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BLOGSocial and Informal Learning Creates Lifelong Growth and Transformation


group of coworkers in a collaborative office meeting learning together

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving world, the importance of lifelong learning can’t be overstated.

At Harper Learning, we build custom programs and courses that ensure the ongoing success of professional teams. However, we also know that what people learn from clicking through screens is far from the whole story. Traditional education and formal training programs are only a tiny part; social and informal learning are vital as well.

We absorb so much from our community interactions and how we deal with the challenges we face every day. Getting the most out of these alternative education paths relies on a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, and it opens up so many unique and transformative ways to approach our personal and professional growth. 

Unleashing the Potential of Social and Informal Learning

The Essence of Social Learning

We start our learning journey the moment we are born. 

We learn from our parents and our siblings when we’re at home, and we learn from the world around us when we leave our front door. Learning is a social process deeply ingrained in human nature. We naturally learn from watching others, sharing experiences, and having conversations. 

As babies and toddlers, we learn words and phrases, shapes and colours, and how things look and feel. When we go to school, we learn about how to interact with others and all about schedules, routines, and time. 

We learn socially, by osmosis in a way, by observing everything around us, and this extends beyond the classroom and other structured environments. As we get older, we interact with more communities, not to mention online forums, mentorship programs, and collaborative projects, and our social learning continues to evolve. 

By actively participating in social learning opportunities, we gain diverse perspectives, collective knowledge, and the wisdom of people who have walked a similar path. 

Social learning is all the ways we learn from others and they learn from us.

The Power of Informal Learning

Whereas social learning comes from the natural goings on in our lives, informal learning revolves more around how we solve the problems we face each day. Often, these skills come from what we’ve learned socially. 

To navigate the challenges we face, we need to apply the knowledge and skills we acquire through our day-to-day interactions in the world at large. 

Informal learning comes from trial and error, self-exploration, and candid interactions with peers, friends, and family. We can only decide if we enjoy something—we can only expand our horizons—when we’re exposed to something new. Informal learning enables us to pursue unique interests and passions, and, in doing so, we foster our creativity, problem-solving abilities, and personal growth. 

Curiosity is the essential quality that leads to informal learning, and what we learn opens doors to new possibilities and sparks our curiosity again, a cycle of new knowledge. When we continually ask ourselves “What’s next?”, we travel the road of lifelong learning.

Social and Informal Learning

The real magic happens when social and informal learning intersect. 

Technology is a key driver for learning, but sometimes a face-to-face meeting represents the best opportunity to learn and grow. These days, technology can help with this, too. Through collaborative projects, study groups, and online communities, we get access to so many opportunities to learn from each other, share insights, and collectively build knowledge. 

Innovation happens when groups of people with different backgrounds and skill sets meet and exchange ideas. Rich learning opportunities stem from engaged discussions, feedback, and participating in collaborative problem-solving exercises. By combining the power of social connections with informal learning experiences, we can unlock tremendous potential for growth and innovation. The only limits are our imaginations and our initiative. 

Two women having a conversation at work for informal learning. Credit: Unsplash / Mimi Thian

Cultivating a Lifelong Learning Mindset

The Growth Mindset

Most people naturally feel comfortable with where they are and what they know. However, stepping beyond our comfort zone, experiencing new things, and challenging our beliefs is where the pathway to growth begins. 

The question is: Do we want stagnation, or do we want growth? A lifelong learning mindset emphasizes the development of intelligence and skills through dedication, effort, and a willingness to embrace challenges. This growth mindset enables us to view failures and setbacks as opportunities for learning and improvement. By cultivating a growth mindset, we unlock our built-in ability to adapt, evolve, and thrive in an ever-changing world.

The Role of Curiosity

The “What’s Next?” mentality is the foundation of learning. The next question is “What does that mean?” 

Curiosity is the fuel that drives lifelong learning, and it goes hand in hand with openness. When we approach life with a sense of wonder, we open ourselves to new experiences and ideas. Curiosity prompts us to ask questions, seek answers, and explore uncharted territories. Openness is the state of mind that takes us there. The combination of the two reveals hidden connections between seemingly unrelated fields. This fosters innovation and creative problem-solving.

Embracing Continuous Improvement

Learning doesn’t stop at a certain age or milestone. There is no limit to our potential. 

Learning is an ongoing process that extends throughout our lives and enriches us. Embracing continuous improvement means actively looking for chances to grow, through reading, attending workshops, participating in webinars, and experiential learning. 

Dedicating ourselves to lifelong learning helps us adapt to new challenges, expand our knowledge base, and enhance our skill sets. We become multi-disciplined and multi-talented human beings who live enhanced lives and enhance the lives of others. 

An engaged team of coworkers having a conversation and learning about a new initiative. Credit: Unsplash / Jason Goodman

The Power of Transferring Learning

Transferable Learning: Bridging the Gap

To transfer learning from one area of life to another, we must apply the knowledge, skills, and insights we gained in one domain to another. This cross-pollination allows us to break down the barriers and uncover innovative solutions. 

Where does art end and architecture begin and vice versa? How do math and chemistry influence the fashion world? The things we learn can be applied in a myriad of personal and professional ways. By recognizing that learning is transferable, we tap into the unique wealth of wisdom and expertise that we’ve acquired throughout our whole journey. 

Transferring Learning: Real-Life Examples

Here’s how transferable learning can transform our lives.

Learning effective communication skills at work improves our relationships with family, friends, and community members. The ability to listen actively, express empathy, and articulate our thoughts translates to better interpersonal connections. Communicating effectively creates a deeper connection with the other person, which leads to openness and further growth in any scenario. 

Developing problem-solving strategies through a hobby like puzzle-solving or gaming enhances our ability to approach complex challenges in our careers and personal lives.

When we combine creative problem-solving with analytical thinking and perseverance, we tap into the power of potential, which leads to growth. These skills combine to make us, for example, financially literate. This not only empowers us to manage our personal finances but also equips us with a broader understanding of economic principles that can be applied to our entrepreneurial or philanthropic pursuits. 

Our ability to combine ideas and skills learned in all areas of our lives empowers us to become even more successful in all our endeavors.

Two women working together to solve a problem at the office on a laptop. They are using social learning. Credit: Unsplash / Christina @

Making The Most of Every Learning Opportunity

When we embrace social and informal learning and feed and encourage curiosity, we unlock pathways that can take our personal and professional growth to a new level.

Embarking on a lifelong journey of learning gives us the chance to make the most of every interaction, experience, and challenge, making each day an opportunity for growth and transformation.

Add in Harper Learning and the custom workplace education programs we can build for your leadership and teams, and you’re on your way to a wellspring of collective wisdom that will benefit your company and your employees in so many remarkable ways. 

Get in touch today to discover how Harper Learning can help you support lifelong learning in your team!