Skip to main content

Ideas Matter Continuous Learning Culture

· 5 min read
Adnan Rafiq

Ideas Matter Continuous Learning Culture

Adil Najam (Dean, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University) gave a talk on topic "Ideas Matter: A reading list for ideas wallahs". He passionately talked about his top 10 books everyone should read, especially folks who are in position of power and ability to influence masses. Focus of his talk was everyone should read books to be the catalyst of real social change & better policy maker.

I would like thank him for bringing immensely valuable topic to the light. My thoughts which are heavily influenced by my recent reading(s) & professionally working as software developer in small to large tech companies in different countries.

Knowledge and problems are two fundamental sources of how human(s) brain emulate idea(s), I guess other species do the same. This raises a fundamental question of how to gain knowledge, since books are an efficient way to store, and communicate knowledge among other modern & innovative ways like audible books, blogs, video and learning from each other etc.

The idea of "Continuous Learning Culture" accumulates all of these learning techniques and it is pivotal for the future & growth of any type of organization. Lets look at what "Continuous Learning Culture" means:

  • Continuous: Never ending, always happening.
  • Culture: The new normal: everybody does it.

Learning: A habit: being curious, asking questions, read, write & speak about it. And above all share it with other(s). One gets full bragging rights, deservedly so.

Fun part is, how an organization introduce such culture. As change is hard, and forming new habits can be difficult but not impossible.

Last year, I listened the book, "Atomic Habits by James Clear" on the very topic. He argues that goal orientation is false approach rather one should focus on systems & behavioral change which requires forming new good habits & quitting the bad one(s). In his book, he formed four rules: 1-Make it obvious.2-Make it attractive. 3-Make it easy. 4-Make it satisfying. Since dynamics of organization & people differs, if you are the curious one, I promise it, you are going to love it.

Oh the drift, lets get back to introducing forming reading book(s) habit which is one of the many ways of becoming continuous learning culture organization. Before I propose the practical & cost effective way to introduce it, lets look at these provoking questions.

When a Pakistani travel abroad (Dubai, UK, USA, Europe in particular), why do not we throw trash on road? Why we socially behave totally differently than in Pakistan, for example saying Thank You, greeting with smile? Why we do not break any laws like running traffic signal?

Because nobody else does it, or that is culture of place. Law enforcement is overrated not that it does not have impact in this regard.

Similarly reading books has to be the culture/habit not the goal. Its continuous process, hence the plan:

  • Passionately setup Book Club lead by vivid reader(s), it can exist in form of email group, slack channel etc, and issue a honorary badge for the members, and encourage folks to wear it every single day & leader(s) must wear it.
  • Order bulk copies of essential books relevant to the kind of change & impact, your organization will have.
  • Allocate monthly/quarterly/yearly budget for each employee, equally without discriminating on the basis of designation, which can only be consumed on books, and ask no questions or expect any immediate improvements in work or otherwise. No other strings attached whatsoever.
  • Allocate the most visible place in your office, where all essential books shall be placed. James Clear, argue in his book, that if you want your kids to eat more fruits, buy fancy basket and place it where kids can easily access it, you shall see the difference. Only difference is, books are fruits for human brain.
  • Find a visible space your office, put up white board or stick paper on wall, and encourage & ask everyone to post their favorite quotes for anything they read, of course, do not encourage copying from Facebook (pun intended).
  • Leaders of the organization, have to take lead role in reading by themselves. Write a monthly/bi-weekly email (other forms) to all, and share your insights & I would encourage to not copy the exact quotes. Because one aspect of that is, you have actually read the book.
  • Arrange monthly/bi-weekly meetups (not formal meetings) where folks can talk about their readings & insights. So it can be celebrated & rewarded.
  • I would suggest leaders to walk around with book in hand (of course not all the time). I think its folk wisdom that kids often do what they see their parent(s) do.

A little experiment with yourself (Inspired by study mentioned in Atomic Habits), open youtube, search "commander safeguard", watch this video multiple times a day for couple of days, see if you observe any difference in your hand washing habits. Its getting boring, isn't it. Oh, you disagree, great then.

Tip for folks who find it difficult to read big/bulky books, start with entertaining, small & easy books just for fun. Lastly, many vivid book reader(s) would tell you, keep the book close to your bed (visible), this habit alone can do wonders.

If you made to the end, do not forget to leave the feedback (good or bad does not matter), how you like it. I am so happy for you for starting the wonderful journey of reading books. Happy Reading.