Accelerated Learning

As John Holt said “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of the learners.”  We could add: “It is a choice we make to get better in what we do. We get better, as we learn new things, experiment with it and reflect upon them.”

If you are passionate about your work, ideas are coming your way all the time.

Learning doesn’t need to feel forceful and hard, it can happen with ease, on the go.  We all learn differently: some people learn better when they read, some in training rooms or watching videos, some when they reflect in a group, some alone and some when it is visualized.

At ING we approach learning on different levels in offering and creating variety of possibilities, where everyone can get active to learn whether is it in the squads, teams, chapters, tribes, circles, among leaders or in communities. From ING Learning portal over leadership dialogues, retrospectives, rocket groups, bar- and innovation boot camps, LeadING Agile Nuggets, online and in class … it is difficult not to get involved by that variety.

We can maybe classify learning in organizations in two categories: Traditional tools and methods or Learning 1.0. and/or a Creative one or Learning 2.0. If you spend time in doing the groundwork, raise self-reflection in teams and leadership AND build trust as the basis for experimentation and growth, you will experience something I call the Accelerated Learning.

“Learning 1.0”

My learning journey at ING started with the various onboarding sessions and invitation of our HR with the words “if you need something don’t search for it, just reach out.” It was an open statement that “it is ok not to know”.

Next to our intranet and buddy program, we use traditionally organized trainings from our learning academy on data privacy, fraud and Fit4Bank series for the newcomers to the banking. Those are organized in a way that you get information divided in small parts and followed by quizzes, so it is easy for our brain to take and absorb it.

“Learning 2.0”

In addition to traditional learning we at ING see a continuous improvement as part of our DNA. Learning from an agile point of view is based on games, exercises, experiments, discussions, co-creating together as well as learning from and with each other. There is a lot of flexibility and playfulness in and around it.

At the team level there are bi-weekly retrospectives or for example pair programming’s. Additionally in various communities of practice we gather experts to discuss topics of interests , new tools or how to get better in what they do – to work on their craftsmanship.

Furthermore, on the organization level, we regularly have different activities to foster innovation and creativity like bar- and innovation camps as well as brainstorming sessions with different tools. Here we encourage “yes, and…” conversations being in the explorer mood on the innovation journey.

Learning 2.0 is an outcome of the environment and processes we created, of making things visible, think creatively about the solutions and make decisions based on those discussion, customer feedback and reflection.

Accelerated Learning

Important to foster the learning is, however, the ability to slow down, create space for connection and reflection, to be able to explore, experiment, create and innovate.  Learning always goes together with self-awareness and self-reflection. Those learnings are sustainable. Some organizations spent more and some less focus on that – and this is what makes the difference!

Sharing is caring – we are all experts

Our recent example of accelerated learning is the development of what we call “Sharing is Caring”. In a nutshell, it is a well-planned initiative, where on monthly basis people share expertise, tools or topics of interest with others, usually in a 30 minutes call. Everyone is invited to share and to participate.

With INGs recent decision to withdraw its Retail Business from Austrian market, a move affecting over 300 employees, this initiative has become crucial in connecting people.

After the first shock was digested something magical happened. A human act of kindness in that difficult moment re-initiated this “Sharing is Caring Initiative” in a new and remarkable way. Sparked through the compassion and vulnerability coming from our management board while answering hundreds of employee’s questions in ‘Open Mic’ Sessions, the willingness of the colleagues to support each other has bloomed.  HR lived up truly to  “people before process” and joined its forces with us, the agile coaches, to do something for every employee – this all in an atmosphere of trust.

With that high energy, we presented in the “Sharing is Caring” session our newly arisen “Good Enough To Go” idea: a confluence page with 2 sections (“I am offering” and “I need”) where everyone was part of it with an invitation to develop it further where necessary. No planning, no agreements, no deadlines, no coordination, no bureaucracy!

Day by day, people have been posting new courses with constantly growing participant lists, sharing the calendar with all activities in place. Few weeks later, everyone is still talking about it: so far over 30 different workshops have been offered with more than 30% employees participating! We got fast-line trained in Confluence, Jira, OneNote, Investments, Digital Marketing, Mindfulness and many more, including the Train-the-Trainer for HR on career coaching, so they provide 1:1 coaching.

Basically, in a truly agile spirit the employees started organizing themselves for themselves. It is energizing to see how everyone is an expert and, within the environment of trust, how people take the courage to go out of their comfort zone into the learning zone and facilitate a workshop they never thought they would/could do. The learning happens on so many levels at the same time and it accelerates further every day.

Accelerated Learning – Role of the Agile Coach

All that wouldn’t have happened without a strong base. Over the years the Agile Coaches at ING have created an environment where we involve people to exchange ideas, feel safe enough to try them out and reflect upon them. At the same time, we talked to the leadership and supported them to create space for growth. It doesn’t always run smoothly and that is fine so. In this case, we stop, take other points of view and continue the conversation. It is a journey.

We, the agile coaches, have influenced the company culture in the way how we reach out to others, how we approach the issues and unplanned events by giving space, so every voice is heard.

Start with you…Do your thing!

In order to reach new levels, you don’t need to wait for a huge disruption which happened to us. Imagine how it would be having that amount of mutual sharing as part of the company DNA on everyday basis. Everyone can initiate Accelerated Learning in the organization and find early followers, regardless the current role.

Just ask yourself: What is the first small step I can take to spark Accelerated Learning?

Take a moment, reflect on it, be bold, be brave and just do your thing!

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