Culture: Genius vs. Learning

What is the difference between a genius culture and a learning culture and what does it mean for your organization? 
A genius culture is one in which talent is worshipped. These types of organizations are said to have a “fixed mindset” because they view intelligence as critical to success, and view some people as inherently more talented and skilled than others. The “fixed mindset” does not believe people are capable of growing or developing very much beyond the skills they already have.
A learning culture is one where people are seen to grow and improve with effort (and time). These organizations are said to have a “growth mindset”. In a learning culture, everyone believes that skills and intelligence can be developed over time.
In a world where talent may be hard to find, and experience is retiring or otherwise walking out the door, it is imperative to develop talent in-house. With a growth-oriented culture, every person will have growth and development goals and is expected to continue to develop new skills throughout their career. This is clearly a differentiator in the war for talent, as well as a competitive advantage when it comes to hard-to-find skills that you now develop within your organization.


The first steps to building a growth-oriented or learning culture are to identify the skills and capabilities that are valued in your organization and your market. Then, map that to the current skills and capabilities of your workforce:

  1. Identify the skills needed to be competitive in your market
  2. Identify the skills you have in abundance, and those you are lacking
  3. Map all skills to your workforce and rate people on skill strengths and weaknesses
  4. Develop a plan for each person to work on developing in one or more areas
  5. Support training and other learning opportunities
  6. Build a robust “post mortem” process to capture learning from project and initiatives
  7. Create opportunities for knowledge sharing, mentoring and peer-to-peer training
  8. Tie development and learning goals to compensation and promotions
  9. Always Be Learning – lead by example and be learning and sharing your own learning
  10. Lead by example – have the most senior leaders talk about their own learning and keep pushing their own skills every day.


Perhaps the most important element of building a learning culture is developing your own growth mindset and demonstrating that you value learning and growth. Habits that encourage building trust, listening, asking questions, and sharing your own mistakes and lessons learned will show that you are engaged in learning and help others do the same.



Leadership starts with you. To develop a growth mindset within yourself, here are some simple questions to start the self-reflection conversation (Mindset, Dweck).

  1. Are there ways I could be less defensive about my mistakes?
  2. Could I get more value from the feedback I receive?
  3. Are there ways I could create more learning experiences for myself and my team?
  4. How do I act toward others?
  5. Am I a fixed-mindset boss, more focused on my success then my employees’ learning?


Practice using these simple questions with your team to coach a growth mindset within your people:

  1. What did you learn from today’s performance?
  2. What steps did you take to make you successful today?
  3. What are some different strategies you could have used?
  4. How did you keep going when things got tough?
  5. What can you learn from others’ actions today?


Learn more about how we help leaders and organizations cultivate a learning culture.

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