Ideas to Read and Pass Along

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

Be a Lifelong Learner

Five Truths

1. A life-long learner is an individual who continually grows and renews him or herself through acquiring, transferring, and creating knowledge. It’s not just training, it is the ability to create knowledge and learn from all people and all experiences. Every organization wants great talent.

2. An organization is only as strong as its members—it moves only as fast as the “slowest many.” Organizations learn only through individuals who learn and grow. If people aren’t passionate about learning, organizations can’t grow.

3. As competition intensifies, markets shift, technology explodes, and regulations become more complex, the needs of the customer keep changing! The target keeps moving. It’s not enough anymore to identify the customers’ needs and meet them. Today the wise competitors are anticipating their customers’ needs. Accurate anticipation means being “in the know”—a result of life-long learning.

4. When people stop learning they atrophy and die. (Ever seen a dead person walking? There are plenty around.) Gallup research shows that almost 75% of the workforce is NOT engaged. People who grow are stimulating and passionate because:

  • They have more to give away
  • They bring more to the party
  • They expand their capacities to take on bigger challenges

5. Learning organizations are created by people who possess a spirit of inquiry. Most people engage in one of two types of communication: ADVOCACY or INQUIRY.

Advocates are people whose natural inclination is to actively support or defend an idea or a position. People who gravitate toward inquiry probe and explore the issues. They tend to ask lots of questions and make a thorough study of people’s needs. It’s virtually impossible to use both types of communication at the same time.

Employees at Herman Miller, Inc., conducted a study and discovered that during business meetings 89% of their communication was advocacy, not inquiry! Their discovery led them to the conclusion that advocacy at Herman Miller, Inc. was too often overused and was not promoting the kind of learning organization desired. Today, they facilitate and foster an environment of INQUIRY.

Five Things that Characterize a Spirit of Inquiry

  1. People listen with interest. They listen objectively for information vs. listening to confirm or validate their own positions. They listen without thinking of their next response.
  2. People tend to suspend their assumptions until they’ve heard from other key people in the organization. They understand that differences of opinion sharpen their understanding and therefore they value multiple perspectives.
  3. People assume that ideas offered by others come from a desire to contribute and make the organization better rather than tear it down.
  4. People keep the “collective” in mind and temporarily suspend personal agendas to listen for the common good.
  5. People tend to ask before they tell. There’s a spirit of curiosity that pervades their communication.

Discussion Questions

  1. What new skills or knowledge have you acquired in the last six months that adds new value to your organization and makes it more competitive?
  2. JUST PRETEND that someone came to you and said, “Tell me in five minutes or less why I shouldn’t outsource your job?” Then build a BUSINESS CASE for the value you add to the organization.
  3. What new skills or knowledge are you going to acquire in the next six months to make your organization more competitive?
  4. What form of communication, a spirit of INQUIRY or a spirit of ADVOCACY is used most in our organization?

Find out what strengthens your personal power.