6 Barriers to Creating a Learning Culture (and How to Avoid Them)

By this point in the series, I hope you’re excited for what’s to come. First, we discussed what learning culture means and why it’s important. Then, we explored examples of a good learning culture. Now it’s time to face reality about the barriers standing in our way as we consider how to achieve that visionary culture of learning we’ve set our sights on.

Our subsequent posts will guide you through how to navigate these barriers one by one. But first, we need to make sure we understand each barrier before we start knocking them down.

And continuing the approach of drawing illustrations from TV and movies, this post’s theme is based on the Netflix hit show “Queer Eye.” If you’re familiar with this program, you know it’s about helping people overcome challenges, making it the perfect complement to this post.

Barrier 1: We don’t need to learn—we’re happy just how we are.

Not everybody wants to learn and develop their skill sets, and some of your organization’s workforce may be happy just as they are. No amount of amazing learning resources or a fancy, new learning platform will help if people just aren’t interested in learning. Establishing a learning culture may involve motivating people to embrace and acknowledge the importance of lifelong learning.

The Queer Eye’s Fab Five take people who are seemingly happy, and focus on small changes across their lives, so they do, in fact, embrace the importance of growth and change.

Barrier 2: We don’t know where to go for learning content and resources.

You can’t create a successful culture of independent learning if people don’t know where or how to find content, resources, and experiences. That’s why it’s important to maintain an organized library where learners can easily access the materials they need.

Just like trying to find the right learning content, not everyone knows where or how to find the perfect fit when it comes to clothing. Tan has a knack for helping the show’s guests find clothes that make them feel good about themselves

Barrier 3: The organization’s processes stop us from learning.

The organization's processes can also be a barrier to creating a culture of independent learning. For example, are people in your organization rewarded or penalized for taking time out of productive work to develop themselves and others? Do your organization’s processes (formal and informal) encourage sharing lessons learned from mistakes or sweep them under the rug?

Where processes are barriers—even when learners want to develop themselves and others—it can feel like they’re pulling on a locked door, as people are trying to work around those processes in order to learn.

Breaking old processes and creating new habits is critical for a bright and successful future. Karamo serves as the show’s life coach and helps guests learn how to overcome obstacles so they can be their best selves.

Barrier 4: That’s not how we do things here.

People (and organizations) can get into a fixed way of doing things, which can make driving change difficult. This applies to establishing a learning culture in any organization that thinks of learning as onboarding or mandatory compliance training, rather than ongoing development and improvement. The very idea of self-directed learning and development can seem impossible at first, but it's an important barrier that you need to overcome.

Bobby Berk, the show’s interior designer, helps guests realize the massive impact that small, thoughtful changes in their environments can have on their happiness and well-being. He often works with what's already in someone’s living spaces and initiates change by making logical updates and enhancements that the owner can actually get behind.

Barrier 5: We don’t have time for reflection and learning.

Everybody is busy with meetings, full inboxes, calendar reminders, and giant to-do lists. We don’t have time for learning and development, and certainly not for reflection. Establishing a learning culture means helping people make time for learning, but in a hectic world where people are already late for the next thing, it’s a challenge to make learning a priority.

In addition to the difficulty of making time for learning, we also need to find better ways for learning to fit into shorter timeframes.

Jonathan is a talented hair stylist who focuses on helping people create looks that don’t require a lot of time and effort, giving them a solution that works within their time restraints.

Barrier 6: We don’t know how and what to learn.

Even when people are motivated and make time to learn, they may not know where to start and how to plan their development if they aren’t used to self-directed learning. As part of establishing a learning culture, you will need to find a way to support learners as they take the plunge into the world of self-development.

Self-directed learning also can be very confusing if you don’t know what you need to learn. Again, part of establishing a culture of learning is to support learners in identifying their development needs in terms of their effectiveness in their current role, in terms of preparing for career advancement, and in terms of fulfilling the needs of the organization going forward.

Cooking is hard if you don't know where to start, especially because there are so many options. Antoni helps people think differently about food by not only introducing them to approachable ingredients, but also sharing the basics of how to use those ingredients in a way that will be sustainable with their lifestyles.


How can learning analytics help break down barriers?

Learning analytics can help you measure the severity of these obstacles in your organization. Analytics also can be used to identify areas of the organization where these barriers are a particular issue as well as areas where they are starting to be overcome.


Up Next: Do your learners need a little motivation?

We’ll start working through these barriers and explore how you can overcome each one, starting with how to encourage learners to embrace lifelong learning.


Queer Eye is used here only to illustrate the examples in this blog post. Watershed is not associated with, sponsored by, or affiliated with KC Film Office, Scout Productions, ITV America, and/or Netflix.

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