Learner Safety in Practice

Today's episode is part two of our four-part series on the Change Management Principle, Behave Until You Believe. This week, Tim and Junior talk about what learner safety is, the two domains of learning, why learning is error-driven, and their top 3 picks from the 4 Stages Behavioral Guide as actions we can take to “Behave Until we Believe” in Stage 2 Learner Safety.

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Episode Show Notes

Today's episode is part two of our four-part series on the Change Management Principle, Behave Until You Believe. These episodes are focused on the practical application of each of the four stages of psychological safety and focus on the key principles and behaviors that will help you foster an environment of high psychological safety. This week, Tim and Junior talk about what learner safety is, the two domains of learning, why learning is error-driven, and their top 3 picks from the 4 Stages Behavioral Guide as actions we can take to “Behave Until we Believe” in Stage 2 Learner Safety.

What is learner safety? (03:26) As the second stage of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, learner safety is crucial to ensuring that innovation can  flourish in an organization. In this stage, fear is detached from mistakes, and mistakes are rewarded as part of the learning process.

Learning is error-driven (04:29) In order to learn, we can’t always be right. If our environment only rewards correct answers, the expectation will always be perfection, and learning will never be prioritized. 

The two domains of learning (12:27) Learner safety encompasses creating a culture of rewarded vulnerability across 2 domains: Formal and informal. As we get older, we lose opportunities for formal learning and rely on creating our own informal learning experiences. The goal in these experiences? Create learning agility.

Behavior 1: Share What You’re Learning (21:47) If nobody knows that learning consistently is encouraged and accepted, they won't want to appear ignorant. Model learning behavior as the first-mover. By acknowledging your ignorance you’re making it safe for them to acknowledge theirs.

Behavior 2: Take Notes (31:48) Your mind is not a steel trap. Taking notes is a physical manifestation of your intent to learn, retain, and improve. 

Behavior 3: Identify and Share What You Unlearn (38:57) If knowledge is learning things, wisdom is unlearning things. People and organizations have to let go of what worked before but doesn’t work now, and of what we thought was true, but isn’t.

Important Links
The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Behavioral Guide

Episode Transcript

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0:00:02.4 Freddy: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners, it's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. In today's episode we are continuing our four-part series on the change management principle, behave until you believe. These episodes are focused on the practical application of each of the four stages of psychological safety. This episode is on learner safety in practice. Tim and Junior will talk about how learning and growing is a fundamental need that needs to be satisfied in order for innovation to flourish in an organization. They'll cover how the thinking brain and the feeling brain are connected, and of course, provide relevant examples and practical behaviors for you to put learner safety into practice today. As always, this episode, show notes can be found at leaderfactor.com/podcast, that includes a link to our free psychological safety behavioral guide with over 100 practical behaviors to improve psychological safety and culture. Thanks again for listening. Enjoy today's episode on learner safety in practice.

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0:01:13.3 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. My name is Junior, I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today we'll be continuing the behave until you believe series and will be talking about behaviors that foster learning. Tim, how are you doing? 

0:01:26.8 Dr. Tim Clark: I'm doing great, Junior. Good to be with you.

0:01:28.6 Junior: Likewise. Today we'll be diving into our top three picks from the four stages behavioral guide as actions we can take to behave until we believe in stage two learner safety. So, Tim, before we begin, can you summarize the behave until you believe principle kind of as a recap from last episode? 

0:01:48.3 DC: Sure. What we've found when it comes to both personal and organizational change, is that it's not enough to learn something new or be aware of it, or be exposed to it or even appreciate it, in order to create a new behavioral pattern. You actually have to start practicing that, you have to jump into behavior immediately, because what happens is, as you are behaving in a different way, you are having a new experience and you're in a process of self-discovery. And that's immersive and it's experiential, and you're generating a new data set out of your own experience that you can look at, you can examine, you can feel, you can observe, and it's through that behavioral experience that you are able to move to a different place in terms of your attitudes and your beliefs. So if you just think about it, if you think about, okay, if I'm exposed to new knowledge or information, does that help me cross a threshold of conviction so that I believe differently? Well, it may to a certain extent, but what we found is that the indispensable element is the behavior. You've gotta jump into new behaviors, and then again, you'll have that experience. So it's behave until you believe as a principle of both personal and organizational change.

