Are You Leveraging Your Internal Learning Machine?

6917253693_285ae3b40a_b Rod Collins is the owner of Wiki Management where he focuses on helping business leaders transition their management to better respond to the accelerating change of today’s world. He is formerly the COE (Chief Operating Executive) of Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employees Program. He is also the author of the recently published book, Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Knowledge to Make the Leap to Extraordinary Performance. Rod has lots to say about how he keeps new knowledge flowing into his life, but I most enjoyed the unexpected answer he gave to my question about the role of observation in doing so.

“I’m an intuitive learner. I often know it before I can say it,” began Rod. “I just do it and let the learning begin.” He then described how he learned to pick the guitar. “Observation is an important part of intuitive learning. I watched others finger-pick the guitar. I watched a bit more and then I tried it. And I watched, and I tried it. Until eventually, I mastered the fine art of finger-picking.” He took the same approach with facilitation by watching good facilitators over the years. But part of intuitive learning is about what is done on the inside as well as the outside. Rod explained, “You need deep reflection time. You need to be a deep listener. You need to know when to push and when to pull.”

For 20 years, Rod was a referee for college football. “It’s a totally different slice of life. It is split second decision making, and I was very confused at first. I was always a ½ second behind the play. There is so much going on at one time,” explained Rod. “Then there was a moment when it all clicked. When I realized that I shouldn’t be watching the ball. I needed to watch the tackle to see what was happening to the ball. Then I was ½ a second ahead instead of behind.” Today, Rod helps managers look for the drivers of their business instead of outputs, what they get paid for. “The early signs are easier to change and put the executive in the position to make the call,” says Rod. Personally, I usually find football metaphors unhelpful. But seeing it from a different perspective – the eyes of the referee – and it all made sense. The world is a great place to learn if we keep our eyes open and think about what we are seeing.

You’re probably wondering why I have focused on two examples from Rod’s interview that have nothing to do with professional life. Look again. It’s all there. We are learning machines if we watch, try, and reflect. In Riding the Current, every chapter gives you a chance to watch others through their stories, try through the exercises, and reflect in the sections expressly for doing so. I hope you decide to turn on your own learning machine.

Photo by Chris Isherwood