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How to introduce a learn-it-all culture in your business: 3 steps to success

We’ve all come across know-it-alls in life. Those who are closed to a different perspective and they’re not interested in listening to your opinions or discovering your talents. They already know it.

Likewise, everyone’s met a curious learn-it-all; someone who’s keen to obtain as much information, different points of view and detail as they can in order to perform to the best of their ability and deliver the greatest results. They understand that feedback is crucial to both bring the best solutions and their best selves everyday.


These perspectives don’t just describe people. They also define company culture.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has spent the past few years focused on transforming Microsoft into a learn-it-all culture, believing that “the ‘learn-it-all’ perspective and growth mindest will always perform better.

In short, the difference between a know-it-all and a learn-it-all is success.


1. Skill up your employees

The know-it-all and the learn-it-all is inextricably tied to mindsets – a concept that lies behind the psychology of success.

According to Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist who inspired Satya and so many others, there are two types of mindsets. Both mindsets dictate how we learn, what we learn, or whether we learn anything at all. Dweck dubs these the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

  • Fixed mindset

A fixed mindset says that intelligence is static. As such, the need to appear intelligent outweighs the need to actually stay intelligent, leading those with this type of mindset to avoid challenges, ignore feedback, and abstain from effort.

  • Growth mindset

A growth mindset believes that intelligence can be developed. This desire to learn leads to persistence in the face of challenges, learning from feedback, and finding inspiration in the success of others.


This growth mindset is central to everyone’s success – and one that, at Microsoft, every employee from the CEO down has fully embraced. The desire to push ourselves defines our company culture, with people encouraged to develop their skills, to the benefit of the individual and the wider business. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for you and your employees to gain new skills if you work in a culture that says ‘we’ve learned all we can.’

Naturally, this isn’t an end-point to learning and developing employee skills. This is just the beginning. However, it’s a statement of intent, to provide every person in the organisation with the support they need to grow.

If you’re considering shaking up your company culture, bringing it more into line with the learn-it-all culture of Microsoft, this is a great place to start.


2. Create space to learn

You can bring in a number of different solutions to encourage a company culture that chimes with your beliefs and values.

For instance, one of the key things we’ve implemented for Microsoft employees is a quarterly learning day. Occasionally, businesses are wary of these initiatives, however it’s critical to look beyond the here-and-now, and focus on the long-term benefits of a constantly evolving workforce and culture that’s engaged; productivity, creativity, and morale all receive a boost that benefits your business.

The space and time to learn on these quarterly learning days means people don’t need to seek permission to learn.

Of course, when we’re busy, learning and skills development is the first thing to get pushed down the list. So, it’s not the sole answer, but it’s one method for encouraging the skilling up of your workforce.

Part of the problem is that learning and development is often presented as a series of deadlines. It’s not about what an employee can learn; it’s about when certain courses are due for completion. This restrictive view stifles learning for a large percentage – we all learn new skills in different ways and at different paces. At Microsoft, we’re moving to more of a constant drum beat that doesn’t just talk about deadlines, but about what’s available and how it will help them both now and in the future.


3. Use data-driven insight to support your employees

The learning and development function is moving from being a reporting role to more of a marketing role. Analytics and AI is key to success. That’s something any organisation requires when introducing an L&D-focused culture. We need data-driven insights to support learning and identify what it is that people need and want.

This helps inform the direction of your culture, helping you support your employees while continuing to learn and grow as a company.

That’s what it’s really all about.

Even for a company as large as Microsoft, we may not have got it totally nailed, and there isn’t a right answer, but we have an aspiration, which has allowed us to put the culture and programmes in place to help support the team.


If you’re keen to begin your learning and development journey, visit our Digital Skills hub. You’ll find plenty of tips and practical advice for transforming your business, and nurturing key digital skills across your organisation.

The AI Academy and AI Business School meanwhile, will set you on the path to becoming an AI-proficient business leader and help transform your business outcomes using intelligent, advanced technology.

Find out more

Watch Jo’s session from Future Decoded: How Microsoft approached their journey to cultural change

About the author

Jo Sweales headshotJo is a Senior Business Program Manager for Microsoft. She leads the landing of learning programs in the UK to support business transformation and cultural change from a ‘know it all’ to a ‘learn it all’ culture. Prior to Microsoft Jo spent over 20 years in other large technology companies supporting, building and delivering learning solutions for both employees and customers, and has a wealth of Industry experience. Jo is passionate about learning and skills development, and is excited to see that learning is now rising up to boardroom level discussions. The value and influence of learning on business success is starting to be realised.