In any organization, continuous learning means growth through learning events and experiences. It can be applied to individuals, team, and organizations- a process that will help them to achieve their overall objectives.
Undergoing a continuous learning process entails change; one cannot learn and still be the same person, team, or organization. There is a constant evolution in the way we think and act, brought about by new understanding, new knowledge, and new skills.
One of the worst phrases that any person or entity can say is “I already know that” because this can very well destroy any chances of continuous learning. And when there is no learning, there is no growth.
Continuous Learning at Individual Level
The continuous learning of an individual would entail a behavior and perception change as he hones and develops his own thinking, skills, and knowledge. An example of this would be: knowing how to handle a new situation, expanding knowledge and skills of a particular area (ex. computer applications), and figuring out another application of current knowledge and skills.
In this level, learning requires time and effort, as well as the decision to want to learn. It would not be wise to manipulate or force any person to learn something he dislikes, because it would fail miserably. The only thing to do is to make individuals understand the value of continuous learning, and how it will not only help the organization, but most importantly, it will be a great benefit to the learner as well.
Continuous learning at the individual level can be done through seminars and workshops, trainings, coaching and mentoring, and also through actual application. On their own, individuals can learn by taking up a new course or buying self-help books to guide them as they learn a new knowledge or skill.
Continuous Learning at Team Level
Continuous learning for teams is collective individual learning, which means that if the members of the team acquire and share new knowledge and information, then team learning takes place. In addition, continuous learning at this level also involves a set of learning processes that support and aid team performance in the form of reflections, feedback, experimentation, group discussions, and Q & A sessions. New knowledge can be in the form of a theory, tool, idea, or concept whereas new skill can be in the form of practices.
In many progressive organizations today, teams have become the most integral element because of their capacity to create products and perform services, find solutions to problems, and make decisions; in short, teams have the power to make things happen in the organization. Continuous learning, therefore, holds a very significant place in every team that aims to succeed in what it is they were designed for; the need for it arises when teams realize that in order for them to effectively perform their specific functions, they need to acquire a new knowledge or skill. It is basically a means to an end, and if continuous learning is neglected or overlooked, it would be difficult for a team to achieve its goals.
Continuous Learning at Organizational Level
Organizational continuous learning comprises change of interaction patterns, change of policies and procedures, new culture, and new innovations and systems that have been institutionalized, which means that these are now embedded in the systems and structures of the organization, as a means to achieve overall objectives. Such changes are more felt in individuals and teams, as they are fundamentally what comprise an organization.
Continuous learning at this level can be achieved through feedback from the employees themselves, from clients, and from customers. Getting comments and ideas from these groups of people will enable an organization to figure out if changes or developments are necessary in order to move forward.
At this level, there are several types of continuous learning that can take place. These are:
Single-Loop Learning – This would refer to an adaptive type of learning wherein adjustments need to be made within the organization if it is deemed necessary. These can take in the form of detecting errors and loopholes in policies, structures, and procedures.
Double-Loop Learning – This type of learning refers to not only detecting and correcting errors and loopholes, but also finding out why it occurred. Once answers have been found, the organization then proceeds to change policies, structures, and procedures.
Generative Learning – This type of learning entails intentionally adding new information, knowledge, and skills in order to make changes in the organization. Individuals and teams may collaboratively work together to understand the current issues the organization faces, and from there, identify what needs to be done to address these issues. Such solutions take the form of learning new knowledge and skills.