How to Build a Continuous Learning Environment in the Workplace

Breaking the Expertise Trap

When it comes to work, expertise is the far-off horizon we’re all striving to reach. You want to
become smarter and wiser. You want to know more and gather more experiences under your belt.
You may even strive to receive public acclaim or awards.

Yet even if you manage to reach some form of expertise, it can often be a poisoned chalice if you
don’t know how to wield it properly. 

Instead of enabling its owner to make better choices and overcome challenges, expertise can
become a barrier to growth 
and can often keep you from continuing to learn and adapt.

What Are the 3 Biggest Expertise Traps?

There are three major traps that will make life more challenging when you start to feel like an
expert. They are the following:

  1. You stop trying to learn. 
    While having confidence in your skills is important and healthy, feeling like you’ve “grown out”
    of learning can be detrimental to your career. You lose the incentive to improve and grow, which
    are vital drivers in today’s rapidly changing world. If you lose the desire to learn, you stop
    changing, and change is essential for continuously thriving over time. 

  2. You stop examining your success. 
    In the early days, you are hypersensitive to success. You look for it everywhere and analyze the
    moves that led to a win. Because the beginner mindset is honed on success, you are able to learn
    from past mistakes and keep improving. But expertise can cut you off from this analytical,
    backward-looking mode, so you are less connected to what’s working and what isn’t. This makes
    sustained success difficult to achieve and may even cause you to falter where you wouldn't have

  3. You stop taking risks. 
    The third expertise trap is about the safety of expertise. When you have scaled a peak and
    reached the top, it can be tempting to stop looking around for new challenges. You don’t want to
    fall or fail. But when you stop challenging yourself, you limit your potential for growth. Your
    comfort zone begins to shrink, and as the novices around you experiment and expand the
    possibilities of their industries, you stay still.

    These expertise traps hinder both individuals and their organizations. 

    On an individual level, professionals experience decreased adaptability. They’re less able to shift according to the climate around them, including to new technologies. They may even actively resist change and cling stubbornly to their existing skills. This state of stagnation cannot last because there will always be others willing to experiment and test the boundaries with creative approaches. 

    On an organizational level, stagnation leads to an inability to adapt to changes in the market. An organization full of its own expertise is less likely to pay close attention to emerging trends and the shifting demands of consumers. A loss of engagement follows, with team members perhaps feeling disconnected, behind the times, and lacking in purpose. Teams themselves can suffer if stagnation leads to homogeneity rather than diversity.

The Benefits of Continuous Learning at Work

Why is continuous learning the antidote to the expertise trap? For starters, continuous learning
recognizes that work isn’t something you train for just once. Degrees and courses cannot prepare
you for the way the world changes. Even the “school of life” will be useless if you treat it like a
one-and-done thing. 

The benefits of continuous learning at work are increased agility, an increased capacity for
change, and the ability to unlock visionary thinking. Continuous learning practitioners are
experts, yes, but they also stay nimble and humble about their expertise. They continue to assess
new situations and challenges in the world around them in order to evolve, innovate, and make
future plans. 

After all, what is business expertise without the ability to apply it to today’s market challenges?

How to Build a Continuous Learning Environment in the Workplace

The qualities gained from continuous learning form an ongoing defense against expertise traps,
allowing leaders to engage in and adapt to a world in flux. The question is: How to build a
continuous learning environment in the workplace when the workplace itself is changing so

  1. Lead by example.
    You can go a long way toward creating a culture of continuous learning in your organization by
    modeling it for your team. Show employees what you mean by continuous learning by
    demonstrating a passion for your own skill development. Engage in learning opportunities, keep
    up to date with training, upskill, and share your learnings with your colleagues to cultivate an
    environment where continuous learning happens naturally and isn’t intimidating. 
  2. Prioritize real-world scenarios.
    Leaders can make continuous learning easier by connecting it to real-world situations as often as
    possible. Develop and practice active learning strategies in your workplace, methods that involve hands-on experience. Try a day where people shadow their colleagues in different roles or split up familiar teams into new groups and give them a real-world problem to solve. These strategies make learning more dynamic, memorable, and enjoyable. 
  1. Invite new eyes in.
    As mentioned above, expertise can make a leader complacent and less able to change. They can
    develop blind spots and be unable to see what needs changing. Inviting an external perspective
    into your work environment could shed much-needed light on your current approach and show
    you which areas could benefit from a shake-up. Collaborating with other experts, including those
    from different industries, roles, and generations, could turn continuous learning into insights and
    innovations you can use. 

    Interested in learning more about the Expertise Trap and how to break out of this cycle? Get in
    touch with me
     and let’s discuss how to get into a more positive, productive mindset through
    continuous learning.
diana kander logo in black


Sign up for Diana's monthly newsletter that gets you focused on thriving rather than just surviving.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram