Author Profile Picture

Sandra Loughlin

Read more from Sandra Loughlin

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Four ways organisations can stimulate the fast learning approach

By stimulating the fast learning approach, organisations can enact positive change

One of the most robust ways organisations can future-proof themselves against rapid technology changes, chaotic supply chains and intensifying customer expectations is by enacting a learning culture. 

However, promoting such a culture has its challenges. And while there are various methods and best practices for how brands can adopt a learning culture, a uniquely practical approach is to use fast learning. 

Fast learning, better culture

Fast learning is the idea that when given new information, one must effectively and quickly process it and integrate it into their mental model. 

Here are four ways organisations can stimulate the fast learning approach which, in turn, will foster an enterprise-wide learning culture.

1. Build room for failure

A fast learning approach recognises that innovation happens when organisations stretch themselves and try new things. 

But, many businesses today design everything from budgeting to metrics so that failure is highly discouraged.

Consider how employees get incentivised and punished – because they are rewarded for success and reprimanded for failure, they’ll never take risks, which ultimately means everyone is encouraged to think inside the box. 

Similarly, budgets get designed to be failure-proof because, by definition, failure is money lost. 

Failure is essential for innovation

This revenue-first mindset also causes many organisations to inadvertently (or purposefully) silo their innovation teams to control spending and loss.

Another way of thinking about the inefficiency of failure avoidance is by examining the term poka-yoke or ‘mistake-proofing’, which comes from the Toyota production system. 

In a poka-yoke automobile factory, systems get designed in a way that makes it impossible for workers to stray from a set process. 

The limitations of poka-yoke

While poka-yoke does eliminate failure, it also prohibits flexibility, leaving no room for change or above-average results.  

Not only is tolerating failure essential for innovation but gaining valuable information from mistakes and not repeating them is also pertinent to fast learning. 

Allowing the company to share lessons learned from failure makes everyone better, faster and more efficient in the long run.

Gaining valuable information from mistakes and not repeating them is ... pertinent to fast learning

2. Use a top-down and bottom-up perspective

A fast learning approach also uses a top-down and bottom-up perspective. 

From the top down, executives need to be willing to pull the levers of change, such as, but notwithstanding:

  • How are we going to budget differently? 
  • How can we re-align our metrics and our incentive/expectation structures? 
  • How can we build innovation and fast failure into teams’ project plans? 

The necessity of change

Plenty of leaders will speak about the necessity of change – however, talking on its own isn't going to do anything aside from causing frustration within the organisation.

And from the bottom up, businesses must create spaces for employees to brainstorm freely and create ideas.

From the top down, executives need to be willing to pull the levers of change

Ideate to create

Famously, Google would section off time for its people to do nothing but ideate on new products, offerings or means of streamlining processes. 

There must also be a dedicated place where people can send their ideas, with a team on the other side who will select the best ones. Executives can put a budget together and recognise those employees that contributed, instilling incentives to continue developing ideas.

Change is good

Likewise, middle management is also a key piece of the puzzle. Stuck between innovative and lofty ideas, they have the difficult challenge of implementing new programmes and habits, despite the incentive to continue doing what they've always done. 

Additionally, middle managers have to know when to celebrate failure and how to emphasise what other teams and the organisation can learn from what another team deduced through trial and error.

There must ... be a dedicated place where people can send their ideas, with a team on the other side who will select the best ones

3. Application and feedback

The challenge with learning is that people only learn new information if they can connect it to previous knowledge. 

Unfortunately, organisations often assume their employees will make this vital connection by giving them enough content, though real learning doesn’t happen this way. 

The time is now

Building learning fast into L&D activities means creating opportunities for people to apply what they are learning, see the results and get immediate feedback. 

Moreover, by enabling the connection between the idea, concept or process with what the employee already knows, people will internalise new material and use it to change behaviours and perform tasks more effectively.

Feedback is fundamental

The employee must receive feedback, which ties into the theory of microlearning. 

Microlearning is the idea that some technology or personal account manager is over an employee’s shoulder. 

When that person starts struggling or realises they need help, it is as easy as clicking a button or raising a hand and saying, “can you help me with this?”. The crux of microlearning is that it happens amid the challenge.  

Reflection activities

Likewise, when L&D people create educational opportunities, they must think beyond content and build reflection activities. Some good questions these programs should invoke include:

  • When was the last time you did this?
  • What were the results?
  • What might be the underlying causes, good or bad, behind the outcome?

The crux of microlearning is that it happens amid the challenge

4. S.T.R.I.V.E.

A key component of fast learning is leaning into the power of informal learning. In fact, 90% of learning does not come from formal settings but from many informal sources. The acronym STRIVE best encapsulates these different informal sources.  

  • Social: Humans are social beings and learn well when interacting and mingling with others, like day-to-day exchanges with other roles or departments in the company  
  • Training: Typically, this form is a traditional learning journey or set of activities unique to a particular role that guide that employee to the next level or iteration of their job
  • Reflection: Refer to the previous section on application and feedback.
  • Investigation: Learning through reading online articles, listening to podcasts, subscribing to magazines, etc
  • Vocational: Professional certifications offered by organisations such as Google#
  • Experiential: Learning via immersion, almost like a second language course 

Sometimes bones have to break to get stronger

A final way to conceptualise fast learning is to picture an organisation as a skeleton composed of hundreds of bones. 

It will keep getting the same results unless it is willing to break its bones and change things.

If you enjoyed this, read: How to implement and measure a learning culture that addresses organisational skills gaps



One Response

  1. I appreciate the emphasis on
    I appreciate the emphasis on building room for failure, as it allows us to take risks and innovate without fear of reprimand. I’m looking forward to using a top-down and bottom-up perspective to brainstorm and ideate on new ideas, and I’m eager to contribute to the dedicated space for sharing these ideas.

Author Profile Picture

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to TrainingZone's newsletter