Creating a Learning Organization

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Creating a Learning Organization

We work with a lot of organizations that ask us for our help and guidance in designing and setting up things like a “training room,” or “training center,” or even (if customers are looking for assistance with curriculum development) the specifics of their “training program.”

There is evidence of a huge internal problem built into each of those requests. Can you spot it?


“Training” is a loaded connotated word. It implies dominance and removes the possibility of peer-to-peer relationships. Training is what animal wranglers do to make performing seals do a better job of balancing colored balls on their noses. It’s what pet owners do to ensure that their dogs and cats don’t “do their business” in the wrong place. It’s not – or at any rate shouldn’t be – what peers who respect one another do to each other in the workplace.

What are we really doing when we bring a group, large or small, into the so-called “training room”? Supporting ongoing growth and education? Yes. Sharing important best practices? Absolutely. Sharing critical market intelligence? You bet.

Training? I don’t think so. That word implies the rote repetition of certain habitual actions that have been drilled into the “trainee.” It certainly doesn’t imply any direct or indirect support of independent thought, critical analysis, or implementation of the creative process.
If we want to attract and retain employees who think for themselves, who ask essential questions that others have overlooked, or who bring new and innovative solutions to the workplace, we must stop using terminology that treats them like performing seals!

I firmly believe that this is one of those areas of workplace life where the terminology we choose to use has a direct impact – for better or for worse – on the overall workplace experience of our employees. The fact that we are accustomed to using a certain term definitely DOES NOT mean that the term belongs on the workplace lexicon. In the case of “training,” I believe we can instantly improve workplace morale by simply replacing the word.

Does your organization currently have “training initiatives”? What would happen if you rechristened them “learning initiatives”? Does it “train people” in effective communication, selling, or anything else? What would happen if it “shared proven best practices” instead?

KEY TAKEAWAY: Remove “Training” from your organizational vocabulary. Replace with words like learning, education and collaboration. Make that decision today!