Learning Comes First

A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved. ~ Fortune Cookie I ate Last Month

by Pete Ferguson

Learning is an art form which needs to be perfected over and over again.

The need to continually question the “why” behind what we do drives the passion needed to find creative solutions to the problems we face at hand.

“Because I said so” may only win the current battle. To win in the long run, your team must have a greater sense of the “why” we are all doing what we are doing and a personal commitment to pursue it until the end.

A greater sense of purpose drives us through the hard times. Yesterday I was catching up on my stack of Fast Company magazines that have been accumulating over the past few months and came upon a great article by Howard Shultz – former CEO of Starbucks and early board member at eBay who helped to build a lot of the culture I  have come to call home.

Our stock was in free fall and I found myself on the phone with a large institutional shareholder who wanted me to dump long term health care that was costing us $250 Million.
I tried to describe to him that the essence of the brand is humanity and our culture is steeped in two primary benefits that have defined who we are: comprehensive health insurance coverage for our people and equity in the form of stock options which we give to anyone wo works more than 20 hours a week.
I told him … if you believe the financial crisis should change our principles and core purpose, perhaps you should sell your stock. I’m not building a stock. I’m trying to build a great, enduring company. We are a performance driven organization, but we have to lead the company through the lens of humanity.” – Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
Shifting gears a bit – great leadership with an instilling sense of purpose is the first step to building a great organization. The second trait of great organizations is the “learnership” of the collective team.
Most companies engage in training. Few engage in real learning. Most companies focus heavily on leadership. Few focus on learnership. One path to leadership is innovation. And here’s the thing: learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first. ~ Matthew E. May
The collective team must learn to think deeply, cognitively, with self-reflection, introspection, and then creativity is opened.
With the foundation of “why” we are engaged with a project, product, company, or vision – coupled with a keen desire to learn all we can and an openness to set free what we think we know – great things can happen.
John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, recently concluded a world tour where he shared his vision of building an enduring company. Not a great stock. Not a place where there is free food, stock options, sabbaticals, and health care – though all of these contributing factors exist in different ways. He wants to be part of an organization which transcends the “checklist” of great places to work and enters a higher realm where people feel empowered to change the world.
I’m along for the journey as I pursue my own quest to change the physical security industry. I used to think the change was all about regulations, mandated training, waiting for the old way of thinking to retire.
But now I realize that my quest is about building a collective desire to rise above the Hollywood stereotypes, to embrace multiple disciplines of thinking and doing things, to embrace technology, provide educational opportunities, and to continually embrace the question, “what could we do if …” – and then prototype the “if” and see where it takes us.
This week we are entering the final rounds of an IT Hackathon where we placed 5th out of 150 entries with the judges and 3rd in popularity. This is an area I wouldn’t have thought we belonged in – because I was thinking like a traditional security person. Thankfully a team member saw the potential and we began to explore the “what if” on a white board and it started to take form. I had to act like a learner and then taking a large leap wasn’t so daunting.
What stereotypes are holding you back? What dreams are you afraid to dream – or dread awakening from? The fear is not real – it is coming from a lack of comfort and the lack of comfort is coming from what you do not know.
When you begin to search for like-minded people and fill in the blanks of what you do not know, the fear gives way to excitement and gives you the courage to dream a larger dream.
Expand your mind and focus on learning new things. It will propel you to heights you did not think were possible. And start making your dent in the Universe.
Pick up a magazine outside of your industry. Talk to someone next to you on the plane. Plan to go to lunch with a stranger. Hire someone completely opposite from you. Then dare to dream and awaken to experiment with the “unknown” and make it known.

One thought on “Learning Comes First

  1. Pingback: Should You Go to University? | learnactshare

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