A Journey of Lifelong Learning

In Learning Organisations by grant@ngenious.co.za0 Comments

I am a learner.

The older I get the more I realise how little I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I have learnt a lot in my life, have studied and obtained a number of qualifications along the way. However, learning teaches us one thing …. there is still so much more to learn. In fact no one person can know everything.

That is why teams are so important.

Having said that, there is also a responsibility for each member of a team to ensure that they are constantly growing the knowledge, skills and talents. Yes, even in areas where a person has a natural talent, these need to be developed. The Olympic Games has brought this fact home.  As I followed the incredible results obtained by Usain Bolt, I realized that whilst he is talented and has a natural gift for running, his training regimen requires hard work, effort and knowledge of what needs to be developed.

I got to thinking about the importance of training and development, as well as coaching and mentoring in our organisations. There is an enormous amount of focus on the role of employers to create an environment for training and development. This responsibility is crucial, BUT the responsibility on each person to learn is greater. Whether or not the employer organisation creates an environment of learning, it is the responsibility of each one of us to pursue lifelong learning.  

I have just completed reading an article on the “Johari Window”, which is a psychological model created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram. The intention of the model is to help develop a greater understanding of “self awareness” and how this impacts others in a team.

Using the Johari Window as a basis, I thought about its implications for our need of greater personal awareness as it relates to this process of continuous learning.

In the Johari Window there are 4 quadrants. They are:

Open and free area what a person knows about themselves and what others know about them
Blind area (also known as blindspots) what others know about them but they are unaware about themselves
Hidden area what a person knows about themselves but others do not
Unknown area what neither the person or others know about the person


Using this as a basis, I would like to propose that there are 4 similar quadrants to lifelong learning, training and development.

These are as follows:

  • The existing knowledge, skills and talents that we know that we possess and that others are aware of. Often these are the basis on which we are employed or utilized within organisations.
  • Most of us possess skills, talents and capabilities which is often “unseen” by us but which others can see, identify and “call out” of us. This is often the role of mentors and coaches.  
  • There may be talents, skills or knowledge that you have but which others in your organisation are unaware that you may possess. This may be due to lack of opportunity to display them or due to a dis empowering environment.
  • Lastly, there are areas in our lives that neither we nor others know that we do not have the knowledge and skills to perform certain roles and tasks.

In the second, third and fourth quadrants, the responsibility to develop is entirely the responsibility of the individual.


So here are 3 things I recommend to address each of the quadrants:

  • Share and teach what you know with someone who does not know what you know
  • Make an effort to indentify a mentor or coach and let them help you identify your blindspots and make a commitment to develop them
  • Find opportunities to utilize and grow the talents and skills that you may possess. As an example, if writing is your strength and passion, find a way to express it and develop it further.
  • Make an effort to learn something new. Do not withdraw into your comfort zone, but rather stretch yourself.

Dr. W. Edward Deming puts it this way, “People are born with intrinsic motivation, self respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning.”   

You were born to learn – you learnt to walk, speak, express emotions and survive. You have the capacity to learn and grow – Embrace It.

For those who want to learn more about the process of lifelong learning, I recommend Peter Senge’s incredible book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organisation.

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