0:03:26.7 Junior: One of my big takeaways from last episode was this idea of the threshold of conviction, and that the failure pattern of the traditional approach the most people and most organizations take, is that they believe that awareness will be enough to propel them through that threshold of conviction to a change in behavior. And what we're saying is that awareness is great, it's necessary, it's very important, but we need to attack the problem from the other side simultaneously and start behaving to generate that confirming evidence. So that was a big point. If you didn't get to, a chance to listen to that episode I would highly recommend it. So stage two, learner safety, what is it? It's the second of the four stages, and it helps us understand that learning and growing is a fundamental need that needs to be satisfied to everyone, in order for innovation to flourish inside of an organization, and in order for us to have satisfaction at an individual level because it's something we all yearn for, to learn.

0:04:29.6 DC: Yeah.

0:04:29.8 Junior: In this stage, we detach fear from mistakes and mistakes are rewarded as part of the learning process. So it's important that we have that ground work for what is stage two learner safety. One of the big points that I'd like to make upfront, Tim, is that learning is error-driven. So I wanna test that assumption for a moment and encourage everyone to think about some component of learning that's not error-driven, it's pretty difficult.

0:05:01.0 DC: Yeah, I can't think of one.

0:05:01.6 Junior: It's pretty difficult to come up with any sort of meaningful list where the learning is not error-driven.

0:05:07.3 DC: Right.

0:05:07.5 Junior: Because the entire premise is that we make mistakes, we correct the mistakes, we make more mistakes, we correct more. The visual that most connects with me is, a child learning to walk. The child doesn't just understand one day conceptually that they can stand up on their two legs and start moving.

0:05:27.0 DC: Right.

0:05:27.5 Junior: It's error-driven over and over and over and over and over again. And then the other angle that I really love is that, no one ever looks at the toddler who's trying to walk and says like, "That's enough trying, right? You might just be a perpetual crawler for the rest of your life. We're just gonna allow you to stay there." Right? So learning is error-driven. What do you think about that? 

0:05:52.3 DC: Well, I think that's absolutely true, but I think there's a little bit of confusion that comes into this. Because, for example, I was working with a large multinational organization the other day, and they have a tag line, they have kind of a mantra that they use internally that says, "right the first time, right the first time." Well, hang on, doesn't that fly in the face of what you just said, Junior, that learning is error-driven, how can you be right the first time? What we don't see behind the scenes is that what they really mean is that after we've made all the mistakes in a development environment, in an experimental environment, then we take it over to an execution operating environment, we've already made... We've made the mistakes, we've learned what we need to do. And there is a point at which you go from, well, I guess you could frame it also as innovation to execution, but you're out of the development environment, right? And you're going live, it's prime time and you've gotta be ready to do it right. That makes sense too, but I think people get mixed up and they don't understand what that means. So right the first time, well, how can that possibly be? It presupposes that we've been through the arduous journey of figuring something out and learning through the mistakes. Is that correct Junior? Would you... Do you have a different take on that? 

0:07:20.6 Junior: It's a really appropriate distinction, and some people might listen to what we're saying and that assumption that learning is error-driven and say, "Well, you don't understand my environment, right?"

0:07:29.4 DC: Yeah.

0:07:29.6 Junior: It's a healthcare environment, it's a defense environment, it's some other high stakes, low margin for error environment, we get that, we understand performance environments just about as well as anyone. We work in some of the highest accountability environments that exist.

0:07:48.6 DC: We do.

0:07:48.7 Junior: And there are times where we know we must get it right.

0:07:52.3 DC: We work in the... Well, Junior, let's just talk about it, we work in the nuclear industry, we work in the pharmaceutical industry, we work in the healthcare industry, we work in heavy manufacturing and high hazard industries, we work across all of these industries where a mistake is, could be catastrophic. But let's not kid ourselves and think that we don't have to go through this process, we have to go through it all the more to really dial in the right way to do something, that's what we have to do, right? If you're flying a jet fighter, you have to go through all of the training and all of the simulation, so there's no shortcut here, we just have to understand that we have a development environment or a controlled environment or a learned environment before we take it into the wild and we do it for real.

