"Will We Ever Learn?"
Corporate learning isn’t working. Heroically, time and treasure are being spent by company leaders to improve staff performance. Inherent in that goal is that we as recipients learn something new or re-learn what we supposedly should know already. Talking to companies interested in increasing people performance, we have noted some common barriers to making learning work.
Business conditions, markets, the competition are all in a state of flux and change is now "constant". Companies attempt to respond. The clarion call goes out to the troops to rally behind the latest change. New policies, slogans, work methods, and systems "cascade" and are met with disinterest or just tacit compliance.
The changes usually require everyone to "learn" to do things in a new or different way. The desired order is usually (1) learn, (2) change, (3) improve results. The breakdown point in this continuum is the one in the middle – change. The organisation may want improved performance, but is met with the mindset of "I" agree in principle, but no thank you - "I" don’t want to make any changes to what "I" do now. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing every time and expecting a different outcome. This "no thank you" attitude drives leaders nuts.
So why don’t we want to change? Actually we are changing all the time, and with the influx of powerful hand held technology, which we lug around 24 hours a day, we are the leading generation of change adoption. Having some cool new piece of technology is fine, as far as change goes, but getting on board with the latest corporate direction is not as appealing. The bosses return from the executive off-site brimming with exuberance and high hopes, to find the troops don’t really buy into the change proposal.
"Seen it all before" cynicism runs wild, and top down direction is resisted. By the way, "we own the world we create". So when there is no creation or ownership, leaders, at best, get passive compliance from subordinates.
In the adoption of the new, change necessitates exposure to RISK. We are generally risk averse, that is why we are all firmly entrenched in our Comfort Zones. We have all learnt to reduce risk, so that is why we take the same route to work every day, eat the same range of cuisines, listen to the same range of music, have the basic same circle of friends, and have the same group of close colleagues at work. Hey, it’s comfortable and we will have boiled down a lot of complex choices to settle on these few safer alternatives. So don’t ask me to go through the whole process again and make changes, thank you very much!
Break out of our Comfort Zone? Successful companies work on this to successfully drive the culture change required to meet the organisation’s goals. The barrier is the learning process inside most companies. There is no content
component to expand their people’s Comfort Zones. "Learning" is often just data download, purely technical or simply product knowledge driven. Now is a good time to take a measured look at your current learning content. Where is the bit to build the confidence to take risks, to really expand those Comfort Zones, to actively adopt change, to learn, to improve performance?
Will we ever learn?