Why taking care of business means taking care of learning

ManagementIs it just me, or are you feeling a bit dizzy these days, too?

At first I thought it was vertigo. But then it struck me: I’ve been spiraling around an endless learning curve for quite a while now.

Today, like no other time, most of the information in the world is a click away. And the amount of the world’s info is doubling every two years.

The result is that most organizations are well past the point where they can simply leave learning to their HR or training folks. That won’t get it.

I Dare You
Keeping pace with emerging situations, identifying patterns and solving problems ARE essential business skills. In short, learning is work, and the adage “never stop learning” is no longer an option. Sink or swim. You’re on your own.

So, if things are spinning and a prescribed dose of AntiVert doesn’t do the trick, it’s the learning curve that’s making you dizzy. But there is help.

First, here are 6 key tenets to keep in mind, courtesy of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina.

  1. Our world is getting more complex as everything gets connected.
  2. Complex problems require more implicit knowledge.
  3. Implicit knowledge can only be shared through conversations & observation.
  4. Collaborative and distributed work is the norm.
  5. Knowledge-sharing and narration of work make implicit knowledge more visible.
  6. Transparent work processes foster innovation.

Once you take those tenets to heart,  here are a few ideas for making the learning curve feel a little less … curvey (curvaceous?):

Practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while learning, just do your best to recover from them and not repeat them. Even better? Learn from OTHER PEOPLE’S mistakes. It’s far less painful.

Never leave the curve. That may sound counterintuitive, kind of like the “hair of the dog” advice. Still, in order to beat the learning curve, assume you are always on it and be open to learning more. Avoiding shutting off your continual learning circuit, or you might block yourself from expanding your views which is extremely limiting. Embrace the idea there is always going to be a learning curve, even if you have already learned the essentials of something.

Structure your learning. This is one of those things which the more you apply, the more benefits you get. As an adult, you will naturally tend to structure your learning, but it’s best to also do it consciously.

Variety. Doing the same task over and over seems like the fastest path to mastery, but the research shows that the opposite is often true. Repeating an inefficient process only makes that process more ingrained, and employees are less likely to see the  impacts. Also, varied tasks increase motivation because employees feel more engaged and can identify benefits across many tasks.

Difficulty. Distilling tasks to their simplest form might appear to be the best way to help employees learn. But there are times that difficult tasks create better learning. Though it slows the process, higher difficulty leads to more intense concentration and higher-level thinking. This helps employees make connections to other problems, which enhances motivation. Why? Because they feel their actions have a more significant impact on the organization.

Frequency. Letting too much time pass between tasks increases the likelihood of knowledge loss from lack of use. Yet leaving too little time can lead to employees feeling overwhelmed. Finding a happy medium allows time for reflection and deeper understanding so learning sticks.

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