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Whitney Johnson

3 steps for a culture of learning in a zig-zag world

The ROI of learning is clear. Our monograph tells how to get started

Whitney Johnson

 “As we inhabit an increasingly zig-zag world, the best curve you can throw the competition is your ability to leap from one learning curve to the next.” – Whitney Johnson (pictured)


Did you slash your learning budget during the pandemic? It’s understandable but It’s a wrong-footed move if you want to thrive in this “zig-zag world.” Companies with a culture of learning outperform their peers on innovation, revenue, profitability, and market share.

Avoid Obsolete with 10 Steps

In our monograph Avoid Obsolete: How to Build a Culture of Learning, we offer 10 steps to help you gain the competitive advantage by bringing learning into your workplace. All 10 steps are gleaned from the world’s best speakers and thought leaders.

Here I expand on three of the steps:


1.    Have leaders identify as learners

Smokers trying to give up are more likely to succeed if they identify as non-smokers. “No thanks, I’m a non-smoker” is more effective than “No thanks. I’ve quit.” James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, who’s running an unmissable masterclass for Growth Faculty in early April 2022 – Atomic Habits: How to get 1% better every day. James says identifying as a learner is step one. 

“Focus on who you wish to become,” he says.


2.    Make the workplace a safe place

Like a romantic date, learning requires the right atmosphere. Adam Grant, author of Think Again, spoke about this in his interview (available on Growth Faculty’s on demand platform). He says “Feeling safe at work and being allowed to experiment at work (process accountability) are both needed to create a learning zone. Psychological safety erases the fear of challenging authority. Process accountability leads people to think again about the best practices in their workplace.”

3.    Create a cadence of learning

To make a culture of learning you need to make learning are regular part of your work week. Virtual learning has made this a lot easier than taking teams away from the office. From lunch and learns, weekly masterclasses, working out to a podcast, or accessing a video on demand, learning can be easily embedded into a workday.

According to Deloitte, high-performing organisations “enable workers to find the content they need on a learning platform, by staging that content when and where they need it.”

Seven more steps are set out in the monograph, as well as Growth Faculty’s U Learn Framework which shows how to build a culture of learning using our Growth Faculty Pass. 


Avoid Obsolete: How to Build a Culture of Learning also shows the tangible benefits of investing in learning.

Here are a couple: 

Retain your best people

 A culture of learning is the best way to attract and retain talent.

·      A LinkedIn report found that 94% of workers would stay with an employer longer (and be more engaged while there) if they supported individual development.

·      A 2016 Gallup report 87% of millennials say learning and development in the workplace is important. More than half say ‘having opportunities to learn and grow’ is extremely important when deciding whether to apply for a job.

Future-proof your company

It’s also the cheapest and most effective way to future-proof your company.

·      The ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work has strongly recommended employers and workers invest in lifelong learning. 

“Increased investment in skills development and lifelong learning is not a cost but an investment in the future.” – ILO

·      McKinsey’s Future of Work 2021 report also says companies will need to install a culture of learning over the next decade.


The return on investment of learning is clear. It engages staff who will be more productive and innovative, which can’t help but improve the bottom line. Surviving in this zig-zag world requires us all to identify as learners and to make lifelong learning a part of who we are.

Growth Faculty also offers these essential-reading monographs for you to download now:


ROI on learning taken from various sources & credited in Avoid Obsolete: How to Build a Culture of Learning

W. Johnson & J.C.Mendez, 2012, Throw Your Life a Curve, HBR

 I.Tombor & L.Shahab et al, 2015, Does non-smoker identity following quitting predict long-term abstinence? Evidence from a population survey in England, Addictive Behaviours sponsored document

J. Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

A.Grant, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

Deloitte, 2021, Future of Learning in the Wake of Covid-19

A.Hess, 2019, LinkedIn: 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer for this reason—and it’s not a raise

Gallup, 2016, Millennials Want Jobs to Be Development Opportunities – Gallup

ILO, Global Commission on the Future of Work, International Labour Conference 109th Session, Geneva, 2021.



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