Lifelong Learning


This month we’ve been focussing on subjects that we believe will be at the forefront of peoples’ minds this year and beyond. So far, we’ve covered: 

  • The environment and global concerns.  

  • How diversity, equity and inclusion is the way forward for fair-minded companies 

  • Physical and mental health as a vital consideration for both employers and employees. 




This week we are looking at… learning. 


  • When did you leave school? 

  • When did you finish university? 

  • When did you complete your masters? 

  • When did you stop learning? 

Let’s just think about those four questions again for a moment… here comes an entirely unscientific but factual survey:

Researcher: ‘Excuse me venerable and esteemed colleague could you answer some questions about learning please?

Me: ‘Of course, I’m always keen to help organisations find out about learning and its usefulness. And by the way what a politely worded question?’   

Researcher: ‘Just answer the question.’ 

Me: ‘Yes of course. Shall I ask my family members too?’ 

Researcher: ‘People won’t believe this exchange’ 

Me: ‘Perhaps we should stop it and show an interesting table….’ 

Ok it’s not a terribly meaningful piece of research but I bet you also have the same answer to the question in column 4. Of course, we never stop learning. We may not have been the best at school, we may never have been top of the class, we might not have a masters degree or any sort of qualifications for that matter, but does that mean we are incapable of learning? Of course not.  

In a recent interview, the performance coach and Mindset expert Dr Maurice Duffy was quoted as saying, ‘There is no such thing as failure. Only winning and learning’. I’m sure that’s an easy thing to say and to an extent it’s a relatively easy thing to understand and to teach. But when you consider that this advice was given to a world class sports professional who had recently been banned for unsportsmanlike behaviour and was attempting a comeback at the highest level, then perhaps we’d better listen to his advice. 

    When we first set up as a company in 1995 we were known as an experiential training company. In fact, we were called Purple Monster Training. In about 2006 we dropped the word ‘training’, not because ‘training’ isn’t valuable, it is, but because we worked out that what we now did wasn’t really training at all, but more like lifelong learning.  

    When we first set up as a company in 1995 we were known as an experiential training company. In fact, we were called Purple Monster Training. In about 2006 we dropped the word ‘training’, not because ‘training’ isn’t valuable, it is, but because we worked out that what we now did wasn’t really training at all, but more like lifelong learning.  

    So what is the difference between learning and training? 

    Training is normally short-term and focussed on a specific goal 

    Learning is much more long term and the goals far reaching  

    Training is either a skill or information presented to a student to understand and practice 

    Learning is more about self-discovery than copying or repetition 

    Training normally focusses on improving understanding and skills required for your role 

    Learning is much more about understanding yourself as a person 

    Training programmes are often group orientated 

    Learning is a personalized experience 

    Both are important and have a place in the corporate curriculum, whatever your role or seniority. In our experience, learning departments have ambitious goals and targets, which cover a whole host of development topics.  It may be the organization is looking to improve engagement, increase productivity; focus on agile working or building a more adaptable workforce prepared to undertake more individual responsibility.  Whatever the ask of the business, these are not topics that can be achieved through training alone. Most of the challenge is around personal attitudes and behaviour, mindset if you will, and the levers for creating sustainable and meaningful change lie more in individual learning and development, rather than only training for new tools. 

    So this year when you are thinking about your next meeting or your next workshop or conference, consider how much time you are able to dedicate to your delegates’ learning. 

    • Allow plenty of time for reflection, after any session. The temptation will be to move onto the next piece of content rather than allow people the time to reflect on what they have just heard or experienced.  

    • Ensure that your agenda includes experiential sessions where your delegates can feel what it is like to experience the shift in mindset. Yes, the content is important but how people react and respond is where the learning happens. 

    • Create sessions that might provide a little discomfort. Don’t let colleagues work only in their comfort zones but look for stretch and challenge. Don’t introduce panic or worry your colleagues unnecessarily but do stretch them.  
    • Be open to change. It’s the surest way we can think of to ensure you might learn something new. 

    This article is not designed to decry training and trainers. They play a crucial role in maintaining and improving organizational and individual capability. On the contrary, we are certain that the best way to facilitate learning is to have committed and passionate teachers and trainers, but to go beyond the immediate knowledge and skills requirement and look holistically at the development of the individual.  Inspiring teachers make a difference to all of us and those that can inspire us to follow a path of lifelong learning are to be most admired.  Training can sometimes feel like something we have to do and sits very much in the here and now. We need to get up to speed with this application and this system and we have to achieve this before such and such a date.  By comparison, learning is about developing fully rounded humans and especially those with the capacity to adapt and learn whatever the workplace of the future may bring.   

    One of the most popular and one of our favourite TED talks is Sir Ken Robinson’s talk ‘Do Schools kill creativity?’. Remind yourself of it again if you have a spare 18 minutes. Apart from anything else he is genuinely funny and his talk challenges our thinking around how we learn and why working only in a linear and narrow field of topics, kills our creativity and capacity to learn and adapt in adulthood.  

    And to close, here’s another very recent quote from Dr Duffy. And dare we suggest something a little cheeky? When you read this quote, then substitute the words ‘educational system’ for ‘corporate organisations’ and the word ‘kids’ for ‘colleagues’.  

    ‘Our kids deserve a better future. Our educational system is giving us skills for yesterday. Now we must focus on Friendships, Mental Health, Innovation and Creativity’. 

    Wow. That’s a whole other article.  

    Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!