How do you teach a kid to ride a bike? The answer is pretty simple to most: apply padding to the most sensitive parts of the body and off we go! Will the child fall? It’s almost guaranteed. But this is all part of the learning experience, right?
Indeed, most leaders across organisations say that learning comes from failure. But, their actions show a preoccupation with success. Whilst not surprising, it does impede their ability to learn—at a time when learning and innovation are more important than ever. So, what are some things you can do to lead the charge towards a culture of learning?
1. Embrace and teach a growth mindset. Research by psychologist Carol Dweck has found that people who have a growth mindset proactively seek challenges and learning opportunities, whereas those with a fixed mindset tend to focus on mitigating risk. You don’t have to be a Stanford professor to know that the latter is not going to help you in discovering the next big breakthrough idea that will shake up your industry.
2. Hold blameless post-mortems. Invariably things will not work out as planned when you’re running experiments. This is the whole point of running an experiment in the first place: failure teaches you something. However, we have a natural tendency to ascribe success to hard work and skill rather than luck; yet we blame failure on bad fortune. This attribution bias hinders learning in that it prevents us from connecting mistakes to unfavourable outcomes. Break this cycle by holding blameless post-mortems that critically evaluate where things didn’t go to plan and learn from it!
3. Sample your Kool-Aid. The most successful leaders of innovation dedicate time to finding and testing their ideas through a network of externals who offer a fundamentally different perspective. They deliberately put their ideas under scrutiny as a sense check and to learn ways to make them better.