0:08:50.1 Junior: Yeah. Like I said, I think it's a very appropriate distinction, and where I think the failure pattern often lies is we assume that we're always in a performance environment or maybe we just do it unwittingly. And that's where we start to get some of the damage that can come from some of those mantras of do it right the first time, or we don't make mistakes, or whatever the case may be.

0:09:16.8 DC: Right.

0:09:17.3 Junior: Because while that may be true in a performance environment, if we never move away from the performance environment mindset to the development environment mindset, that's where I think we start to get some problems and we'll talk about that. So there's a Chinese proverb that I really like, the only person who is always right is the one who doesn't say anything. And so if in a performance environment the organization values only being right the first time, the second time, the seventh time, then the only way to be right is to say nothing to... When what does that mean? It could mean that we don't report our mistakes.

0:10:00.2 DC: Right.

0:10:00.4 Junior: It could be that we actually literally don't say anything and we just stay literally quiet, and it could mean a number of those things, that's the only way to always be right.

0:10:11.9 DC: Yeah.

0:10:12.3 Junior: And how damaging can that be, the consequences I think are fairly obvious. So if the environment only values being right all of the time, regardless of development or performance environment, we're gonna have a really hard time learning anything.

0:10:26.9 DC: Well, Junior, let's just think about what it means when you don't say anything. In the context of the four stages of psychological safety, if you don't say anything, you're not being yourself, you're not learning, you're not contributing and you're not challenging the status quo to innovate. You're not doing any of those things. So think about that, think about the consequences of that.

0:10:48.9 Junior: Yeah, the organization may say, depending on what it values that you're doing great, right? 

0:10:54.0 DC: Right.

0:10:54.5 Junior: If we haven't seen any mistakes come from you yet, right? 

0:10:57.5 DC: Right. [chuckle]

0:10:57.7 Junior: From you or from your team and so that becomes this vicious cycle of being rewarded for not being wrong, not necessarily being right through some effort and some error.

0:11:10.1 DC: And that reminds me of the, kind of the inverse of the conventional wisdom that says, if you're not making mistakes you're not trying hard enough.

0:11:17.9 Junior: Yeah. So there's this relationship between the thinking brain and the feeling brain that we probably should talk about, because I think that lies at the heart of a lot of what we're discussing today. So maybe you could help us understand, Tim, a little bit of that relationship, what bridges those two, are they connected? If so, how much and why does it matter? 

0:11:41.9 DC: Right. There was an entire research literature devoted to this that helps us understand that in the learning process, as you said, the thinking brain and the feeling brain are connected. Learning is both intellectual and emotional, we're not simply rational processing creatures, we are, to use Daniel Kahneman's phrase, we're thinking beings or we're not thinking beings who feel, we are feeling beings who think. So the environment in which we learn has a profound impact on both our willingness and ability to learn, that's what we're talking about here, the profound impact of the environment, the atmosphere, the culture, the climate in which we are learning.

0:12:27.5 Junior: There's another distinction that I think is appropriate to make about the two domains of learning, we could call them, and it's not a distinction that we often make, especially in professional settings. Learner safety encompasses creating a culture of rewarded vulnerability across two places. The first is formal learning environments, and that's usually where people's minds go. We say, "Well, it needs to be safe to learn, you need to give opportunities for learning, people need to be rewarded in that." And so they think formal learning environments, classroom, training auditorium, library, and they think, "Well, in order for us to have more learner safety, let's just enroll the team in some courses, let's get them more tickets to conferences." And while that can be helpful, there's another and a much more common domain which is the informal learning environment. So these are everywhere, all day, every day.

0:13:22.4 DC: Every day.

0:13:23.4 Junior: It's probably 10 to 1, 99 to 1, it's probably closer to that. These informal learning environments is where most of the learning happens, especially as adult learners, right? Earlier in life, there's more formality, there's more structure, there's more accountability and then we move into this informal learning environment most of the time, where a lot of those things are now gone. There's not the accountability mechanism for learning, like there is for ratings and grades. We don't have the formality of a classroom, we're not sitting at a desk with someone at the front of the room, we're not in there eight hours a day. Instead, we're supposed to be performing, we're supposed to be doing work, but that learning is supposed to happen in tandem, but it's going to be informal. So what's the goal as it relates to learning? Why are we talking about this? It's important to achieve learning agility, that's what we're after, that's the goal, at an institutional level, at an individual level and we need to be able to learn at or above the speed of change. And we've talked about this in several episodes over time, if learning agility is less than the speed of change, we fall behind, we become stagnant and we become irrelevant. Conversely, if we can learn above the speed of change, now all of a sudden the world is our oyster, we can innovate, we can move forward, we can push a category to a place that it's never been before, we can become more efficient.

