How to Talk Learning To Business

April 5, 2010

Does your business value learning?

A lot of smart people have asked that question. A Gallup Management Journal article from a couple of years ago addressed it well. However, if you read the article, you’ll discover that the value of learning to the business in question was in how it affected performance.

So, ask yourself that question again: does your business value learning? Or do they value performance, and just see learning as one of many ways to achieve it?

Have you ever walked away from a learning discussion with an issue owner in your business, feeling frustrated? Because he or she just didn’t get it? And you wished you could do a better job of explaining the value of learning?

Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to speak learning to business. Maybe it’s time we started talking business to business.

The senior leadership of organizations focuses on business objectives and business metrics. Ultimately, they are focused on profitability, revenue growth, sustainability, market position, and reputation. This posting on the Chief Learning Officer site makes the point well, and backs it up with some research. If you want to know what a business really values, look at what they measure. If they’re willing to take the time to measure something, it’s probably pretty important.

Why is this relevant now? Because I keep hearing people in the learning community talk about things like social media, and how businesses need to change their mindsets and get on board now. And it frustrates me like crazy. Because I agree with them. But we can’t demand that businesses change in order to meet the needs of the learning organization. The learning organization needs to establish the value.

How do you do that?
  • Know what your business values
  • Know how your business measures that value
  • Determine how your learning initiative impacts value metrics
  • Talk to your stakeholders in business terms, not learning terms
  • Recognize that real change involves the whole business, not just the learning organization

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