‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’. We all have heard this old adage countless of times, yet the complexity and the deep rooted value of the seemingly simple statement seldom sinks in.
We often come to think of success or failure as a measure of our lives, be it personal or professional, and redefine ourselves based on circumstantial outcomes. However, what we fail to realize or understand is that, although circumstances define our actions, our actions have more power to define our circumstances in the long run. What matters is our approach to the journey that is life and we are bound to be successful when we walk that path diligently, never stopping to learn and grow as an individual, a citizen, an employee, a father or a son. We can truly achieve everything that we set out to do with just a little ‘change of perspective’ to see each passing moment as a new opportunity.
Unbelievably indistinguishable work days, recurring patterns, with no change in sight can have a devastatingly claustrophobic effect on our mental states, and an important lesson to be learned is to learn to break the pattern by thinking differently.
Taking Responsibility & Accountability
Taking responsibility and accountability of your life, and your personal and professional development is often easier said than done. It is easy to blame circumstances, but if you change your perspective from blaming to taking ownership, you will be more open to seeing opportunities to grow. And, the same goes for everything, including your career, relationships, and your own outlook about yourself.
Granted that concepts such as point of views and perspectives can be seen as tropes of superficial philosophy by the uninitiated, they truly are key thinking skills. These skills can further benefit every individual in every sphere of life, especially work or corporate life, where the constant technological disruptions are forever changing the way we work. With the demand for advanced technical skills at an all time high, need for a change of perspective has become a business imperative, both for employees as well as organizations.
Changing Your Perspective towards Learning
So, why is honing your skill of taking a different perspective so critical? The answer lies in the way we approach learning, not academia or education per se, but the sheer act of learning, upskilling or reskilling ourselves throughout our lifetime.
A Learning Individual
The secret ingredient to changing your perspective is to be mindful of the final objective. An employee stuck doing routine tasks will continue to be stuck unless s/he breaks the routine. But, with a little change of perspective the employee can view the same job as an opportunity to learn new skills that can and will one day help her do what she truly loves to do. The job is no more ‘just a job’ but an incredible opportunity to learn.
Today, individuals who can mindfully foster a unique and different perspective towards learning would be able to understand the content much better as they would be engaging with their learning process in a newer and more objectified context. Similarly, the sooner organizations change their perspective towards learning, sooner they will realize the business criticality of investing in Learning & Development, and the impending necessity of developing their employees’ skills to have a future-ready workforce in this era of rapid technological disruptions.
A Learning Organization
In their efforts to reinvent themselves and gain a competitive edge, global organizations are continually implementing improvement programs. However, such programs are generic at best, and failure rates are predictably high and improvement rates disturbingly low, all because of one simple truth - to achieve continuous improvement, you must commit to continuous learning.
Organizations can’t hope for improvement in the absence of learning. Reengineering or implementing new processes, solving business critical problems or introducing a new product, all call for a change of perspective to see the business environment, the markets and the players in a new light. Without continuous learning, organizations and employees are bound to go over the same set practices that eventually result in superficial and time-bound improvement, if any at all.
Future-looking organizations have long recognized the interrelation of continuous learning and progress, and are increasingly leaning on L&D to refocus their learning initiatives, especially in rapidly evolving business environments like IT, manufacturing etc. However, one of the most daunting tasks of the learning process is getting started, and the organizations’ willingness and capacity for learning remains a critical resource.
According to Organizational Learning: The Competitive Advantage of the Future by Probst & Büchel (1997), the three important criteria that lead organizations towards success can be defined as:
- Organizations’ responsiveness to its employees’ needs affected by disruption/change
- The organizations’ learning capacity
- The organizations’ capacity for taking action
Harvard Business Review defines a learning organization as ‘an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.’ So, going by this definition, it becomes clear that for learning to take place the necessity of having new ideas is paramount. And, new ideas are often discovered through a little change of perspective, flashes of creativity, communicated through out of the box thinking. However, ideas in themselves cannot lead to a learning organization unless the organization is willing to effectively execute those ideas and apply them in the way it works.
Adapting to disruption and change is a core strength of any learning organization. Organizational leaders need to hone the ability to anticipate and recognize pain points and use learning to find solutions, be it in technology, human capital or another resource; while the capacity for continuous learning demands openness to new experiences, challenging preset notions and assumptions, analyzing instances where things go wrong and why, finding critical issues and seeking information from all stakeholders, and moving out of the comfort zone to bring about a shift in organizational behavior to effectively respond to unforeseen changes and achieve greater results. It’s only through learning that organizations can be truly agile in the economic, social and political landscape.
Furthermore, it is important to stress upon the interrelation of a learning individual and a learning organization, as organizations learn through individuals who continuously learn and contribute towards the organizations’ goals. And, there remains a case to be made for Adaptive Learning and Generative Learning, wherein adaptive learning has more to do with adapting in the time of need, while generative learning is an innate capability-building process, one that requires a change of perspective and different outlooks towards the business world.
There are four essential qualities that define a learning organization-
- The ability to systematically solve critical problems
- Experiment with newer approaches
- Learn from past experiences & experiences of others
- Quick & efficient transfer of knowledge across the organization
Leading global organizations foster these qualities to some extent by creating and leveraging technologies and processes and integrating them into daily operations to effectively manage their learning outcomes. The likes of General Electric (GE) and Honda, for example, have been continually acquiring new knowledge and translating it into improved behaviors of, both the individuals and the organization. Such organizations are often proactive towards their learning process and ensure that it is continuous.
Continuous learning and success go hand in hand, and learning individuals and organizations are a result of systematically honed perspectives, attitudes, and policies and practices that have slowly yet steadily built up in the course of time. So, any individual or organization can achieve the desired success through continuous learning.
Visit the UpsideLMS Booth G2 at People Matters TechHR 2019 Conference to see how a simple change of perspective can bring about a sea of change in your Learning & Development.