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 individuals 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.
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 and often, just tacit compliance. The changes usually require everyone to "learn" to do things in a different way.
The order is (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 attitude is driving the boss 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 buy into the change proposal.
"Seen it all before" cynicism runs wild, and top down direction is resisted. "We own the world we create". So when there is no creation or ownership we get passive compliance at best.
Change necessitates exposure to risk in the adoption of the new. 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 everyday, 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? Companies who have been able to do this have reaped a jump on their competitors, as it drives the culture change the organisation needs. The reality is the learning process inside companies usually fails to build in anything to expand their people’s Comfort Zones. Learning content is often purely technical or simply product knowledge driven. Maybe it is a good time to take another look at the learning curriculums and the planning process and ask where is the bit to build the confidence to take risks, to adopt change to improve performance, to really expand those Comfort Zones?
Will we ever learn?