April 20, 2023

If you have responsibility for learning and development in your workplace you probably don’t need us to tell you how a learning culture
can help a business to adapt and thrive in our complex world.

We’re thinking increased innovation and improved problem-solving, happy, engaged and satisfied employees and an organisation that’s open to sharing skills and knowledge widely – all with the aim of supporting growth and making it a great place to work. And that’s just for starters. 


 What are the barriers to securing buy-in for a learning culture? 

But while we know that a learning culture can have a huge, positive impact, securing buy-in so that it leads to an environment where informal and formal learning is embedded into daily ways of working and recognised as a priority amongst other competing pressures is tough.

Some might see learning and development as a cost rather than an investment, unable to see the connection between learning programmes and business outcomes. Or maybe it’s not seen as a priority, especially amongst under pressure line managers who don’t want to ‘lose’ team members to learning and development programmes that take them away from the day job. 


Storytelling as a means to create a shared vision of a learning culture 

It calls for some creative thinking and there’s one sure fire way of capturing people’s attention and delivering a message with impact, and that’s storytelling.  

Storytelling has worked for millennia, and while it’s easy to be seduced by the latest bright, shiny new way thing, this is a time for learning and development to turn to history. Because stories are compelling, persuasive and memorable. They make us think and feel in a way that facts and figures alone just can’t. They’re a great way to make the case for a learning culture works because:  

  • Stories speak to the individual making it personal and relatable. 
  • Stories bring the concept of a learning culture to life through real-life examples at an individual, team and organisational level. 
  • Stories bring fresh energy and perspective to the conversation by blending emotion with information.
  • Stories are interesting, memorable and easy to share. 

If strategy is logic and the brains of an organisation and culture is its heart and soul,
what better way to blend the two than in a story? 

Storytelling exercises for learning and development teams to practice

There’s plenty of science and research that supports storytelling in the business world, and you may have your own storytelling exercises to draw on, but we thought we’d share one of our favourite story frameworks. It’s a super useful way to organise your thoughts and shape it into a story, but if you remember one thing it’s this: remember think human first and show, not tell.

A story structure for learning & development

We like the RDQN story structure: Reality, Disruption, Quest for resolution and New Reality and in the context of building a learning culture it might look like this:

  • Reality: What’s the current situation?
    Do you have a learning culture in your organisation right now? What’s the general attitude towards learning?
  • Disruption: Why now? What’s your call to action?
    We’re working in an agile world, and we need people, teams and organisations to be able to learn flexibly, share knowledge and learning widely and for it to become part and parcel of the everyday ways of working.
  • Quest for Resolution: What challenges are you facing on your journey? What would help?
    How can you embed learning into your DNA? What have you tried already, what could you do differently? What and where are the blockers?
  • New Reality: What does the future look like? What’s the new reality?
    People are encouraged to bring their learning – formal and informal – into the day-to-day with knowledge shared between and across teams. Top team support for formal and informal learning programmes throughout the organisation. 

Try creating the story and then share it with a colleague for feedback. If you’re feeling really brave, they can record yourself on their phone and watch it back and see where your story can be refined.  

Learn from other storytellers 

And you can always look outside the organisation for ideas. Peter Bregman TED Talk, ‘I don’t know’  talk is one of our favourites, then there’s this article on how stories persuade and connect or check out Bobette Buster’s book Do/Story: How to tell your story so the world listens. Bobette is a story consultant to major Hollywood studios like Pixar and Disney and knows a thing or two about crafting compelling stories. Just a few ideas to help you get the creative storytelling juices flowing. 

Final thoughts on using storytelling to make the case for a learning culture 

I guess what we’re saying is, why not turn to storytelling make the case for building a learning culture?  Facts and figures are important, but let’s think creatively and capture people’s attention with real-life stories that make a compelling vision everyone can get behind.  

 Thanks for reading, Dan 


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