Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Allow yourself to learn...

….and the ‘Learning Curve’ will end up along the right path! That’s a piece of advice I got from my mentor when I started my career. And I’ve given it so much importance, that it has kept me in real good shape.

The reason I bring up this subject is because I’ve often heard candidates ask, "What will be my learning curve?” I find that odd. Really. Were they waiting for their learning curve to take-off? Or are they asking what they’ll learn from this Company that would help them get ahead of the curve? Maybe, I’ve read the question wrong. Maybe, I haven’t got it wrong. Since improving one's learning curve isn't going to happen overnight or for working at a Company. The Company will only act as a medium to help you get to your goals. The learning curve is driven by the person than by any external factor.

You may argue, the market conditions are bad, companies aren’t willing to experiment; my manager doesn’t allow freedom at work and many more reasons. But doesn't that form part of your learning curve? I think it does. You learn to cope with it differently, think differently to get a work around, make a well thought out case study for your ideas that your manager will buy into, come up with a practical business model that the Company doesn’t see as an experiment. Yes. I’ll say all of the above are possible. I‘ve tried them and hence won’t agree otherwise. So if one isn't thinking along those lines, then maybe you have resigned yourself to accept whatever comes your way.

More often than not, when you allow yourself to learn you are in control of the situation than vice-versa. So that brings me to the question. What have I done with the advice I got a long time back?

Be ready to unlearn!
It really is the start point. Yes, your direct report may have a better solution. But your gut feel/instinct is to go with your solution. That’s the start to unlearning. When you begin to see reason in other’s approach at work, you learn to think and reason in new ways. Be ready to explore.

Get yourself a good mentor
Yes, I got one from a completely different area of work. I like it that way. Since this person knows my strengths and is also able to see my objectives from a third person’s point of view. That gives me an unbiased opinion. Ok, some may not agree here. But that’s why I also follow experts in my field of work

Reach out to experts
You are one too. But then you have so much more to learn. Take on the ‘Learn & Share’ attitude. You’ll be amazed.

Accept feedback
But that doesn’t mean you get steamrolled with criticism. Over time you’ll learn to put active filters on feedback and take the positives. Not every opinion counts, but the ones that really count will leave you a better person. The trick is I identifying that particular feedback.

Ask questions
I’ve seen it happen in meetings. When the organizer asks, “Are there any questions?” the room suddenly goes quiet. Each person waiting for the other to start asking questions. That’s bad. Yes, it’s obvious. You have a question. Go ahead and ask. You don’t need to wait. It’s ok to look stupid now than when you get done with a project/ mess-up half way through, only to realize you got all wrong. Ask early. Get answers early.

Embrace Change
Doesn’t mean you go about changing everything you ever believed it. But an open mind will help you understand the necessity to change. For the better.

Now, get to work on it. And let me know if there are more ways that have helped you get ahead of the learning curve.