How We’re Turning Our Workplace Into a Learnplace

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

After running Braindate at events for over five years, we’ve learned one crucial thing when it comes to engaging new partners and clients: there’s no way around experiencing for yourself the transformative power of a meaningful one-on-one knowledge-sharing conversation to understand and buy into the power of the work we do. No slick presentation, no content strategy, no aggressive cold-call plan can translate the value of Braindate like actually having a half-hour conversation that changes your life.

We work towards both financial success and social good, and not one at the expense of the other.

At e180, we have an “Impact Committee,” where we keep track of our progress adhering to the double bottom line that we’ve committed to as a social enterprise and certified B Corporation: we work towards both financial success and social good, and not one at the expense of the other. Last November when the committee gathered for a retreat, something became clear: even though we preach it for others, when it came to experiencing the transformative power of collaborative learning, we weren’t quite “walking the walk.”

We fell into the same trap from which we try so hard to keep our clients: when thinking about how to share and live out e180’s company values with all team members, we had the tendency to think first of solutions, before truly understanding the nuances of the problem at hand. Let’s create a great online culture book! Build a giant wall of our ambassadors’ testimonials in our office lobby! Have a disco ball spinning to “I Love to Love” every time a braindate is booked! Glitter! Shiny things!

While these are all very creative (and we actually might implement the disco ball), we realized that if we want every single team member to feel agency in their quests to translate e180’s impact to their own stakeholders — in other words, to feel guided by their own unique impact compass — a shiny online culture book (that she would probably visit only once) is not the way to go. There is really no way around it: every single team member should be experiencing for herself the transformative power of a self-directed, collaborative and experiential learning, not once in a while, not just during her onboarding, but every single day.

How can a Product Manager know which features to develop for an online collaborative learning plan prototype if she doesn’t live and breathe self-directed learning every day? How can a Partnerships Director convincingly translate to prospective clients the impact of collaborative learning if she’s only been on a braindate once or twice? How can a Communications Director give an engaging interview about learning by doing if he’s rooted in a work culture that doesn’t fully embrace failure, and seldom makes time for intentional learning?

What if, instead of going to work, we were going to learn?

An idea began to emerge: what if we prioritized learning in everything we do at e180? What if productivity was a side-benefit of learning, and not the other way around? What if learning became such an important pillar of our workplace that we began to think of e180 as a school for its team members, instead of a company? What if, instead of going to work, we were going to learn?

So in December, when our whole team gathered in a cabin for our annual strategic planning retreat, we had a bold proposal: 2018’s theme should be “Turning e180 from a workplace into a learnplace.” It would transform everything: from our quarterly goals to how we measure success, from the projects we choose, to the way we organize our meetings and rituals, our budget, our bonuses, our space. The team looked puzzled at first, then curious, then excited.

How do you transform your workplace into a learnplace?

To be honest, I really don’t know yet. We’ve started to get a sense of what works (and what doesn’t), we’re beginning to prototype some new rituals and routines, and we plan to share it with you right here, and soon, through a series of online classes (!). The sum of our year of discoveries on learnplaces will also be transformed into a book, with the support of a researcher from the MA Human Systems Intervention at Concordia University.

Join us if you dare!


e180 is a social business from Montreal that seeks to unlock human greatness by helping people learn from each other. We are the inventors of braindates — intentional knowledge sharing conversations between people, face-to-face. Since 2011, e180 has helped thousands of humans in harnessing the potential of the people around them, and we won’t stop until we reach millions.