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Learning for a Living

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Learning for a Living

Learning at Work Is Work, and We Need to Make Space for It.

MIT Sloan Management Review,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Many companies encourage learning, but discourage implementation of the lessons learned.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


It is so refreshing to see an article that acknowledges its own limitations: "I have never met a manager who told me that people learn to succeed, lead, or change by reading articles like this," writes Gianpiero Petriglieri. "You learn from others whose expertise you lack and from personal experience, they say. I can’t argue with that." His writing alone may not lead to change, but Petriglieri is too modest: He argues convincingly for incorporating a balanced diet of both directive, top-down trainings and free-form, open environments that foster experimentation and help employees overcome their fear of failure. His clear examples that illustrate how nontraditional learning opportunities can lead to insights and cathartic change may well inspire change in individuals, teams and companies.


Many obstacles inhibit workplace learning. 

Without the ability to learn, companies cannot adapt; and if they cannot adjust, they fail. The same applies to individual employees. Managers, who are aware of the need to develop, devote resources accordingly: Companies spent an estimated $200 billion on training and development initiatives in 2018. Employers who promise to invest in people’s growth are attractive to employees.

That doesn’t mean learning comes easily. Many workers are skeptical of the value of learning programs, and may even resist them. Learning requires humility and a willingness to embrace the unknown, but many employees fear that challenging themselves could dent their professional pride or worry that testing their limits will lead to failure.


About the Author

Gianpiero Petriglieri is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD). He has undertaken extensive research into management practices.  

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