0:15:03.1 Junior: Even operationally, right? You could be doing the same set of activities and just become better at them and more efficient. So that's what we wanna do is increase learning agility at the individual level and the group level.

0:15:14.8 DC: Right, Junior, so let's summarize the connection between learning agility and stage two learner safety, given the fact that 99, probably 99.9% of the time you're in an informal learning environment. I mean, think about it. How many hours a year if you're a working professional, do you spend in a structured formal learning environment, let's say that your work year is 2040 hours, I know that's the metric that we used to use in years past. Out of that, those 2040 hours in the year, how many hours are spent in a classroom, or in a MOOC session or in a webinar or whatever that structured learning environment or opportunity might be? For most of us, it's 1% or less. So what we're saying is that that learner safety applies 99% of the time to the informal learning environment, and that's where we need to be able to demonstrate learning agility. So that informal learning environment is always there, it never turns off, it never goes away, the only question is, is it fostering, is it nurturing stage two learner safety so that you can take advantage of that. And then are you willing, personally are you willing and motivated to take advantage of that. Right, Junior, because another thing that we've said in the past is that, the biggest obstacle to learning today is not access for most people, but it's motivation. Now for some people, it's still access we understand that, but for millions and millions of people, that's not the case anymore.

0:17:03.6 DC: The biggest single obstacle, it's not access, it's motivation. Are you motivated? Are you able and are you willing to go learn? 

0:17:11.8 Junior: Yeah. Yeah, when I said 10 to 1, or 99 to 1, the ratio is actually much more stark, isn't it? 

0:17:19.0 DC: Yeah, it is.

0:17:19.3 Junior: It's probably 999 to 1, say, you got two to three hours of formal learning a year, which is not uncommon for a lot of professionals.

0:17:27.3 DC: Right.

0:17:27.5 Junior: Right, especially in these big, large multinationals. You look at the frontline workforce and how many dedicated hours of formal training do they get, that are not just, well, learning the regulations and getting back up to speed on the process, actual development, oof, it's very, very close to zero.

0:17:48.3 DC: That's right.

0:17:48.5 Junior: So let's talk about the default scenario, let's talk about most of what we see when we encounter a new team, a new organization, geography, department. An environment of high learner safety is not the default, it's not the default. We talked about the social exchange a few episodes back in stage two, encouragement to learn in exchange for engagement to learn, that encouragement to learn is not often there. And the default from what I see most of the time, and Tim, I'm interested in your experience, is that organizations translate that performance environment mindset into every aspect of the business all the time. We're always performing, there's not this distinction, well, okay, now we're learning, now we're developing, it's, we don't want mistakes ever. And so that translates into low learner safety, low encouragement to learn. What do you see? 

0:18:47.0 DC: No, I think that's true. You can't compartmentalize that. There's no line of demarcation. And so if you have learner safety, then you are confident in learning, you're willing to engage in learning, you're willing to jump in, you're willing to go for it, you're eager to learn and grow and develop mastery, right? Which is that deep, not somewhere, but everywhere. So it bleeds into pretty much everything, except the difference is that as you move from micro-culture to micro-culture, some micro-cultures are much more nurturing of learner safety, and you can step out of a toxic environment into a nurturing environment and you can feel that difference and sometimes people will, behaviorally, they'll shift as they cross the line into a different micro-culture that nurtures their stage two, learner safety.

0:19:42.9 DC: So we do have to acknowledge that people are very attentive and responsive to the environment. They respond to it, if the stimuli change in a pretty material way, as it relates to learning, then chances are they will change their response patterns as well. Yeah.

