Is 'lifelong learning' a myth? The GoodPractice Podcast explores this topic

Screenshot of The GoodPractice Podcast website header. © The GoodPractice Podcast.

Screenshot of The GoodPractice Podcast website header. © The GoodPractice Podcast.

Lifelong learning is one of the key principles that underpins all the work we do here at RG HQ, so eyebrows were a little raised when we discovered a podcast suggesting that it could all be a myth.

To explore this topic The GoodPractice Podcast hosts were joined by Helen Blunden, a modern learning practitioner based in Australia. Helen helps organisations identify social and collaborative learning strategies they can incorporate into existing or new training programs through her consultancy, Activate Learning.

During the discussion some really interesting questions came up - here are three of our favourites:

  • What is ‘lifelong learning’ exactly?

  • Does there have to be an external motivation and reward, or can the motivation to learn come from within?

  • Does it need to be explicitly stated, or does it still count if people just naturally go through life wanting to learn new things and never refer to it as ‘lifelong learning’?

It’s certainly gave us something to think about.

More questions come up - does it have to be tied to career progression or can it simply come from a desire to better yourself? Why are some people avid lifelong learners and others less so? Does one’s behaviour towards learning change over a lifetime depending on circumstances?

Motivations to learn included being driven by career progression with extrinsic rewards (promotion, more money), career progression with intrinsic rewards (wanting to feel challenged, desire to stay relevant), and other drivers such as learning Spanish and the Flamenco simply due to an interest in Spanish culture.

In terms of lifelong learning in the workplace, it raised questions such as:

  • What opportunities are there to learn that already exist all around you?

  • Do we build in enough time for reflection in order to recognise what we’ve learned and how far we’ve progressed?

  • What have we learned that we can share with others in the workplace? Who else would benefit?

Helen shared a great example of how the skills she picked up through her knitting community are now utilised in her day job. Through her interest in knitting and involvement in the group she obtained skills around social learning, community management, social media and video editing - all great skills she now uses in her corporate role.

There are a few forward-thinking organisations who actively encourage initiatives like blogging, secondments and side hustles (outside work) so employees can develop in ways that interest and motivate them. These business leaders recognise that they will ultimately benefit when these skills are brought back into the organisation.

All fascinating stuff, and although we’ve probably ended up with us with more questions than answers it’s still well worth a listen: Episode 151 - Is ‘lifelong learning’ a myth? by The GoodPractice Podcast.

Side note: Big thanks to Sharon Green for alerting us to this fab HR/L&D podcast. If you want to get more of a feel for the podcast hosts and community, have a listen to Episode 150 - Live from London: The past, present and future of learning recorded live in a pub opposite the Future of Work conference. You’ll get insights and entertainment!

Caroline Bosher