Do you believe in natural talent or do you believe capability is learned?  Unfortunately in many organisations and sporting environments we tend to believe that capability and skill is a fixed quality.  They reward and entrench power with those who are deemed to have the necessary skill, often based on subjective measures of their ability.  How many organisations have talent management programs, leadership fast track programs, or just promote people based on the perception of their ability rather than those who continually demonstrate the ability to learn and grow, and improve every time they take on a new challenge or task.

With a fixed mind-set we characterise certain people with certain ability and have a heavy emphasis on perfection, status, and not making a mistake.  This drives a fear of change and a dependency culture which in turn translates to an unresponsive business, lack of innovation, and poor decision making.

A learning organisation is one which embeds a growth mind-set at all levels in the business.  It measures performance, encourages learning, sees mistakes as an opportunity, and empowers people to make decisions.  Being all knowledgeable and skilful is not rewarded, but rather the ability to learn, grow and adapt.  A learning organisation does not see training as the only path to capability development but embeds growth and improvement as a way of life.

Characteristics of a learning organisation include:

  • Change is embraced as an opportunity, and the organisation is in a constant state of flux (constant innovation and improvement).
  • People question and challenge things, and are comfortable having the tough conversation on where they and their team need to improvement (honest with themselves and honest with others).
  • No one is seen as ‘indispensable’ (no status or personal power).
  • Leaders are actively encouraged to take leave and let their direct reports back fill them. Likewise meetings are never reshuffled, and if a person cannot attend their delegate attends on their behalf (no dependency).
  • KPIs and performance against the KPI’s are transparent so that all levels of the business know how the company is performed (transparency and feedback).
  • The business is focused and is clear on what is its purpose and key result areas.  Everyone links priorities and effort to what is core for their industry (clarity, alignment and commitment to outcomes).
  • Performance is recognised through what people achieve based on evidence and metrics not on perception of their ability (reward growth mind-set which is focused on improvement rather than fixed mind-set which is focused on self-preservation).
  • Organisation focuses on continuous improvement rather than budgets and targets as the outcomes look after themselves.
  • People are expected to move around and change jobs within the organisation, or may even be encouraged to seek external opportunities to allow them to grow as individuals (rather than fear and needing to hang on to people).

Just look at Australian Football.  All the teams get to draft from the same “talent” pool yet some of the teams seem to have more consistent success than others.  Ever wondered why?