0:20:05.8 Junior: So that's the set up, that stage two, learner safety. Why is this important? Why is this a discussion that we're having today? Now we're going to get into three behaviors that each of us can do to improve learner safety in the organization in our intact team, and also at the personal level. These are behaviors that will help learner safety, and also there's this angle that's really interesting that I was thinking about yesterday in preparation for today, that we're talking about behave until you believe. Right? That's the series. And so there's an outcome that if you implement these three behaviors, it's very likely that you will generate enough confirming evidence to move past the threshold of conviction and believe that these are truly important behaviors and that learner safety is an important thing for you to think about.

0:21:00.3 DC: Yeah.

0:21:00.7 Junior: So if you've made it this far into the episode, I still don't know. I don't know if learner safety is for me. Our invitation would be to go implement these three behaviors, do them for the next week or two, and then take inventory, see what happens, see what you think after the fact.

0:21:16.2 DC: Well, and I would say too Junior, take a hard look in the behavioral guide at stage two, learner safety and all of the behaviors that are there, because some of those may hit you really hard and you may realize that you're running a deficit, you're really not modeling that behavior, and it has a big impact on the level of learner safety for those around you. So I would take personal inventory and go through those behaviors, so we're gonna, as you say, Junior, we're gonna pull out three that really make a difference today.

0:21:47.7 Junior: Yep. And I've taken some liberty in modifying a couple of these that probably will go into behavioral guide 3.0 whenever that happens, but if you haven't checked out the most recent version, go do that. It's really, really good. So the first one is, share what you're learning, share what you're learning. These are very simple. They're very straightforward. Why would we pick, share what you're learning? Because the underlying theme is an acknowledgement of your ignorance, and that goes so far with people when they see you say in essence, "Hey, I don't know everything." If you look at the average leader, what position do they most often take? I do know everything. Right, and it's not often not explicit, but it's implicit through the way that they ask questions or don't ask questions, answer questions, and so that acknowledgement of ignorance, I think goes so far for people.

0:22:48.9 Junior: You're helping others see that there's distance and that you acknowledge that distance between where you are today and what you know today, and what you could know and where you could be in the future. They're not the same thing, and the farther you can pull those apart while still making sure that you're competent and that other people think so too, the better. What do you think about this one, Tim? 

0:23:12.8 DC: Well, I think that's right, because what you're doing is you're disavowing the leader as expert model, to some extent. That doesn't mean that you're not an expert in your area, you well could be, but the expert model is an arrogant model, it's a model that assumes that you really always have the answers and that you're the repository of all the information and knowledge and experience and competency that everybody else needs, and that's just not true. So you may be an expert in certain areas, but there are always gaps, things are always changing, you're in a dynamic environment, and so let's kinda clear the decks of this leader as expert model, which we already know, everybody already knows that that's an illusion. And so it's refreshing when you finally, as the leader, you finally acknowledge it, we all breathe a sigh of relief and we say, Well, we already knew that, but thanks for acknowledging that?"

0:24:15.7 DC: So finally, now we can create a much more comfortable learning environment for all of us, because when you share something that you learn, that's an acknowledgement that you didn't know it before. And we all look at each other and say, Wow, that's fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. I think I can do the same thing. And so then what does that do? It catalyzes and it stimulates learning transfer, right? We all become both teachers and students, and it doesn't matter what your title or position or authority are, we're all helping each other, we're all both teaching and we're both learning. That's what it does.

0:24:56.9 Junior: Yeah, there's an angle to this that I wanna get into, which is that for the average person, the learning mindset that they have professionally is probably also the learning mindset they have personally, and those two things, there's this permeable membrane between personal and professional life that I think a lot about. And being a lifelong learner is not something that is just a professional thing.

0:25:25.4 DC: No.

0:25:26.0 Junior: It's not that all, only in my industry and in my area of expertise, in my domain, I'm gonna become just a little bit more professionally knowledgeable, right? That's important, but how do you approach learning in a more general sense? How do you approach learning outside the office? 

