I spent a few weeks in January on the beautiful little island Gili Air, just off the Lombok coast in Indonesia. Gili Air is one of the cruisiest tropical islands you could imagine. Having just suffered the devastation of the August earthquakes, the people who live and work on the island are a great example of resilience and continued optimism, even in the face of hardship and grief. Amongst the people I spent time with, one of the gems is a 57-year-old Javanese man named Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a born storyteller. One morning looking over the sea, he told me stories from his life, living through all parts of Indonesia and Papua. Stories such as coming face to face with a massive orang-utan in the jungles of Borneo, both of them looking deep into each other's eyes, before the orang-utan turned and lumbered away, leaving Ibrahim clutching his heart, yet feeling he had experienced a connection that was almost human to human. His life is full of curiosity and wonder.
Four years ago Ibrahim and his wife moved from Java and started a small warung (restaurant) on the island. They had never run a warung before, let alone built one. However, Ibrahim, undaunted, spent time ‘stealing' from other warungs - his term for learning through observation. Then he went back to his patch and built the whole thing from scratch, copying and trialling. This earliest version of learning we experience – by observation and trial and error is something we almost beat out of ourselves as professionals. We often have achievement and getting things ‘right', or ‘perfect' deeply ingrained in our persona and our culture. Yet learning from each other is often the richest form of growth.
COLLABORATION IS LEARNING OUT LOUD
Thriving collaborative cultures in teams and between teams have a common denominator that sets them apart from teams that sit in status quo or comfort. These teams are deep learners individually and as a group. To be deep learners, a willingness to show vulnerability and ‘not knowing' is crucial. Otherwise, we stay in the shallow end of learning and avoid our opportunities for development for fear of failure, judgement or shame. As team members work in more depth with each other, the step to co-creation is far more effortless. The exploration of new ways of working and thinking become embedded in the culture of the team. Pixar, the powerhouse of animated movies, hold post-mortems after every film, whether the movie made it to the screen or not. Every single person involved in the process attends, and they do a deep dive into what worked and what didn't work. This learning then informs future projects.
BE THE LEAD LEARNER
In a well known educational focus of our current context, Michael Fullan, global educational leader in collaborative cultures for deep learning, found in his research that leaders who also lead the team learning get better results. In his words "We have found that leaders must lead and learn in equal measure". He coined the term lead learner and I think we forget that displaying our own deep learning is an important thing to model to our teams.
Ibrahim - a born storyteller. One of the gems of Gili Air.
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