Rapid Learning: Having your cake and eating it too……

If you take a look at some of what the tech entrepreneurs have learnt over the last few decades you will find that they have had to come to learn how to deal with rapid learning during rapid growth, and when I mean paid growth I mean very rapid, for example, going from 0 listings through Airbnb in 2009 to over 2.3 Million listings in 2016. Today they employe over 3,000 people and turnover is around $2.6 Billion dollars – in 8 years!

What these guys report is the rate at which the business has to learn is intense – Reid Hoffman the founder of LinkedIn says it’s like “constant Beta” ie it’s in a constant state of learning and change, a constant live prototype

Now let’s consider how valuable this learning is – firstly to the business itself – it’s valuable because it’s the difference between life and death, it’s valuable because it’s the difference between rapid growth and not, it’s valuable because it is the business, it’s the learning that drives the next bit of action.

Now consider the wider implications, Silicon Valley is so hard to repeat in other places in the world because the depth of executive experience there – all of that experience came from doing it themselves and having to learn.

Using their financial forecasting process Amazon was able to work out that if they could remove the “pain” of someone having to pay for shipping lot’s more people would buy more, buy more regularly and keep coming back – and they did – how valuable was that learning? Probably Billions in revenue.

And yet as many organisations evolve over time, as they beds in, and it settles down, at some point somewhere down the line this tolerance, even expectation that we need to learn to survive seems to seep away – in creeps the idea that “we should have this buy now” – that you “should have this by now”

And then tolerance of the necessary mistakes that precedes learning seems to slowly fade away

I have sat in many meetings where directors and senior leaders are not happy with how things are going – in fact they display open contempt, frustration, and anger at the current situation.

The problem is that everyone else often goes into protection mode – protection mode means they lie, manipulate, bend the truth, spin a story, or in some other way minimises mistakes – we inadvertently display a complete intolerance for learning and the often unavoidable mistakes that proceed it.

This only serves to permeate a fear based organisation – an organisation based on avoidance and game playing – this is not a highly engaged, responsible organisation.

We are in fact fighting against human nature itself – we are built to learn and grow – which happens to involve some mistakes along the way

There is another way

We really can establish a learning culture, one that is responsible and accountable and strong – one where one can be open about their mistakes, to receive guidance and be given some scope to learn and correct ready for next time – this learning creates value – the person involved grows, becomes more capable, more responsible, wiser to their choices, and adds that value back into the business

Firstly there is an absence of any clear and understood accountability process that can be calmly and consistently applied – we use this when we notice patterns of failures, patterns of behaviour, patterns of choices that are not helpful – we don’t need to jump on people necks every time they make a mistake, but if they are making patterns of mistakes we can intervene to help them learn faster.

Second anger really isn’t your only choice – so you hold a business review – there is something you are not happy with – a presentation that isn’t going well – they didn’t do enough homework before they came in – it just an opportunity for you to help them learn what good looks like.

They either: Didn’t know how or chose not to – if they didn’t know how then that’s an opportunity for you to help them learn for next time – either from you directly or via someone else – if they chose not to – acknowledge that – calmly tell them to come back again – as soon as you notice a pattern, you use consequences simply to re-enforce the learning.

Get everyone to start documenting their learnings – if you are human and you are walking there should be plenty you can learn from in your day to day activities – meetings that didn’t go well, projects that didn’t have enough contingency, new, more effective ways to do things, or some unhelpful behaviour like not listening properly when people are talking to you.

We are missing out on so much learning it’s criminal – there is so much value to be had.

We really can have our cake and eat it too by choosing a high rate, rapid learning environment, with responsible, accountable people – who happen to be happier too.


Tom uses a Performance Framework called Pathway to drive learning and accountability, a formula for learning, if you think we need more learning and accountability in the workplace drop a comment below

If you want a free download about how to drive performance go to: inspiredchangeuk.com


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