Adult Learners Week is on 1-8 September 2019. The week is about championing and building lifelong learning skills and practices. It provides a great opportunity to promote continuous learning in your organisation, community of practice or other groups.  To encourage learning professionals to make most of this opportunity I recently hosted an interactive online Idea Fest.  The purpose of the Idea Fest was to generate ideas for events and activities that could be used during the week – or at any other time – to build continuous learning.

Thanks to the people who joined the Idea Fest.  While few in number we were rich in ideas – as you can see from the sample shared in this article.

Lifelong Learning

We warmed up by sharing a word or drawing that symbolises lifelong learning.

The responses highlight different aspects of lifelong learning. The first is high energy – it’s about excitement, eagerness, inspiration, and curiosity. The second is about tempering this with working at mastery over a longer period, with persistence.

A participant introduced the Japanese term ‘Shokunin’ – someone who is considered a ‘master craftsman’. The ‘Shokunin’ mindset places value on patience and persistence – deep learning, with small incremental improvements, rather than shallow learning.

What activities and events can we facilitate, as learning professionals, to encourage excitement about learning, promote practices to help people stay abreast of latest developments and a ‘Shokunin’ approach to deep mastery of a domain?

Dimensions to Consider When Planning Your Event or Activity

Choosing a suitable event or activity from the wide range of possibilities requires consideration of several inter-related aspects.  The Idea Generator below summarises key considerations.

Who – Who will be invited or encouraged to participate?  Will the event be open to all your workforce, perhaps even their families?  What about other external groups such as suppliers, customers or partners?  Will you target specific groups or run multiple activities for different groups?  Will you align events to communities of practice?  Can people participate individually or in small self-selected groups?

Why – What is the purpose of the event – or multiple purposes?  Are you seeking to raise awareness of lifelong learning?  To provide some inspiration and motivation?  Would you like to celebrate what is already happening and share stories?  Is it an opportunity to build practical learning skills and practices?  To help people discover new tools?  Do you want to create resources for ongoing use?  How could you use it to help people build relationships and expand their network?

What – Our group generated a stack of ideas during the webinar.  They’re listed in the Idea Generator below.

Where – What physical and/or virtual spaces will you use for your event?  Will you run it in-house or in external facilities – perhaps even outdoors?  What atmosphere do you want to create in your space?  What size space do you need?  Should you use a private space or would a more open space serve your purpose better?

When – Consider the availability and/or operating rhythm for your target group to find a suitable time?  Will you run a one-off event or an activity over a longer period of time?  Remember – you could run these events at any time – this isn’t just about Adult Learners Week. Can people participate at any time or do they need to join in at a specific time?

How – The logistics will vary widely depending on your chosen event or activity.  Be creative.  Have an eye for detail.  Make sure people know about it and you make it easy for them to participate. If appropriate communicate with managers to gain support and ensure that they will be able to release people to participate.  Market your event or activity before, during and afterwards.

Some of Our Favourite Ideas

Spark Talks

Spark is an acronym for short, provocative, action-oriented, realistic and knowledgeable.  A Spark Talk is a short presentation of less than 10 minutes where the participant shares a big bold idea. The intent is to arouse curiousity, inject some fresh thinking and/or nudge people’s mindset.  It’s a little like a TED Talk, but don’t make it too daunting for the presentations.  Potential variations include people responding for a short period to a proposition or idea.  An actual TED talk or similar could be used to get the sparks to fly.


A PechaKucha is a concise, punchy presentation. The present has 20 slides, set to autocue, each displayed for 20 seconds. Presenters are invited talk about an area of interest within those limitations. This forces presenters to only share the most vital information, making it easier for listeners to take away the key points. An interest example of constraints generating creativity.  You can read more running a PechaKucha session here.


Present a problem or opportunity, supported by data, and invite people to come up with possible solutions. Participants work in small, cross-discipline groups, which often include people from outside of the organisation.  Often these are big, multi-day events. Think about how you could adapt the format.  For example, scale it down to a couple of hours or 2-3 small sessions spread over a week.  For more information, you can access a step-by-step hackathon guide here.

Speed Dating

The concept behind this is people having short, consecutive one-on-one conversations with a number people. People are given a time limit to speak and moved on to their next ‘date’ at the end of this time.

This activity can take several forms.  You could give people a prompt to discuss, with or without time to research and gather their thoughts before speed dating. Alternately use it as an opportunity to practice curiousity, asking great questions and listening well to find out about or learn something from the other person.

Another idea is to incorporate role play. For example, half the group could role play being a customer of the organisation and the other half ask them questions.  This could be used to practice customer interactions or open up thinking about addressing problems.

This article offers a good example of speed dating.

World Café

A ’World Café’ involves groups of people discussing a topic at several tables. Individuals will switch tables periodically and be introduced to the discussion at the new table by a ‘table host’. This process revolves around knowledge sharing; table discussions evolve with the rotation of guests.

Click here for a guide on how to host a ‘World Cafe’.

Idea Wall

Imagine a wide open wall, preferably one that a lot of people walk past. Someone gets things started by writing or sketch up an idea or question. As people walk past they can add thoughts and comments so the idea grows.

Another option is a question wall – someone posts a question and others post suggested answers. On a visit to the National Australia Bank Village in Melbourne several years ago I spotted the examples below.

My Adult Learning Week Activity

I’m going to run a ‘What I learned Challenge’ on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m inviting people to post one thing they learned every day, either at work or at home, with hashtag #whatIlearned. Anyone who posts for at least five days in the period 1-8 September will go into the draw to win a copy of Real Learning by Jay Cross.

What Will You Do?

Post below to share what you are planning to do in your organisation for Adult Learners Week or share it on Twitter or LinkedIn with #ALW2019.

Download your blank Continuous Learning Idea Generator and Planner template here.


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