Continual learning for business success


8 minute read
Jo Reid

Jo Reid

Chief Executive Officer

Digital Insights

Photo: Los Muertos Crew, Pexels

The landscape of technology and applications moves so quickly that you can never be complacent. Adopting a culture of continual learning, and ensuring everyone in the business is riding that pace of change, is the only way for companies to make sure they don’t fall behind – becoming unappealing and stagnant places to work.

When you actively encourage employees to embed and share new skills and knowledge, and keep them abreast of new technology, developments and ways of working, you also start to strengthen your company culture. This is important because the culture of a company has been shown to have a direct effect on boosting productivity, employee wellbeing, retaining staff and driving innovation.

Research from Deloitte estimates high-performing organisations are 92% more likely to innovate, while 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, according to LinkedIn.

With the benefits of continuous learning clear, this article will look at how applying a test-and-learn approach to internal and external learning naturally leads to business success.

Learning from colleagues

There is so much to be learned from your colleagues and we do everything we can at Calvium to encourage a culture of peer-to-peer learning in all areas of the business.

One thing we have found to be incredibly successful and enjoyable is running regular technical talk sessions where our technical team can share ideas with other people in the company – either around a particular topic, or a new tech or process we are implementing.

Photo: Sam Lion, Pexels

We also hold a coffee talk session on Mondays where the whole company gets together to share their opinions about what’s going well, what’s not going so well and where the company can try and think more holistically about the projects we’re working on, as well as the new things we are thinking about. Nothing is off limits and it is incredible what you can come up with when you bring so many brilliant and inquisitive minds together over a hot drink – whether in-person or virtually.

This happened at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. When we were seeing an increase in the use of apps for coronavirus-related things, the whole team got together to discuss the way things are going, what ideas there might be and how Calvium could apply its knowledge to the pressing problems we were seeing.

Automated Architecture (AUAR) were introduced to us with a platform idea which responded to the extensive lack of medical supplies and PPE equipment for frontline workers. Together we designed, built and tested PPE Hive – a platform for connection and exchange. PPE Hive connects those who need PPE with people who can make it, with those who have the necessary materials to make it, and those who can transform it.

PPE Hive app screens showing offers, requests, approval and locations

It was only by getting everyone together, testing rapidly and taking a collaborative approach – both internally and with our partner AUAR – that we were able to build the idea from its conception to a working platform in just three weeks. We never underestimate the power of those coffee sessions.

Learning from clients

Another thing we value greatly is the symbiotic relationship we have with our clients when it comes to sharing skills, knowledge and learning from one another. We are always striving to understand how to best meet a current or would-be client’s end goal and are often having conversations about the way their projects might go or evolve.

Often, this means finding suitable technology or solutions and learning how to adapt it to integrate with the platform or system it is intended for.

When we started collaborating with LabLinks, it was very much about listening to what the client wanted and thinking about how technology might elevate their core desire to have a distinctive platform that would encourage people in the pharmaceutical industry to link, learn and succeed. 

This involved creating a 3D virtual environment where scientists could meet and share knowledge and ideas. Given there were already a lot of 3D environments out there, and knowing how costly it can be to build one from the ground up, we instead learned how to integrate Mozilla Hubs into the wider LabLinks platform. By adapting and experimenting, we were eventually able to create a seamless user interface that was easy to use and understand for the wide and varied audience it was intended for.

LabLinks social environments screenshots

More recently we have had an opportunity to work on a research and development project – a proof of concept demonstrator – where we are now thinking about how to translate what the project initiator can see as an opportunity to carefully select the right crops for different soil types into a workable interface.

As part of this, we have initiated an investigation to look at how decision trees have been used, how they might be used and the pros and cons of using this kind of model, so that when the project starts we can make the right choice about how to design the interface to support the problem.

The value of testing and learning

At Calvium, we believe the key to continuous learning is to apply holistic thinking and to take a test-and-learn approach across the board.

We see it as imperative that we are constantly increasing knowledge and refreshing and building skills. If we are not doing that, then we are putting ourselves at greater risk of things going wrong – things that can so easily be avoided if you are testing and applying learnings as you go.

This risk is highlighted in this machine learning investigation, which sheds light on growing problems with algorithm bias and how they usually arise from problems introduced by the people who design and/or train the machine learning systems – whether through unintended cognitive biases or real-life prejudices. We all have a responsibility to ensure we are building technology to be fair and in the best interests of society. This can only be achieved if we are continuously learning and, importantly, willing to learn.

Our own Place Experience Platform is in constant evolution. Its future success relies on a mix of learning from best practice of the wider context of the built environment, and considering how we can apply our technical skills to work in harmony with the wider context. Needless to say, this requires a great deal of testing and learning.

Another area where we will apply our test-and-learn culture is to understanding how we move forward and grow with hybrid working, which is something every company is wrestling with as we emerge from Covid-19.

The demands for hybrid working in a post-pandemic world are becoming increasingly clear, with one McKinsey study finding the number of people preferring hybrid working has risen from 30% before the pandemic to 52% post-pandemic.

Photo: Ave Calvar, Unsplash

Of course, it is not as simple as simply giving people the option to come into the office or work remotely. Companies need to ensure they have the right technology, software and infrastructure in place that will allow a hybrid model to work. There are considerations around how a hybrid model will impact office culture too.

Key to our hybrid strategy moving forward will be consulting with the team to experiment in a proactive way, looking at different ways we can make it work and acknowledging there are some great benefits for working in a dispersed way. Some people are at a certain stage in their life or in a certain family environment where it is much easier to work from home. Others miss the interaction with colleagues and the creativity that comes with working in an office.

We will use those highly valuable coffee talk sessions to get people’s opinions and ideas about new ways of working and how to get it right. It’s going to be a journey of experimentation, much like everything we do.

Final thoughts

Fostering an environment for continuous learning should be a priority for any businesses looking to drive innovation, build a strong company culture and ensure high quality standards are in every part of the work you do.

My parting piece of advice would be to make sure you are constantly learning and applying so that you are always moving forward. Calvium has seen first-hand the benefits of this – both internally and when working with clients – and this is something we will always incorporate into our own way of working.

Contact Calvium to discuss how we can work together in a way that ensures we are all continuously learning, innovating and riding the pace of change – whatever your business, challenge or goal: +44 (0) 117 226 2000

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