Article: Fail fast, learn fast? How to build a fresh learner mindset

Learning & Development

Fail fast, learn fast? How to build a fresh learner mindset

When people are facing constant disruption, how can we prevent the task of learning from becoming another chore? Stay in a "permanent beta" mode, one expert advises.
Fail fast, learn fast? How to build a fresh learner mindset

Evolution is at the heart of learning. In fact, the best learning and development (L&D) programs today can bolster employee engagement and even alleviate burnout, according to a McKinsey study.

But when an organisation and its people are constantly thrust into a state of disruption, the practice of learning can also end up becoming a chore – and thus lead to burnout.

How can L&D leaders build a fresh learner mindset? That's the question Raj Kishan Mallavarapu of Bayer Crop Science tackled in his discussion at L&D Conference India 2021.

"We're in the midst of what is called a double disruption. The pace at which technology has been changing over the past two decades is increasing and continues to increase," said Raj, who serves as Head of Digital Capabilities & Change at Bayer Crop Science.

Because of this, digital transformation is tipping the balance of the talent economy towards job redefinition rather than mere job displacement.

"Based on a World Economic Forum research, 8 million to 10 million jobs are expected to be displaced but, at the same time, 97 million new jobs are going to be created," Raj said. "This is a disruption. But [we're] also at the cusp of a reskilling revolution."

Companies surveyed by the WEF, as Raj cited, reportedly expect 50% of employees to "upskill and reskill themselves by 2025". But these skills are not entirely the same ones managers have seen in the past three decades. Instead, they point to competencies such as creativity, empathy and critical thinking, which match the growing complexities of today's work environment.

"Today, the one takeaway we've all had is our ability to manage ambiguity and harness it," Raj said. "We need to learn, unlearn, and have a mindset of resilience and problem-solving."

Living in 'permanent beta'

For Raj, all of us should aim to focus on "disrupting ourselves" and be open to change. "In my experience, I think that's a more exciting path for us to go on," he said.

We have a need to learn and lead with a mindset of what I call 'permanent beta' – and it's a superpower.

What is the 'permanent beta' mode of learning?

"Anyone who's from the IT industry and has worked with technology will realise that any software product, or tech company that launches a new product, will always have a beta mode where it's not finished; where it's still testing or getting more feedback from users. That's the mindset which I recommend that we carry," Raj said.

"The key here is to think of each one of us as a work in progress to ensure that we have a lifelong commitment to personal and professional growth, and that we invest in ourselves every day."

Raj himself witnessed how digital transformation influenced his own career trajectory in recent years. "I can tell you that my role didn't exist in my company two years ago," he said.

"Now, the question is, how do we take a mindset of [being in] permanent beta and disrupting ourselves?" He offered a few pointers:

  • Identify the purpose of your learning 

  • Build on your unique strengths

  • Embrace constraints

Learn from the experience of budding businesses, he said. "No start-up in the world has the money that large companies have, so [start-ups] focus on specific areas, and place really small bets to experiment."

In the end, Raj said, it's about "taking smart risks and, most importantly, learning fast and failing fast."

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ChangeManagement

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