Conversations with Barbara Harvey, Cahoot’s Head of Learning & Culture

Find out more about what Barbara Harvey, Cahoot's Head of Learning & Culture, has to share about learning cultures and what keeps her busy at Cahoot!

What do you do in Cahoot Learning? What keeps you up at night?

Well aside from my 7-month-old baby keeping me up at night, I am generally thinking about and exploring not necessarily “learning” per se but current thoughts, reflections and insights and contemporary stories on human behaviour and the context within which we are asking people to learn. What is the zeitgeist of the working world? I am a bit obsessed with who we are, why we are here and what we are all up to. I think because, in its essence, great learning experiences are great human experiences. And the more connection, safety and relatedness there is in learning, the more significant its impact.

At Cahoot, part of my role is to set up the environment for our design team to be world-class designers. This includes ensuring they have the right support, resources and tools to do great work. Of course, 70% of that is taken care of by the Cahoot platform, which through its peer-to-peer learning model provides us all with the base to create exciting learning experiences.

Tell us a little more about the learning culture that Cahoot Learning has? What is your vision for the team? 

Well, that’s a great question, as often the top chef goes home and cooks beans on toast! So, this is something our team is really putting energy and focus into this year.

My vision is for Cahoot Learning to foster a learning culture that is nurturing, safe, inclusive, ignites creativity and allows for robust challenge and debate. The idea is to create and continue this culture with ongoing learnings and new ways of working and meeting.

We are a global organisation with team members in Asia, New Zealand, & Australia working with clients all over the world. We want to crack the code on fostering robust, innovative interactions whilst working remotely.

We are currently exploring with building new ways of working and interacting to facilitate a learning culture. These include:

  • Holding gatherings (rather than meetings) and being clear not only about the intention of the meeting but the mindset required for it as well
  • Holding monthly learning sprints focused on the “ways of working”
  • Integrating “learning shares” into monthly review meetings

How do you define a good learning culture? What are the elements that make up a good learning culture?

Defining and developing a learning culture is of enormous interest to me and guess what? I am learning all about it. So I can say even though we are a learning organisation we are still learning what it means to have a learning culture and experimenting with how to develop it.

 I think one of the best indicators of a learning culture is how “mistakes” are perceived, responded to and learned from. In fact, if you have a great learning culture, the words mistake and failure might even be absent. Instead, people will talk about “learnings…”

 Of equal importance are curiosity and autonomy. Do people have the space and interest to go exploring (where possible)? It’s often on the outskirts of everyday work that we can find threads of new ideas. So I would say having a culture that encourages “what if” and “how might we” and then the permission for someone to carry that thought through allows individuals to explore learnings around what they are already doing. And curiosity can be fuelled and acknowledged more broadly than your own context. In fact, people need to look out beyond their own field or organisation. It’s terrific if a culture fosters curiosity about non-work-related matters.

And finally learning is a shared experience, so some of the best learning we can do is to learn from each other. So a great learning culture is one in which you might hear “this is what I learned this week….” “Did you know this?”

Barbara Harvey

Barbara is the Head of Learning & Culture for Cahoot Learning. A seasoned facilitator /coach /moderator skilled in the areas of leadership, mindset, wellbeing, positive psychology and creativity/innovation, Barbara is currently studying a Global Executive MBA at The University of Sydney. She has facilitated/coached over 1000+ individuals from Graduate to C-suite level for clients such as Westpac Group, CISCO, AFTRS, Fujitsu, The Royal Australian and NZ College of Radiologists, Transport NSW, Adroll, Arcadis and more.

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