How can Motivational Maps foster a continuous learning culture?
One phrase I have seen getting a lot of attention recently is “continuous learning” or alternatively “lifelong learning”. This is, in my view, a very good thing, because it goes some way towards rectifying one of the great errors of modern education: the idea that learning stops at twenty-one save for the rare few people who go on to do Masters or PHDs.
It’s a common truism that often the end of formal learning is the beginning of true learning; yet, we often don’t live our lives that way. For example, we all know that once you pass your driving test, one’s learning is only just beginning! But in the world of work and careers, the “system”, for lack of a better term, inculcates the idea that we learn until we are sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, or maybe twenty five, and at that point we stop learning and then go and get a job. It’s the idea that what we picked up in school is sufficient to carry us through the rest of our lives!
Of course, good jobs provide challenges which are learning opportunities in themselves. And some employers will offer training to their staff. But the reality is for most people the challenges at work are few compared to the routine, and the training opportunities are likewise rare—more often than not, they are merely refresher courses, more like exams to check the employees can do their jobs than a real learning opportunity.
But now the idea of continuous or lifelong learning is beginning to catch on. So, what is it?
Continuous learning is defined by the Department of Education and Science (2000) as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge. You can imagine we are very interested in this last phrase, because motivation is our business and passion!
Continuous learning is very powerful and empowering for individuals and organisations alike. So many organisations come to ruin because they are unable to serve the needs of an ever-changing market, because they fail to adapt, or because they completely fall out of touch with their customers. Continuous learning is therefore less a “nice to have” than pretty essential, especially as the pace of change is only increasing, and exponentially at that. When we are continuously learning we change with time and circumstance, and, to use another buzz-phrase, “future proof” our business.
We all know individuals who, at a certain point, give up taking on any new information or ideas. They give up staying up to date, give up learning how to use social media or other technologies, fail to acknowledge that industries and professions have changed, or more worrying still: fail to acknowledge how the people around them have changed. This isn’t just the elderly. We see middle-aged and even young people who believe they know it all—and this becomes a kind of premature death, whereby the individual completely stagnates. Relationships can only be kept alive through being sensitive to another person’s needs, which may change over time, so we have to be continuous learners in this realm too. Continuous learning is therefore not just a business principle, it’s a life principle.
Needless to say, one of the big drivers of change in our modern times is the explosion of technological advancement, particularly in the digital realm. This is transforming many industries, and so now, more than ever, it’s pertinent for us to admit we can’t know everything, and that we have much to learn.
But whilst the idea of everyone becoming “voluntary” and “self-motivated” learners is a very nice one, there is a snag: not everyone is motivated by learning.
In Motivational Maps we have identified nine motivators that drive human behaviour. Of the nine, The Expert motivator embodies the drive to learn new things and demonstrate that knowledge. This is, appropriately, in the “Achievement” cluster of motivators (motivators that are more work or career focused). The Expert can never get enough learning and is really energised by the prospect of reading books, going on training courses, harnessing data points or learning opportunities, and then analysing all of this and generously relaying it to those in their circle. For Experts, thriving in a time of change, keeping up to date, and embodying the idea of lifelong learning is second nature. In fact, it excites and motivates them.
But what about the rest of us?
If Expert is not in your top three motivators, what then?
The power of Motivational Maps is that it allows us to make the invisible visible. When you discover what motivates you, so many aspects of your life become clearer. Likewise, from the organisational perspective, the previously hidden causes of blockages and problems may come to light. Discovering your motivators is itself a continuous learning process, of course, because unlike a personality profiling tool, your motivators change over time. This is an overly simplistic summation, but often when we find our motivators are being met, they drop down the priority scale. For example, if we were struggling financially, we might find The Builder motivator, which is concerned with material success, rising into our top three motivators. But, if we were to then secure a large deal that took off the financial pressure, it may well drop down again. Of course, some motivators do remain fixed over longer periods of time. We often find these motivators are ones that have become incorporated into the personality and identity of the individual.
Knowing what energises you, what motivates you, what “turns you on”, is an extremely useful tool when it comes to approaching continuous learning, because although the learning itself may not be our cup of tea, we can find ways around that by figuring out what does drive us. For example, if Builder was in your top three motivators, then you are likely to be partly driven by sales, success, and material reward—to word this more esoterically and archetypally: the physical manifestation of your inner success, be that a sports car, a house, or a leather-bound book on the shelf (and does your room also smell of rich mahogany?). How then could this correlate to learning or going on a training course? Well, now, you can make a “deal” with your inner psyche: “Learning this new information is going to help us become more successful.” Bargaining, in other words. Some short term pain for ultimately greater motivational fulfilment. In addition, you can re-frame the narrative so that it becomes more exciting to your existing motivators, “Because I have Builder in my top three motivators, I like having material things—therefore, I’m going to approach this learning differently by buying lots of beautiful books that I can put on my shelf afterwards.”
Of course, these principles also apply at an organisational level. If you know what motivates your people, then you can “sell” them the training or course far more easily. Likewise, if you are delivering difficult messages to colleagues as a result of new learning—for example, you feel the organisation needs to change direction in order to stay ahead of the curve—you can speak to people in the language that is most comfortable for them. To continue the previous example, let’s say you want to obsolete a product and replace it with a new, better offering that will be more appropriate for the current market. Rather than saying “Our old product wasn’t good enough” we can instead reframe this in accordance with the motivators in the room. Let’s look at two examples:
EXAMPLE 1: “John, as a Defender motivator I know you have this organisation’s safety and security covered. However, the data is showing that long-term this product is not going to stay the course. So, it’s best that we change now, before we need to, before there’s a problem, to ensure the company’s longevity.”
EXAMPLE 2: “Sarah, I know you have the Creator motivator in your top three, and there’s an opportunity I think to improve on your existing offering even further. Maybe I could leave it with you to come up with some ideas on how we could improve our current product offering?”
As you can see, these are totally different approaches, despite delivering the same message! Continuous learning is not always easy. By necessity, it requires us to let go of old ideas and re-write our processes and thinking, which can be painful if not handled delicately.
I truly believe the Motivational Map is one of the best tools for fostering a mindset of continuous learning in any organisation. And continuous learning is clearly one of the keys to not just business and organisational success, but long and healthy lives.
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