0:25:43.3 Junior: So I've seen some examples recently that have been really interesting to me, one of them is our CTO, who I meet with pretty frequently, seems to always be telling me these things that he's learning, and one of them like the other day, we started talking about 3D printing, and he tells me about this new filament type that he's using and what it's good for, and where you might use it, and then a few days later, he comes with a steam engine model, he's like, Hey, I learned this new thing about this engine type, and then, Hey, I've been using mid-journey, and I created this art work for this book that I might wanna work on, and I'm learning how to use it, and he shows me. It's amazing and it's contagious, and you can just see that his whole orientation is to go and learn and develop and become better.

0:26:39.2 Junior: And that is just, it's such a neat example to me because I see that, I'm like, Wow, one, I get to benefit because it's interesting and it's so fun to be able to talk about, and then I feel like, Oh, I can share what I'm learning, and collectively we're just sharing all of these really interesting things, and that translates into our work, we're less hesitant to say, Hey, I found out this new thing that could be relevant here, we can improve it this way, and just that whole orientation, I think, is so, so, so important.

0:27:13.4 DC: Yeah, it's true though, isn't it? Ryan is a learner. Let me give you another similar experience with our Chief Marketing Officer, Freddy. So I was on a call with him just the other day with a client, and we are using a new technology platform for an event, and they're teaching us how to use it, right? So Freddy and I are on the call with this partner. By the end of the call, I think Freddy, he was just learning how to use this platform real-time as we were on the call, I think by the end of the call, he understood the platform better than the partner did. And that's what they do for a living. It was pretty incredible. He was just moving throughout the features and the functionality, and just at lightning speed, and by the end, he was telling the partner, well, actually you can do this or you can do that, and I was just blown away. That's an example of a learning mindset, a life-long learning disposition. Right? There's another example.

0:28:24.1 Junior: Yeah. Well, it's a really good example, and I think that one of the things you have to get over at the individual level, and one thing you need to optimize for the collective level is this lack of fear or hesitation about pushing buttons and flipping switches. You mentioned that...

0:28:40.1 DC: Yeah, I've heard you say that before.

0:28:43.3 Junior: To Freddy.

0:28:43.6 DC: To me.

0:28:44.0 Junior: Yeah, part of it is a generational thing, at least technologically, and I've seen some research about this, where generationally, depending on when you were born, you'll be more or less inclined to click a digital button on the screen 'cause you're afraid of what it might do and the more recently you were born, the more likely you are to just click the button and see...

0:29:09.8 DC: Click that button.

0:29:10.2 Junior: What happens because you understand, at least in today's day and age, nothing catastrophic is very likely to happen, whereas 30 years ago, you use a computer and you click the wrong button and the whole thing's gone. Right? 

0:29:23.2 DC: Yeah. Well, I think you said to me once, Junior, yeah, just click the button. It's not going to explode.

[laughter]

0:29:28.2 Junior: Yeah. Yeah, and there are all of these proverbial buttons or metaphorical buttons rather in life that, just click the thing, right? Now again, high stakes environment, you gotta be careful about which buttons you're pushing.

0:29:43.7 DC: Sure, sure. We're in a development environment. Right? Okay.

0:29:45.3 Junior: Yeah, but push it a little bit, right? 

0:29:48.2 DC: You gotta push it.

0:29:49.6 Junior: Push it a little bit, and then what does the environment do in response to that. That's really the question because what is psychological safety? It's a culture of rewarded vulnerability. Pressing a metaphorical button can be an active vulnerability. It almost always is. How much risk is associated with that pushing of the button depends on the environment, it depends mostly on the leaders average historical response to when people have pushed buttons in the past. Right? 

0:30:19.2 DC: That's right.

0:30:19.7 Junior: That's what people are looking at, like, I don't think I should do this because I've seen what happens when so and so did it last week or last year, and pretty soon, no one's venturing out, right? They're not. And so, bringing us all the way back, share what you're learning, this is especially powerful as a leader, and not just what you're learning professionally, but what you're learning personally. What did you learn about the cumulus cloud yesterday that you thought was super cool or a new way to make carbonara that's like mind blowing. Right? Share those things with the team, it helps us so much and it will generate confirming evidence that it's a good idea, and people will start to engage in that, and it will continue. Tim, any last final thoughts about this one? 

0:31:03.8 DC: No, I think it's just absolutely the case. I remember in graduate school, I used an old Macintosh computer and I pushed the wrong button as I was finishing a research paper that I had to submit that day, and I lost the whole thing. And so we... So based on some of those traumatic experiences, so I was then up the entire night to reproduce that research paper and then turn it in the next morning. So there's some period effects from some trauma.

