Observations on 100 Years: Becoming a Learning Organization

There’s an expression I like: the day you stop learning is the day you start dying.  That can happen when we are 17.  Or 97.

This week we’re exploring five lessons which have helped PCI survive and thrive over the last 100 years. 

Lesson #3:  Becoming a learning organization – learning, growth, and getting better at getting better – is the best strategy to stay ahead of the frantic and unpredictable change which characterizes modern life.    

It’s also a lot of fun.  Growth is never boring!

There are two primary strategies to pursue continuous learning in our lives and that of our organizations.

Strategy #1 is to invest ourselves in our own self-development.  In prior RiseWithDrew posts, we’ve looked at the power of the Miracle Morning where we get up 30-minutes or an hour earlier and start our day with intention.  This time is our time.  It is perfectly suited for continuous self-development.  We can read, watch a TED talk, envision the type of person we want to be, or journal about our goals.

Strategy #2 is to pay attention and learn from our mistakes.  Yes, reading and learning from others is smart.  But we can also learn and grow through our own experiences.  

In her brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck encourages us to understand our intelligence can be significantly increased through effort, to be proactive about seeking feedback, to embrace experimentation, and to realize setbacks and mistakes are part of the learning process and to persist when we are frustrated.

Carol calls this approach the “growth mindset” where our goal is to learn, improve, and get better.  We understand and accept that this process involves experiment with different strategies and by definition will take time.  She contrasts the growth mindset with the “fixed mindset” where our primary goal is to look smart.  Here, we experience setbacks as frustrating failures and often give up.  Or worse, stay in our lane and resist trying new approaches all together.

As leaders, we set the tone for our organizations.  We can encourage our teams to experiment and learn.  We can also be transparent about our own errors and what we learned from them.  The seeds of tomorrow’s success can often be found in today’s failure.  

Last year, I championed a new approach with a new venture which did not work as well as I’d expected.  At our Quarterly Business Meeting in which all 400+ of our associates participate, I made it a point to share (1) it was my idea to take the approach which resulted in over $1 million in lost revenue; and (2) we had learned from this experiment and made improvements which ultimately resulted in significantly better results. 

I could have skipped #1 and gone right to #2.  But, my goal is to create an environment where all of us at PCI are experimenting and being thoughtful and sharing the lessons we’ve learned as a result.

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Reflection:  When has a lesson learned from a failure or setback ultimately resulted in a much better outcome? 

Action:  Journal about my answer to the question above.

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