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What’s culture got to do with it?

Earlier this year we attended the E-Learning Day in Warsaw. This is always a great venue to visit because there’s such a strong entrepreneurial streak in Poland and a real desire to look for new and innovative ways of mixing up everyday procedures within the organisation. All in all, the environment is always inspiring.

After our presentation we got into a discussion with some learning professionals from the banking and mobile industries in Warsaw. It was pretty clear that organisational culture and generational issues were seen as the biggest considerations when trying to deploy new ways of learning within their sectors.

The audiences themselves were in no way resistant to discussing different ways of doing things – be it MOOCs, social, collaborative, or mobile learning. Their biggest concern, however, was how to get these new methodologies past the senior (usually older) colleagues who tend to be much more wary and resistant to implementing new modalities. This is while keeping in mind that they also have to appeal to their Gen X and Gen Y employees who are beginning to assume early management responsibilities. (There’s no denying that the latter group is much more comfortable in a multi-tasking collaborative environment.)

What we gathered then (and frankly, it’s becoming a common trend) is that the consideration when rolling out a mobile learning approach is not an issue about the technology, it’s mostly about the culture.

For mobile to be successful it’s not just about the functionality of the program on your device – don’t get us wrong, this is important as it has to work and it needs to be optimised, but these are relatively modest ambitions in reality. The real focus should be on the shift that is being made from a push to pull-based learning environment – in other words, the move away from mandatory-based learning to a more self-service approach. What’s beneficial about this switch is that you’re making the transition from being an organisation that speaks ‘at’ your employees, to one where you have an open dialogue with them – listening to them and adjusting based on what you hear.

As we know, culture shifts in any organisation from point ‘a’ through to point ‘b’ are always very difficult. It’s for this reason that we see little point in trying to implement mobile learning in to push-based, compliance-heavy, tracking-obsessed environments. The fact is it just will not work.

To those organisations that are able to be more flexible however, mobile can be a fantastic impetus to shift the organisation to where people want it to be. In other words, if you have a new cultural change project that you want to implement, mobile could be the perfect platform to carry these messages. It allows you to not just deliver the message in an interesting and engaging format, but it also shows that you’re walking the talk as well.