by | Small Business |

“Sounds like a learning experience to me.”

Those words were repeated to me many times in the late 80s, and they usually followed such “wonderful” events as crashing my car or other preventable adolescent drama.

And, I still hear those words march solidly through my mind in my father’s distinctly matter-of-fact voice, as I, now in middle age, consider choices on how to respond to life’s challenges.

The “learning experiences” like the ones above and those which we all undergo as children, adolescents, and eventually as adults are often mirrored in our organizations.

Successful organizations, those who thrive and don’t just simply survive, are constantly, actively learning. They have grown from children into adults, and they realize the foundation for continuous improvement, innovation, and overall excellence is their organization’s ability to learn from the past and to continue to learn in the present.   They are the organizations who respond quickly and nimbly to all “learning experiences” and translate their newly found knowledge into business acumen.  Instead of responding to a negative experience with, “it was the other guy’s fault!”, they respond with, “what can I learn from that experience?”  Then they take what they’ve learned and apply it; they improve and they innovate.

These successful organizations—learning organizations—know they can’t stand still, ignore “learning experiences” and expect to remain competitive. They know “status quo” no longer works in an economy in which almost one half of the membership in the S&P was replaced in the last decade.

Perhaps Tom Peters said it best in his book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies, “The only source of real value in the new economy originates with well-informed employees who employ critical thinking to translate knowledge into competitive advantage.”

Successful leaders in successful organizations realize if their people aren’t learning, then the organization isn’t learning.   If the organization isn’t learning, then it is in the process of dying.  No one wants to be the typewriter company during the age of computers.

So, how do organizations learn?

In order to facilitate learning in an organization, successful leaders purposefully and relentlessly create an environment in which constant learning can occur.

Leaders in learning organizations realize learning isn’t about how many classes their employees can complete. Rather, they know opportunities for learning are always available, every minute of every day, and those opportunities, large and small, formal and informal, must be seized.  Learning leaders create an environment for constant learning within their organizations by:

    • Soliciting input and encouraging dissenting viewpoints
    • Taking the time to listen
    • Admitting their mistakes
    • Anticipating what can go wrong
    • Offering constructive feedback
    • Looking to challenge and/or confirm assumptions
    • Encouraging constant improvement

As we look into the coming year and the future of our organizations, will you create your future or merely react to what life brings you? In 2016, how will you be a learning leader?


Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers.  Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services.  This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.

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