For some people the thought of learning conjures up pictures of sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher blather on about something they are not particularly interested in. Others think of it as the attaining of a new skill or piece of information. When I think of learning, I think of a process that is going on constantly. It’s not just the aquiring of new ideas, skills and knowledge. It’s the refining of ideas, skills and knowledge you also already have. And your mind is doing this all the time, with everything you do regardless of whether you want it to or not, even in your sleep.
This is absolutely amazing. The Japanese have caught onto this in a big way. Kaizen is the philosophy that you should undertake continuous incremental improvement in what you do. You should constantly strive for less waste and greater efficiency and quality. The most important aspect of this however is that it applies to everything. If you take for example a manufacturing company it applies just as much to the CEO and upper management as it does to a line worker.
This process is very powerful. Not just because continuous improvement is great in itself. With this approach you are essentially creating a more dynamic organisation. An organisation that is happy with change. In our constantly changing environment this is definately a desirable characteristic. Employees who are constantly getting better at what they do have greater self esteem and higher morale. This will rub off on your clients and lead to greater customer loyalty. Opportunities will present themselves left right and center because of this process, and interestingly, because of this process you will also be better placed to take advantage of them.
How do we implement it though? There’s more to it than just calling a meeting and telling everyone to keep on the lookout for better ways to do things. For it to work well you need to allow information to flow easily and everywhere. We need to be aware of what the existing process is. We need to know not only what it’s weaknesses are but also it’s strenghs. We need to be transparent. Realise that ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone, directly or indirectly.
We need to celebrate. By that I don’t mean we should throw a party. What I mean is that we to acknowledge contributions. Even if they don’t lead to a direct positive outcome they are still valuable and valued. We need to demonstrate that we are excited by them and the progress that they lead to and create an environment within the organisation that fosters this.
Learning is part of the process. You can either resist it, ignore it or embrace it. When you choose to embrace it I feel that you can’t help but move forward in an ever increasingly positive way. You also develop an appreciation and understanding of what you are doing and why.