IKEA learning philosophy

Lars Meding is development manager at Malmö University, he co-wrote this text with Bosse Müller who project manager at Malmö University. The text is taken from our publication “Sharing is learning”, about how we generate knowledge together.

“We want to integrate learning in the business. We do it by making ‘Stop & Reflect’ an everyday ingredient. It is about stepping back, thinking, looking and describing. You detect patterns, get insights and explore what things can mean. It is about finding meaning and discovering new opportunities.”
IKEA Learning Booklet (2009)

Curt Temin, Learning and Development Manager at IKEA of Sweden, believes that more employees at IKEA must become seniors. This means they should climb up a step on IKEA’s skills ladder from being “in the role,” where they master their field from every possible aspect, to become “senior” and thus take responsibility for developing the field, as well as coaching and mentoring employees in the field.

In Donald Schön’s terminology, it could be described as becoming a reflective practitioner, i.e. a person who has acquired the ability of “reflection in action”.

Learning in the business process

IKEA’s learning philosophy is based on Kolb and ultimately aims for learning to become an integral part of the business process and thus a means for developing the organization and all of its business processes. At both the team and the individual level, learning is based on actions undertaken in a given situation.

For learning to occur, it is necessary to step back and reflect on what did or did not go well. Only then can patterns emerge and conclusions be drawn about one’s behavior. With such insights, the individual is better equipped to deal with a similar situation the next time around. Learning has occurred.

Creating a learning culture

To build a culture that integrates learning into daily work, IKEA tries to take a reflective approach by applying “Stop and Reflect”, a method that entails stopping and considering a situation from a learning perspective.

At the individual level it is about questions such as: What did you learn about the business? What did you learn about yourself? What do you need to improve?

At the team level, it primarily involves issues relating to cooperation: What helps or hinders us from working together effectively? What do we need to change and improve to become a more effective team?

IKEA also addresses a more systemic level, known as “Big talk”. Questions that are relevant here apply to the organization as a whole:

What does this say about other parts of IKEA and about the rest of the world? What does the rest of the world say about us? What does it mean for us and how can we make good use of it? How can we share our insights and discoveries with other parts of IKEA?