Over the years many of us have mastered the art of learning by ourselves. We read about a new way of doing things or hear a new frame for thinking and give it a go. We stretch ourselves to grow and develop. We attend workshops, or simply reflect on our successes and mistakes and tweak things to get better results (well - let's hope that's what we do!).
The world is drowning in information. The information and data we have created in the last two years have been more than the history of man. This curve of information overload will only increase in the future. We end up feeling like we are drinking out of the proverbial fire hydrant. When we are in sense maker mode, we take the massive amounts of information, insights, opinions and seek to gain clarity. The Future of Work 2020 report from the Institute of the Future names sense making as its number one skill of the future. The report definition is ‘the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed’. We open the lens of our thinking beyond our first thoughts and assumptions.
We never leave status quo if we’re not willing to give things a try. Being an experimenter means that we play lightly with our learning. We try things without a huge fear of stuff going wrong. It’s the key DO element into such methodologies as the PDSA or PDCA approach.
Another critical role of being a learner in a collaborative space is to be one of the supporters. If everyone is trying to do things in a different way, we need to stop judging and start supporting others and ourselves to try different things. That way, we are not frightened of criticism of our decisions that keep us doing the same. It’s about making it comfortable to fail. It’s also about just being there when someone is having a tough time, of trying something tough, giving them a bit of ‘ra ra’ so that they feel okay about the fact that they are in this together. A colleague's compassion when we are stuck and supportive approach enable us to stay in a learning space, rather than give up. When people take a risk with each other, there’s vulnerability to support. We can make it safe to be vulnerable, or unsafe. Invulnerability is a facade that we put up, which railroads our learning and creates an inauthentic approach to our work.
Challenging thinking through robust discussion is essential to great collaboration and creativity. Challenging our reasoning elevates us out of the ordinary. Exploring our beliefs is an important part of a collaborative learning process. Authentic collaboration is learning out loud so articulating our assumptions, and challenging our thinking with each other, moves us to a space of deeper learning. To check out the types of thinking we need to challenge ourselves, check out my last blog Collaborating, or Simply Cooperating?
In a collaborative inquiry space, investigate and explore before coming up with approaches that might work. ‘Inquiry’ is the critical word here. We want to test our thinking in a safe and objective environment. Take on an approach of thinking as if you were beginners at what you do. What if? How could we? What would happen if ... ? Is it possible? What would we find? What thinking could we use here? Learn from each other’s experience. Tell me how? What made you try? What was your approach when? What worked best in that situation?
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