In our series on cultivating learning and development in yourself and others, we examined how we learn from experiences last week. If you missed it, you will find it here.
The next natural question to explore is: Then do we learn equally well from any type of experience?
Obviously not. Taking the bus to work each day is normally not a great learning experience, nor is doing the weekend shopping with the family, unless of course there is a challenge involved.
When something becomes challenging, we have a great opportunity to learn. And often we quickly solve the challenge and then pat ourselves on the back: “Well done, you are making progress.” Or we pat our associates on the back and tell them: “Well done! Nice job. I see you are learning a thing or two.” The learning that takes place here we sometimes also refer to as external. We are learning something about how the world outside ourselves actually works. This learning is often also context specific. Under these circumstances, this is what one needs to do. But when the circumstances change, as they have a tendency to do, then that learning is not always so useful.
So quite frankly these are not the challenges that maximise our learning. True learning begins when we hit serious resistance. Things are not working out the way we hoped. Maybe we are even experiencing serious setbacks and even failures. These situations provide some really interesting learning because of our lack of success.
These are the situation where we learn about ourselves more than anything else. And the learning does not arise for the external event but from how we choose to respond to whatever is going on.
This is where we learn:
- To resist the temptation to blame others for the situation
- We see how stepping back from the situation helps us gain perspective and as a result, we learn how we are possibly contributing to the mess that is being created.
- How to develop resilience in moving beyond the unpleasantness or pain of the experience and commit ourselves to do something about our personal limitations
- In short, this is where we learn how to grow.
Challenges that start out as failures and setbacks thus provide som of the richest learning environments that we can possibly encounter. Most of us get this on a personal level. “Makes sense. I screwed up on that assignment but I learnt a lot.”
But do we apply the same tolerance and understanding attitude toward the members of our team who screw up from time to time? Do we see that as a valuable part of their learning process or do we see them as a problem?
Maybe our learning should start there…
This blog post is the third in a series of blog posts where Mike is exploring: Why is it important to develop not just yourself but also the people around you?
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