LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally.
Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.
Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over fifteen years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning seven years ago.
By Tess Robinson
Posted 5th July 2019
We talk a lot about why learning is important for organisations. How it helps them to become agile, to leverage opportunity, to get the best out of their people in terms of productivity, motivation and satisfaction. But what of the individual? What’s in it for me? Why is it important for me to continue to learn?
Learning is often seen as the preserve of the young. Something you do at school, college and university. Increasingly though, this perception seems rather out-dated. Why should it be just for the kids? We learn on a small-scale all the time. Whether it’s trying out a new recipe, watching a YouTube video on bike maintenance or researching a place to go on holiday. Consciously making an effort to learn substantial or more demanding new skills is maybe less on the agenda for busy people, but it should be. Whether these opportunities are accessed through work or outside of work, they bring many benefits.
I love the analogy that Author, John Green, uses in his TED talk Paper towns and why learning is awesome where he likens learning to cartography. Imagine that all your learning is placed on a map of your life. The more places you have on there, the more you will be able to understand the world around you and the more opportunities you will have for your life to take different directions.
Like organisations, there is a real need for individuals to be able to be agile and flexible. Technology has accelerated the pace of change and we need to be able to keep up or risk being left behind. By this I don’t mean learning html or how to master a spreadsheet. It’s more about developing a mindset that embraces curiosity and different perspectives. It’s about giving yourself the tools to be able to see the world in different ways so that you’re able to make the most of new opportunities.
For my parents’ generation, a career was something that you did for your whole life, often in a 9 to 5 way. Today, we may have lots of careers in our lifetime, sometimes more than one simultaneously. We tend to work more flexibly and what we do for money tends not to be the sum of how we identify ourselves. In this context, learning is an investment in yourself. In our team at LAS we have writers, artists, sportsmen and women, carers, activists and all sorts of other talents and interests. All of this additional learning makes our worlds bigger and richer and that then feeds into the creative process of the work that we do. In short, a by-product of our extra-curricular learning, is that we’re better at our jobs.
When we’re learning, we’re often find ourselves part of a learning community – whether that’s as part of a class or learning online. Humans are social animals and there is a highly beneficial feel-good factor about being part of a group. As well as increasing our sense of well-being, this also improves our ability to collaborate, share and learn from other’s experiences. All good and necessary skills for work and life.
The benefits of learning don’t just apply whilst we’re working age. Continued learning also keeps our brains healthy and our neurons firing for longer. Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett at Northeaston University in Boston studies ‘superagers’ – people over 65 whose cognitive skills are more acute than average. She found that learning new things on a regular basis enhanced cognitive skills but only if they were studied hard. This level of mental exertion is associated with increases in the ease of communication within the brain. Other researchers have also shown that learning a language or playing a musical instrument can create neural pathways and linkages which, as well as enhancing memory, could also protect against cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.
So learning isn’t just about improving productivity in the workplace. Learning outside of work can provide enormous benefits both for the individual and for the organisation/s they work for, even if that learning isn’t specifically work-task related. Learning helps us to lean in to the fast-moving, complex world of today - to understand it better, be able to adapt to it more quickly and to find support in doing that with others on a similar learning journey. It’s also protects us from some of the ravages of old age. It’s a no-brainer really! What will you choose to learn next?