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Learning through osmosis…

Yeah, right. If only it was that easy.

I was facilitating a strategy discussion for a team where we discussed how they can use technology to add value to the business. During the discussion, one of the team members lamented how he hates sending out invoices. He explained that, once a month, he has to print all the invoices, which takes a full morning. Then he has to stand in the server room, scan them all in so that he can email them to customers. That, he complained, takes a full day. And it is cold in the server room…
Why don’t you just email it straight from the system? one team member asked. It’s a new function that was made available a couple of months previously.

The look on his face was priceless.

That got us talking to how we share learnings and collaborate to make sure that no-one wastes two days a month printing and scanning invoices. Yes, everyone nodded sagely, we must collaborate and share more. I wanted to scream: it won’t happen automatically, people! Just wanting to collaborate and share won’t make it happen. You have to be deliberate about it.

Here are a couple of practical things to do to ensure that your team shares learning:

  1. Make it part of the team meetings: Ask each team member had to share a “moment of brilliance” where they did something right, and a “moment of duh…” where they messed something up that week. That would lead to a deliberate discussion of what they had learned through the two experiences and how others in the team can use that.
  2. Use their passion: Do you have members in the team who is passionate about a specific part of their job? Ask them to prepare and share their best practices with the rest of the team. Even if their jobs differ from the others’, there will be principles and learnings that the rest of the team can take from it.
  3. Make learning a formal personal goal: Set a target of learning courses completed, or outcomes achieved. Track it and reward learning behaviour. And, of course, application back at work should also be recognised.
  4. Ask the team to share their problems: Again, this is a deliberate exercise in team meetings or discussions. Ask each team member to write down on a piece of paper a problem that they’re currently experiencing. Then, send the papers around and let every member write their ideas on how to solve it. Return to the original writer. You will end up with many ideas that might lead to a solution.
  5. Finally, capture the learnings and make it available: A couple of years ago we had great plans to make a video of an expert team member sharing his 40 years of experience. Budget cuts meant that we couldn’t do the fancy video we had planned so it fell by the wayside. He sadly passed away soon after. An opportunity lost forever.
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