opportunity to catch up on reading.”
Sharing his experience, Greg added, “Over the past decade, I've collaborated with diverse industries, each grappling with the impact of artificial intelligence, data deluge, fast computing, and digital transformation. The recurring narrative in these organizations is the need for a new strategy, organizational transformation, and a shift in leadership mindset and skills.”
C for Superpower
Referring to his book, Greg says “The main question revolves around the skills required in a world dominated by artificial intelligence. In essence, my conclusion remains pertinent: Don't compete with machines; differentiate with your human edge. This is more relevant than ever, as machines become increasingly proficient, encroaching into white-collar domains. The book identifies four superpowers - Creativity, Collaboration, Consciousness (equivalent to purpose), and curiosity.
Let's focus on curiosity, which I consider the gateway drug to the other superpowers."
What fuels learning addiction?
He further addressed the concept of curiosity by saying, “It is a quality I cherish and consider the gateway to other essential skills. Curiosity is the fuel that feeds the addiction to learning. It's a difficult quality to pin down, but George Lowenstein's description from the 1970s as an "information gap" resonates. Think of those moments when engrossed in a Netflix series, you can't resist watching the next episode, driven by the need to close that information gap. As learning professionals, we need to ignite this desire to bridge the information gap in our learners. What's fascinating about curiosity is that it's not merely an intellectual pursuit—it emanates from the heart, an almost painful craving for cognitive effort.
- Curiosity, a quality we can grow rather than a fixed trait, plays a crucial role in learning addiction. As we explore curiosity, it's essential to recognize its psychological and biological dimensions.
- Curiosity not only motivates us psychologically but also triggers the release of dopamine, the motivation molecule, in our brains.
As learning professionals, we have the exciting opportunity to become "legal drug dealers," influencing people's brain chemistry positively.”
Addressing the sobering reality, he added, “Curiosity and creativity tend to decline as we age. The culprit? Formal education and work environments. Schools and workplaces often stifle rather than encourage curiosity and creativity. However, here's the silver lining—non-creative behaviours are learned and can be unlearned. Our mission is to rekindle the curiosity and creativity that children inherently possess and subsequently lose.”
How to foster a culture of continuous learning?
Greg identified key strategies for fostering a culture of continuous learning saying, “Firstly, we must dive beneath the surface of the organizational iceberg, exploring mindsets, skills, traditions, habits, narratives, identities, values, and fears. Aligning purpose, values, strategy, goals, talent, people policies, technology, and processes around learning is crucial for success. This alignment is the secret sauce for effective transformation.”
- Sharing the post-merger integration of Virgin Media and O2 as an example, he underlined, “The Self-Managing Leadership Program, emphasizing an inside-out journey, proved immensely powerful. CEO Lutz Schuller led by example, undertaking the program himself and insisting that his executive committee followed suit. This sent a profound message—learning and development are continuous processes that apply to everyone in the organization, regardless of their position.
- Another remarkable case is the transformation of Microsoft under Satya Nadella. He shifted the organization from a know-it-all culture to a learn-it-all culture, focusing on growth mindsets, eliminating toxic stack ranking systems, and fostering a culture of curiosity. The results were staggering, elevated share prices, improved Glassdoor ratings, and sustained success. However, not every organization can initiate such radical transformations from the top. In such cases, middle managers play a pivotal role. Ensuring they feel empowered, responsible, and passionate about the transformation is crucial for success.”
Three E’s of learning
Greg says when designing learning interventions, one should remember the three E's, which are Exciting, Experiential, and Everyday. Learning should be intrinsically exciting, involving real experiences and integrated seamlessly into everyday activities. This approach ensures that learning is not a mandatory sheep-dipping exercise but a continuous, engaging journey.
As learning leaders, our responsibility extends beyond personal growth. We must spread the joy of learning by asking more and better questions. By doing so, we can expand our curiosity and inspire those around us to embrace a learning addiction.
Conclusion: Most addictions limit life, but a learning addiction expands our horizons for ourselves, those around us, and the organizations we serve. In a rapidly changing world, the need for learning addicts has never been more critical. If you're not a learning addict and don't bring that attitude into every room you enter, start now. It's an inside-out journey and truly winning from within.