27 Sep 2017

We Learn From Our Own Experiences

How many times will history repeat itself? Our human failings seem to be the only constant in a sea of change, technological advances, social change, political upheaval and warfare.

While the lessons of history are well documented and available to us all, it seems that we ignore them or are unable to transfer other people’s learning into our idiom. I’m not totally cynical about this as some expertise can be acquired through book learning and listening to others.  For the best part, this learning will be passive until we decide to implement the new understanding at which point we are likely to discover that we know a little and are busy learning a whole lot more through the challenges and the mistakes we make.

My own principle on this topic is that human beings learn most and better through their own experiences and should we want to advance the expertise of our group then there is no faster way than to challenge each individual to do something different, or the same things differently –  every day. Examples of this could be:

  • Job swap within a team and job rotation with other disciplines
  • Create a stronger demand within teams to root out waste and create efficiencies
  • Drive responsibility down the organisation to the very limits
  • Create small working groups at task-level to make recommendations on how business can improve
  • Include the following question in your appraisal guides/documentation – “What have you learned over the past period and what is the evidence?”

I meet some who are very efficient learners and are able to convert the experience of others into guidance for themselves, these people are rare in my view most of us do it the hard way through success and failure.  Business moves faster today than ever before, your competitors are more numerous and stronger than ever before and your team has to be better, stronger and cleverer than ever before. Learning is the key and they will only achieve this through their own experiences.