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Learning from mistakes

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. John Powell The briefs so far were talking about experiences that posed a change, challenge, a positive stroke,   but we all learn not just by what went right but also about what went wrong. If we meet someone who has not committed any mistake – then he is a liar or he is a lifeless stone that is lying on the curb doing nothing, because as we try and do something is when we commit mistake. Out here I want to differentiate between mistakes, error and mishaps.   All of these “harm” the person – directly or indirectly. And learning is about analysing what led to the harm and how can I minimize the harm.   In physical sciences – error is due to limitation of measuring instrument,   computational accuracy – something that can not be avoided in the given circumstances. You can only try to minimize it.   The tennis player gets fraction of second to decide how he wants to return the ball and based on situation he commits unf
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Learning from ‘BOSS’

 Ever since childhood we want imitate the elder whom we adore. It could be parent, it could be teacher or elder sibling.  That imitation provides opportunity to learn. As we enter work life we encounter seniors who are closely associated with our work and again while imitating them we develop technical skills as well as skills about how to interact with people, how to report progress and how to get work done in the organizational context. There maybe significant mentors / coaches / influencers, but the ‘BOSS’ has a distinct role to play. And here when I mean boss – it may be “boss” or “super boss” that is someone further higher in hierarchy. During my research I observed that significant number of leaders quoted events where the boss initiated / influenced the development of the leader. And in case of SME leaders it was also observed that SME owners miss out this channel of learning as they don’t have the boss. In the SME research I also observed the role of external “seniors” such a

Learning through 'Movement'

In the last article I pondered over “Challenging experiences” that tickle learning. The research “Lessons of Experience” [1] highlighted “relocation” or movement was one experience that often-triggered learning. As a child I remember learning a small verse in Marathi which said, “If you travel to new country, if you become friends with the learned or if you move around in intellectual gatherings – you would become witty’ . Movement is natural to us. Birds and animals migrate. Some communities migrate seasonally to cope with harsh situation like the shepherds of Maharashtra would migrate towards Sahyadries on onset of summer. (We used to often cross such heard while commuting few years back – but I have not seen one in recent past) – That movement is to cope with harsh external environment. But advantage of movement was felt even otherwise – almost every community, every religion has the concept of “pilgrimage”  -  I have personally met people who walk to Pandharpur with Palkhi. They w

Challenging experiences

 In the study “How Indian Leaders Learn” [1] where I had an opportunity to participate and explore, quite a few leaders shared the events that were of the nature “Going through challenging assignment”.  In the study leaders talked about various assignments – whereby going through them they learnt important lessons that helped them grow as “a business leader” . Typical examples of such assignment was “Change of role” i.e. being nominated at a leadership position first time, a “fix it” situation – get into a situation that is seriously in trouble and bringing it back in order,  “assignment which has many adverse conditions”, “Green field” assignments i.e. assignments where you are starting from scratch. Naturally the lessons learnt would be different based on the situation, but some themes are common.  So in this article I am exploring these themes, my impressions about the themes and what could block the learning in such case. So one thing that I observed here was these assignments g

Learning experiences

In the briefs so far, I discussed the learning process.  Taking it forward in the coming set of briefs let me share some thoughts on specific situations that could provide opportunities to learn. The backdrop to these set of briefs is a research project that I was involved in TMTC – ‘Lessons of Experience’ , the data that I gathered about competency development of SME leaders as part of my PhD research and also the information that I capture while interacting with participants who attend my workshops. Idea behind the briefs is to explore the opportunities of learning and process of learning in these situations.  This set of articles will include   ‘learning through challenging assignments’, learning through movement, ‘ ‘Boss’ as a facilitator, ‘Learning through mistakes’, ‘Triggering self-realization’,   ‘Learning through structured interventions’, ‘Learning Business leadership’,   ‘Learning from family’, ‘Learning about relationships’, ’In influence of context in learning’ and maybe

Why people don’t learn through experimentation?

  Welcome to the next article in the series ‘Why don’t people learn?’ We have reached the fourth step in the learning cycle. We may learn a theory from books, or we may have formed a theory based on experience. Now, we need to consider using it in real-life situations. If I have formed a theory about traffic signal, such as the one mentioned in my last article, how can I use it? I can consider changing my route, or the speed, or the travel time, or the vehicle. I can consider utilizing the time that I spend at a red light to do some useful work (such as catching up on the news!). Actually implementing any such decision will start a new learning cycle of experience, observation, generalization etc. I have dealt with these three steps in my earlier articles. This leaves us to wonder why people don’t experiment and why they don’t learn from it. Application of any theory requires the presence of a problem, knowing the theory, applying the theory in a different situation and then actually

Why can’t people analyze and generalize?

Welcome back! So far, in this series of articles, I pondered over people going through experience and observing. But if you observe a lot of data, it is not necessarily going to lead to learning. In actuality, it depends on what do you want to do with that data, with that knowledge. When we see a pattern in the data, we can generalize and form our theory. On my way to work, I observe that the days on which I get stopped at the first traffic signal, I often get stopped at most of the following traffic signals. So, I arrive at various conclusions: most probably, the signals are badly synchronized, or this route has too many short lanes and it is not possible to catch the next green signal, and so on. All of us have some ability to discover such trends and analyze the data to arrive at conclusions. This can be called as ‘Cognitive Ability’. Although natural cognitive ability will differ from person to person, most of us have adequate ability to survive normal work-life demands. Even the