Rethinking Learning in the ‘New Normal’

Image credit: iStockphoto/Maksim Tkachenko

This year we’ve seen more challenges and changes than ever before. We have been forced to transform the way we work, learn, and behave. Most of us are working remotely full-time, and many are simultaneously helping their kids with the new home-schooling model. The need for essential digital skills has never been more apparent as the world attempts to grasp this ‘new normal’. 

The world today has evolved from a knowledge worker era to the age of the learning worker. Learning agility is the most valued asset in our rapidly evolving digital environment as people have to navigate unknown challenges in unprecedented situations, using undiscovered skills. This new dynamic will require a new type of worker — the Learning Worker.

The Asia Pacific region is touted as the second-largest education technology industry globally, with market value expected to reach USD 5 trillion by 2020.  Countries such as India, China, and Japan are seeing tremendous growth in the education sector and have started introducing technology in classrooms. AI is one of the critical technologies that can make the digital experience truly intelligent. To achieve this, information needs to be accumulated from multiple sources into AI-based algorithms that can learn, evolve, and provide the most comprehensive experience to users. We call these the Neural Networks, and they enable deep learning in machines. 

Like machine learning technologies, individual self-learning has become imperative for professionals and organizations to achieve success. To not only survive but thrive, the digital society must also be an active learning society. Organizations and individuals both need to be connected to the ‘Neural Networks of Learning’ to stay relevant, updated, and adopt a continuous learning mentality. 

So, what exactly is the Neural Network of Learning? 

In simple terms, the ‘Neural Network of Learning’ is an ecosystem of different learning approaches that helps people create new neural pathways in the brain. These will work to enhance retention, learning, unlearning, and relearning.

This learning approach enables all workers to develop new skills. With organizations now being forced to reevaluate their business models, the ability to adapt — whether that’s learning new skills, new technologies, or new ways of working – and maintaining an ‘always on’ approach to learning is essential to defining what’s next. 

Here are five best practices to leverage the Neural Networks of Learning:

1. Add human touch to organizational stories: Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone, so they are the most potent learning tool. Unfortunately, it’s hard for many organizations worldwide to know how to plug the right organizational stories in the right way. And often, the most impactful stories are lost when key actors leave the company. Most of the time, the best stories do not get shared broadly, and the educational value is often overlooked. To create a story that drives the learning engine, organizations should help their teams realize an anecdote’s potential as a learning tool.

2.  Encourage volunteering and gigs: People learn a lot and very quickly when they try new things. Whether it is as volunteers for causes they feel passionate about or a gig project where they apply a new skill that they may not have fully mastered yet. Organizations that want a culture of learning must create an environment that encourages volunteering and career growth through gig work for all employees.

3. Incentivize reading and instructor-led learning: An organization that incentivizes reading books beyond the scope of a traditional role, and ultimately instills the habit of reading in its people, will have significantly better nourished learners. However, in the current times when the world is overloaded by virtual learning, fake news, and rumor-mongering, it’s easy for a learner to get lost and overwhelmed by the amount of content available. In this instance, instructor-led presentations can help learners focus on the subtle and the most relevant points of a subject.

4. Allocate time for mental awareness: In our fast-paced lives, we rarely act mindfully and specifically while trying to learn new things. Knowledge is not something to be consumed as fast as possible; it is to be cherished and contemplated. Organizations need to help individuals develop mental awareness so they can dedicate the time and focus on learning that is required to be successful. I learned consciousness-based learning many years ago and found it extremely powerful for retention and behavior change.

5.  Provide digital learning platforms: The best digital learning platforms enable continuous learning in the most efficient and engaging manner possible, allowing employees to direct their paths to edification and expertise in a single platform accessible by all.

By seamlessly integrating all components of an effective learning ecosystem, organizations can create the most comprehensive and agile Neural Network of Learning. The sooner they adopt the best practices of learning approaches, the faster they will succeed in this rapidly changing and complex world.

Shaakun Khanna, head of HCM applications for Asia Pacific at Oracle, authored this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HR&DigitalTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Maksim Tkachenko