One of the hot topics in our industry has been informal learning for a while now. This means different things to different people and I’m not going to get into the merits of informal versus formal learning (not in this particular blog post anyway!). But something informal I’ve always done and will continue to do, is to learn as part of my professional development through reading books.
I’ve always been a big reader and the (only?!) joy of commuting by train as opposed to driving is I now have a lot more time to read every day. I’ve also just got my mitts on a Kindle which I’m guessing will increase my reading consumption even further but more on that another day.
A couple of months ago, one of the directors at REDTRAY sent me a link to a TED talk. I always really enjoy watching these videos when someone sends them through although I’ve never found the time to subscribe to them and watch them more frequently. But this particular talk really resonated with me and I immediately Googled the speaker and bought his book called ‘Start with why’. The speaker is an American called Simon Sinek and he comes from a marketing background. Obviously in my role I’m always keen to tap into the thoughts and ideas of marketing experts, but this guy’s philosophy is much broader than just marketing.
He believes that successful companies and in particular, successful leaders, are all in possession of a powerful ‘why’. The likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have beliefs and a sense of purpose that are incredibly strong, and it is their ethos that we buy into – not ‘what’ they do or ‘how’ they do it. Sinek posits that all organisations and careers function on 3 levels. ‘What’ you do, ‘How’ you do it and ‘Why’ you do it. The problem is, most don’t even know that ‘why’ exists. If you look around at most companies, they start with ‘what’. They start by telling you exactly what they do, and then asking you if you’d like to buy some of it!
I’ve been working on better articulating REDTRAY’s ‘why’ for the past few months since I joined the company – without even fully realising that’s what I was doing until I saw this video and read the book – which is one of the reasons Simon Sinek has resonated with me so much. And I believe that the philosophy of ‘why’ is something we can all apply to ‘what’ we do, including our learning and development. If L&D departments can start with their ‘why’, lead from the front and effectively communicate that to their learners, then the potential buy-in and uptake of ‘what’ they do could increase significantly increase. Even with much derided ‘boring’ areas of learning such as compliance topics could become much more engaging if the audience really understand ‘why’ they are doing it and ‘how’ that benefits them in their everyday roles and the organisation as a whole. I think most of us in L&D will have a strong sense of ‘why’ we do ‘what’ we do – we just need to explore how we can best communicate this to our learners and inspire them into action.
Take a look and if you have a powerful ‘why’ for doing what you do, I’d love to hear it.