Why I Built a Lean Learning Company

We live in a world where rapid change is the only constant. Technology evolves in a blink. A little ingenuity can quickly upend an entire industry, and a small oversight can sink a titanic enterprise overnight. So how can your company survive and thrive in such volatile times?

In my experience, the answer is clear: give your employees better ways to learn. To do that, you’ll need to practice some lean learning.

Get speed on your side. Trust me.

Five years ago my cofounders and I started Grovo to serve as a “field guide to the Internet.” At the time, there was no quick and easy place for people to learn how to use all the latest digital tools and applications. Our platform taught people everything from Google Docs to Dropbox, all through 60-second “microlearning” videos that we created ourselves.

Short videos enabled us to respond very quickly to the market. If a new technology arrived, we could create learning content around it faster than competitors. Or, if our users wanted to learn a particular tool, we had the speed and agility to respond to their requests in near real-time. This nimble approach kept us in touch with the trends, ahead of the curve, and perpetually learning.

Things change pretty quickly. Surprise, surprise.

Then something amazing happened. Huge companies started calling us, wanting to use our bite-sized content to train their employees. Big names like Wells Fargo, Chevron, and Pitney Bowes. Why? Their current training methods couldn’t keep up with their rapidly changing workplace. It was too slow. Too long. Too boring.

These companies needed a new approach to engage and educate their workers. They wanted content that matched the pace of business, technology that was actually easy for employees to use, and guidance to build stronger cultures of learning within their organizations.

The need for better learning is clear.

Hearing from these large organizations opened our eyes: today’s businesses are starved for better, faster, more effective ways to educate employees. Old school, broken corporate training is not only leading to sunk costs, but is also a tremendous contributor to employee disengagement and increased turnover.

We are in the midst of a seismic shift in corporate America that requires organizations to no longer just provide “corporate training” but to become “a learning company.” One that acknowledges that staying ahead of the pace of change is a must-have for today’s workforce.

With shrinking attention spans, today’s employees require learning that’s fast, engaging, relevant, and available anytime, anywhere. Companies that fail to invest in designing a true culture of learning at work are at risk of losing out on performance gains, not being able to engage and retain existing workers, and failing to develop their next generation of leaders.

Employees value learning. Do you?

Let’s be clear. Employees want to learn. A recent study reported that of all the perks millennials seek from prospective employers, training and development is the most desirable — more than cash, more than a 401k program. And with millennials now comprising the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, it’s clear that without a significant investment in building out a learning culture, companies are at risk of not attracting or retaining tier one talent.

To be leaders and innovators in today’s evolving business landscape, employees need constant access to relevant, role-specific content — and a lean approach to learning is the only way to get there. To invest in their people, companies need to ensure they’re delivering information immediately at the point of need, and promoting an exchange of knowledge that is active, agile and permeates company culture.

While loads of companies and employees are still suffering at the hands of antiquated corporate training (bad platforms, one-size-fits-all lectures, bloated content, week-long information dumps, etc), forward-thinking organizations are seeing the results from a leaner, meaner approach. With microlearning, for example, the average learner completes 50% more training than assigned. That means the right content and technology can inspire employees to learn everything from project management to leadership skills voluntarily.

Let’s get lean.

I’ll leave you with this quote from MIT’s Peter Senge: “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.”

I believe he’s right. Learning faster than the competition is what lean learning is all about: speed, agility, employee engagement, and a systematic way of keeping up with the whirlwind that is modern business.

Frankly, lean learning is the only chance your company has to be successful when the future arrives. And with a little luck, it may even give you a shot at building that future yourself.