Saturday, December 29, 2012

'Being a Learner for Strategic Advantage'



I recently received a phone call from a CEO asking me about a project that we are undertaking with Alicia Curtis http://aliciacurtis.com/ to engage young professionals in the leadership of organisations who provide aged care services. He wanted to understand if his interpretation was correct, he said “you are not really suggesting that someone aged 25 could sit on a Board”.
So what has this insight got to do with learning and strategic advantage? I believe that they only way you can thrive is to accept the need to be a continual lifelong learner. The Dalai Lama and H. Cutler suggest that “A supple mind can help us to reconcile the external changes going on all around us. It can also help us integrate all of the internal conflicts, inconsistencies and ambivalence. Without us cultivating a pliant mind our outlook because brittle … it is through our effort to achieve a flexible mind that we can nurture the resiliency of the human spirit”
My interpretation from the above story about the CEO is “he may have some enemies of learning”. The following are offered by Sieler (2005) http://www.newfieldinstitute.com.au/ as some enemies of learning, they include:
  • Jumping to conclusions – we judge or assess everything instantly and are not open to different possibilities ( often making negative judgements and comparisons)  
  • Arrogance – we cannot unlearn what we already know: too much at stake in existing knowledge, we are attached to it and close off other learning possibilities 
  • We confuse knowing with having the truth – “I’m right” 
  • We cannot (or are unwilling to ) admit that we do not know 
  • We do not give others permission or the authority to teach us 
  • Always comparing ourselves with others  - making negative judgements of self/others 
  • Addicted to answers – go to course for tips, recommendations and instant solutions. We don’t look at ourselves as a learner 
  • Lack of patience  - want it now, not taking the time to reflect and apply new learning 
  • Mood of resignation – learning will make no difference ( have given up already) 
  • We cannot recognise or admit that someone else may know
There is a flip side to ‘enemies of learning’ which I encourage you to adopt as simple strategies to help you adapt, change, develop, improve and grow. They are our ‘allies of learning’, I offer a few below:
  • Declaring your ignorance – “I don’t know
  • Declaration of being a learner  - “I don’t know and I want to learn” 
  • Humility 
  • Courage 
  • Determination and persistence 
  • Lightness and an ability to laugh at ourselves

Declaring that we are learners opens up a huge number of possibilities for us and I believe it can be a key factor in transforming organisations. If you are in leadership position and you declare you don’t know, your give authority for others around you to do the same. This step helps to create a learning environment which gives individuals and organisations strategic advantage. For a further conversation on ‘being a learning’ contact [email protected]

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