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| 4 minutes read

Build a Learning System Sharing with and Seeking Knowledge from Others - One of the Seven Interconnected Principles

The recently launched Guide, Leading the Spread and Adoption of Innovation and Improvement: A Practical Guide, offers seven interconnected principles. This blog is the seventh and the last in this series of blogs, each focusing on one of the seven principles. This blog explores Learning. 

These principles represent important aspects to consider for spread and adoption and are explained in the Guide. All the seven principles are important; they are interconnected, each will have a different importance and require different actions in different settings. Relational, interpersonal elements of spread and adoption – looking at how people can work together – is a common thread within each of the principles.

Build a learning system and habit of learning, sharing with and seeking knowledge from others

Spread and adoption necessitate altering individual and organisational practices (usual routines) and mindsets to new ones. This means we need to be constantly learning, generating knowledge to inform practice from both what goes right and what does not.

We need to embed the ability to learn in structures and processes at every level, reinforced through the culture and behaviour of all staff. Developing a culture of continual learning means sharing, seeking and using knowledge from experience and publications.

Seek learning – from own adaptation and adoption or from others’ experience

  • Learning can be gained from experience, what you are doing (adapting and adopting) and achieving benefit and from others including via publications and formal learning opportunities.
  • Psychological safety enables learning and is needed to deliver high achieving work. Provide a supportive, safe setting to enable staff, service users and carers to learn new practices and skills, speak up about what is and isn’t working and the resulting impact and to fuel their motivation, energy and interest in spread.
  • Conscious learning requires people to want to learn, so requires motivation and energy. See individual principle for more information. In addition to motivation and energy, individuals require the necessary skills and the opportunity to play an active role in spread
  • Learning can be via informal or formal methods and can sometimes feel messy, complex and emergent.
  • Seek out knowledge from others on a particular innovation or spread approach, to increase the likelihood of you achieving sustainable adoption

Reflect on insights – what learning means for own practice and /or for others’ practice

  • Aim for ongoing collection, coordination and sharing of knowledge, building a qualitative and quantitative evidence base on the impact and adoption process. Use local rapid feedback and evaluation [formative and summative], including on unintended consequences and sustainability.

Share learning – within your context and wider

  • Sharing knowledge and the evaluation of innovation adoption and impact in practice helps create a culture of learning
  • Share knowledge and connect with others to accelerate the spread of innovation, of yours or of others.
  • Formal and informal networks [colleagues, peer to peer, opportunistic, social media] can enable knowledge sharing and seeking, including with innovators.

More details on Learning in further resources.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Applying This Principle To Practice

The Guide offers a list of questions to help apply this work to practice. The questions will be of varying relevance depending on the particular context. Some of the questions are:

To further develop a culture of learning:

  • How well is learning [formal and informal] recognised and understood within your system?
  • What needs to be done to ensure psychological safety at different levels of the system to enable your plans for spread and adoption of innovation?
  • How will you help adopters want to learn by raising motivation and energy?
  • How and what knowledge will be collected? Consider learning from what you are doing and what you are achieving.
  • How will the collected knowledge inform your work?
  • How and with whom will knowledge be shared?
  • What knowledge have you gained from others to inform your work?
  • What networks [formal and informal] can you use to enable sharing and seeking of knowledge?

You may find the following tools and methods helpful:

also see Practical tools and methods, further resources and systems convening sections in the Guide. 

These seven interconnected principles can be used by individuals, or by a team, and at all levels; local, regional and national and settings where the spread and adoption of complex change is needed. These principles can be used to inform planning and to inform ongoing reviews.

This blog Introduction to the Seven Interconnected Principles for Spread and Adoption offers an overview of all seven principles.

Details of how these principles apply to the work we do are described in How the Seven Spread and Adoption Principles Work in Practice: the Continuing Healthcare Improvement Collaborative case study

Want More Information? 

More details on the Learning principle is in the Guide here and in the further resources – learning section.

More information on the seven spread and adoption principles and system convening, including blogs and videos, is available on the NHS Horizons website.

If you're interested to read more there are previous blogs and further blogs to follow. Please do subscribe to this blog and follow @DianeKetley @HorizonsNHS, #NHSSpread.

We would love to hear your feedback about the Guide, and how you will use it. Send a tweet to @DianeKetley @HorizonsNHS #NHSSpread. If you prefer email, get in touch at

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Spread and adoption necessitate altering individual and organisational practices .... and mindsets to new ones, therefore requiring continual learning..


spread and adoption