Friday's Growth

Our work over the past year, an extraordinary year for many, has often focused on outcomes – the changes we would like to see, where we could contribute to extraordinary results, and what partnering with new and innovative teams could result in.
Whether in marketing, sales or product development, we see organisations focused on clearer, sharper outcomes. As much as this has some distinct benefits, an extreme focus on outcomes can overshadow the learning that is inherent in offering a new value proposition, in discovering a new opportunity area, in collaborating beyond functions, and at times, beyond the boundaries of the organisation.

This is where we come across learning which not only brings us to the shortest, most expedient path to reaching an outcome but learning that is broader, learning which makes us do more than just course-correct. Such learning helps us reflect, re-assess the reasons for which an outcome is needed, and (often) we learn new and better ways to de-risk the very outcomes we seek.

Learning conversations focus not only on what needs to be learned but how we learn.
Whether we are attempting to master a new knowledge domain, acquire new skills, or practice new behaviours (all valuable in their own right). A learning conversation focuses on the process of learning itself, making us more adept…in a world in which there is much for us to learn, in becoming future-fit.
How can we become more adept at having learning conversations then?
  1. Naming the conversation
    I find that simply by naming a conversation, be it a client discussion, a team meeting, or even an impromptu connecting conversation, making learning something explicit to reach for, inviting others to participate in a conversation where mutual learning is the primary outcome, rather than achieving the outcome at the expense of others, often helps everyone involved to change their orientation and engage in mutual learning. It brings clarity to what matters most. You may be surprised as to how much ‘you’ and ‘them’ have in common when it comes to learning, to mastering new domains.
  2. Seeing from new perspectives
    Popularised by the practice of Design Thinking, our ability to view an issue from a new (and often surprising) perspective, is a rich source for mutual learning. When Rosabeth Moss-Kanter challenged management teams, over a decade ago, to view societal problems upside down,  to have their eyes to the ground to see the grassroots, where the next opportunities are starting to grow, it felt to many as a new and rather uncomfortable practice. But practice can be mastered, and imagine how adept some of these organisations are today when all of us found ourselves hanging ‘upside-down’
  3. Empower self-learning
    It may feel counter-intuitive, but introducing learning at greater speed and scale requires more than infrastructure (though that is necessary, and increasingly within reach). To participate in learning conversations, we must feel empowered to learn, at our own pace, to try (and fail) multiple times, and to bring our own style into the conversation. With a host of digital tools, helping teams become self-learners is easier than ever and a key ingredient in enabling learning conversations.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals, who are masters of the learning conversation. They seemed to pose new questions with ease, allowing the conversation to expand into new and often unexpected places. There was little use for a selling conversation to follow. The value was already generated in mutual learning, in uncovering areas of mutual interest and surprising ourselves as to what is possible, when we collaborate, with a learning mindset in place. Such is innovating beyond borders, the invisible line between learning to discover and attaining new outcomes is one we can work across.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Saar Ben-Attar (A Connector Beyond Limits) 

Useful Links:

Our Manifesto 2.0

Leadership Yoga: Innovation Advantages from Seeing Disadvantage by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

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“Businesses naturally focus on what’s easily measured in their efforts to evaluate and improve performance and customer experience. But often the greatest insight is found in spontaneous conversation with customers. So instead of forcing people into the role of “respondent” and limiting their input only to the answers to questions we’ve thought to ask, we encourage our community members to share in multiple ways.”