I know what you’re thinking: A “culture of learning,” what does that even mean?
It’s not a culture based on schooling or studying, though both of those things can play a beneficial role in the learning process. Rather, it’s a culture that aims to learn for the sake of learning, and encourages people to continue learning what they’re passionate about so they can put it to use.
Unfortunately, the society we live in sometimes promotes a different view, one that emphasizes the need to hit certain “key points” in order to be successful. Yet studies show, none of the academic “key points” really equate to success. (In fact, the only correlation between real life monetary success and academic success has been shown to be the networking that occurs as a result of the college experience.)
This is seen clearly in the U.S.’s education system where students are given standardized tests that determine whether they pass the grade, leading teachers to “teach to the test” as opposed to ensuring that the kids have a working knowledge of the subject matter. In other words, the teacher’s job is to ensure that they will pass the multiple-choice test. (In the worst case examples, students are molded to study simply to pass exams, and then laugh about how they don’t remember any of the information they’ve crammed into their brains after the exam has come and gone.)
This point-by-point culture affects the “real world” too. As the people trained to go through this system enter the workforce, they will lack the drive, passion, and desire necessary to bring their job life (or, if they do have these traits, it will be likely that they have struggled with society’s attempt to repress them). They will do as they are told, hit the key points, and move on, because this is what they have been taught to do.
A culture of learning defies this model.
It promotes the learning process and emphasizes the meaningful benefits of its outcome. Instead of focusing on the bullet points, getting things right on tests, or filling up your resume to its fullest, it focuses on the genuine thirst for developing knowledge and working on new skills.
So why is this beneficial to a company? Because real value is created when people are personally invested in their work. Real passion leads to personal growth, which leads to learning, which leads to real passion coming out on the other end through doing and creating.
An atmosphere dedicated to learning allows people to put passion behind their learning. When people are passionate, they are more likely to go above and beyond their requirements and explore greater heights; and more likely to use the skills they have acquired for the advancement of the organization and society as a whole, as opposed to building a resume.
This culture allows people to think freely in a company, and it promotes collaboration. When someone is passionate about something, they are eager to share, and the best way to learn is from each other—be it face-to-face, via YouTube, or through books. This is how companies and societies grow and become better.
My advice to interns? Don’t do it, unless it’s something you are passionate about. Don’t make your internship just another bullet point. Instead, make a contribution–to a culture of learning.