Lynda Gratton explores a culture of continuous learning

A cropped image of Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School.

Earlier this month, Hive Learning hosted a session on the future of learning, with guest speaker Lynda Gratton. HRD Connect joined the group of senior HR leaders.

Learning is at the centre of everything. Several years ago we may have thought it was artificial intelligence or robotics, but this is no longer the case. Lynda Gratton talks about the fundamental redesign of life, which although is a gradual process has been going on for years. This redesign can be broken into three trends.

Three trends:

  • Technological
  • Demographic
  • The way we think about learning


We used to talk about the hollowing out of work, encouraged by AI etc. That conversation is now over, machines will do our work. But this then raises the question of what is it to be human. The answer is to do everything that machines can’t do for us, e.g. be creative, amusing.


We will all live to be 100. This will change how we think about the way we breakdown the three fundamental components on the human life, i.e. full-time education, full-time work and full-time retirement. This must be broken down but will be difficult as all our cultural norms must be broken. We must now think about multiple transitions, flexible cohorts and members behaving in different ways.


50% of learning experts are now neuroscientists. The way we learn must change and these changes must focus on three institutional structures that support learning.

1 – Education

This is difficult to budge. Most, are built to deliver classroom learning. However, this does suggest that there is room for new entrants.

2 – Governments

Are only interested in learning between the ages of 5-21. If we think about the three fundamental components of the human life, the government currently putting all of their money into one slot. There is no access to lifelong learning.

3 – Corporations

What role should they play? They struggle facilitating continuous learning as what do they do if the employee leaves?

It is only platforms that have the ability to scale, and scaling is the big issue. The ecosystem is transforming and it is our job as the HR function to keep a watchful eye on what will happen next.

We must be careful of neuroscientists who tell us that we can learn in five minutes. Being human requires deep knowledge.

How will people transition across boundaries created, and how does this become acceptable?

People who have the ability to transition do so, through identity and through changes in their networks. These people have:

  • more access to an understanding of self, and
  • better networks.

Networks and increased diversity therein will facilitate change. Example, when the Detroit hub went into decline, those looking for new employment struggled tremendously as their networks had become nearly completely homogeneous. If we want to transform we need diverse networks. One of the first things London Business School does with new entrants is to strategically review their networks with a view to reducing homogeneity.

In terms of self, this is something we choose the self that is us but we can also choose to become another self. We do this by changing our environment. For example, if we want to become an entrepreneur, we should spend time with people who start and grow their own businesses.



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