Culture of Continuous Learning

he development of world’s first commercial steam device- a water pump- in 1698 by Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcomen’s first commercially successful steam engine around 1712, James Watt’s improved version of steam engine in 1763-1775 and Richard Trevithick’s first working railway steam locomotive in 1804 are small but important parts of a long journey of continuous improvements that gave us our railways today.

Desired outcomes

The engineering and technological improvements on Savery’s first steam water pump eventually led to the development of the world’s first railway steam locomotive and establishment of railways as an important mode of transporting man and cargo across the length and breadth of countries. Without the first invention the later would have remained an idea. Through a process of continuous improvement on ideas we finally achieve the desired outcomes.  

Improve or perish

Now, imagine in the modern work culture context, what would have happened to an organization known to be proficient in a particular kind of work had it remained unchanged without scaling up its existing expertise. Institutions, industrial set-ups or organisations who do not engage in this essential exercise of undergoing continuous improvement or scaling up are sure to meet their nemesis, sooner or later.  

No knee jerk efforts will do

Organisations conscious of the need for continuous improvement use measures like SIX SIGMA or LEAN to improve capability of their business processes or create more values for clients at minimal cost. Making continuous improvement a part of your organisation’s work culture is what matters the most than half-hearted, irregular, kneejerk efforts at improvement. But with so much to do and the constant pressure of performing to survive the ups and downs of the market always weighing in your mind other more important things like finding ways of continuous improvement suffer a setback.

Roadmap for future

Then, how can one make continuous improvement into a habit, an essential part of an organization’s ethos and a roadmap for future growth? The first important step towards that objective is to make small, incremental improvement within the organization over a period of time. It is much easier and useful to make such efforts over a period of organisation’s productive life than voluminous efforts in a shorter time frame.

New ideas good

It often happens that workers are unable to realise their full potential for various reasons. It may be because the organization is not open to the idea of new thinking. It is happy to continue with its old time-tested work culture. Any disruption is looked down upon. It is worth noting here continuous disruption is the new mantra of modern workplace culture. Disruptions open new doors of opportunities, promote the culture of continuous improvement in organization. New ideas thus need to be mentioned, welcomed and rewarded. It is like oxygen that sustains and nurtures an enterprise.

Unleashing creativity

At Google, employees under 20 are encouraged to spend 20 per cent of their time creating unique ideas to benefit the organization. Google effectively draws from the creativity of its young workforce to create great products for its users. Such unleashing of workforce creativity is a guarantee for continuous improvement in organization.

Small is beautiful

‘Small is beautiful’ an idea first floated by author Ernst Friedrich Schumacher sets the tone and tenor for an organisation’s continuous improvement in culture. It always works much better for employees if the culture of continuous development is measured in small achievable parameters. The larger the canvas the more lengthy and cumbersome the process of development gets. Set small goals for improvement and then go about achieving them for continuous development in an organization.

Online training helpful

· If an organization is unable to meet production or sales targets it is imperative to get to the bottom of the issue.

· It will be worthwhile to zero in on factors detrimental to the improved functioning of the workforce.

· If worker’s skill levels to perform the task are inadequate then experts say a short duration online skill training course goes a long way in improving the situation for both worker organizations.

· Continuous monitoring of capabilities help ensure continuous improvement of work culture.

Unperturbed by disruptions

The culture of continuous improvement is an essential characteristic of organisations that value learning, innovation, new ideas and efficient management among other things for sustaining and developing businesses, unperturbed by disruptions.