0:31:35.1 Junior: Exactly.

0:31:36.0 DC: So I'm a little more hesitant, but I need to push buttons.

0:31:37.9 Junior: Now you ask, people are like, Well, what's gonna happen? Well, nothing. It's in the cloud, right? 

0:31:44.1 DC: Right.

0:31:44.6 Junior: What's the cloud? I don't know. But it's out there. It's okay.

0:31:47.7 DC: That's right. [laughter] That's exactly right.

0:31:48.0 Junior: Okay. Number two, take notes, take notes. This is one of my favorite, your mind is not a...

0:31:55.5 DC: That's it, Junior, take notes? 

0:31:56.5 Junior: That is it, take notes? 

0:31:58.1 DC: That's profound.

0:32:00.0 Junior: It is, it really is. I'll explain why. Taking notes is a physical manifestation of your intent to learn, your intent to retain and your intent to improve, and that physical manifestation is really important because what can people see of a non-physical learning motivation, nothing. Nothing, right? You're like, you may be sitting in a room keyed in to what's going on, absolutely just bent on learning. Or you may be in the same physical position and be thinking about something completely different. No one's the wiser. Right? No one knows.

0:32:40.9 DC: And no one knows. Yeah, no one knows what you're doing or thinking about.

0:32:45.0 Junior: So just think about this visual, there are 10 people in a room, let's say you're leading a meeting and only one person is taking notes, who do you think's getting the most out of that meeting, the note-taker, and who do I think you think is getting the most out of that meeting. The note-taker.

0:33:02.5 DC: The note-taker. Yeah.

0:33:03.4 Junior: Right? And so I think about this in my personal experience, and this is really interesting on several levels. You're probably going to learn more simply because you are taking notes, right, if you're the one that's taking the notes, it's likely that your retention will be better, we know that. You have a history. You can go back, you can look at it. But then what does that do communally? What does that do to the environment? That's contagious. I've seen this happen where someone's taking notes and the person next to him looks over, they see they're scribbling away or typing away, they're like, Oh man, should I be taking notes? 

0:33:41.7 Junior: And maybe they start to take notes and maybe that becomes a norm. Now, when I say take notes, here's an interesting thing. Because we're talking a little bit about the environmental influence that you're having, consider taking notes on paper, because now, if you see somebody typing away right in the corner of the room, you're like, Oh, they're on Slack, they're doing an email or whatever, you don't know, but if you see a person with a pen taking notes on paper, right? You're probably...

0:34:10.6 DC: You're not checking email.

0:34:12.1 Junior: You're not checking email, right? 

0:34:13.7 DC: You're not on social media.

0:34:14.2 Junior: No, and you can see that learning going on, and so think about what this does, especially if you're in a position of authority, right? Let's say you're a bit up the hierarchy, you're a leader and you're in a big meeting, what effect do you think taking notes would have on the environment, on everyone else there? Oh, he's taking notes, right? Or she's taking notes over there and she, if anyone doesn't need to be taking notes, is probably that person, but look, they are. So what does that mean for me? Means that I should probably be learning too, and so something as simple as that, I think, has far-reaching effect.

0:34:55.4 DC: Junior, I was in a meeting just the other day with another client organization, and throughout the meeting, the CEO is taking copious notes, it was very clear that everybody was aware of that and was glancing at him from time to time. That was so clear. That was public behavior, it was scalable influence. And I was watching that happen. So there's a case in point.

0:35:24.8 Junior: I love it. So Tim, tell me about this sequence that you've talked about, compression absorption application.

0:35:32.3 DC: Sure. In the learning process, humans are not very good at assimilating information, we cannot absorb massive amounts of data at the same time, so in the learning process, we usually run through a sequence of compression first before absorption, and then finally application. And so if you think about this sequence as part of the learning process, note-taking is what? What are you doing? You're synthesizing, you're distilling what you're hearing and what you're seeing, so this is a step of compression that precedes absorption, and for most of us, we need some type of compression step before we move to absorption. So it's not just powerful for the sake of social influence and impact, but it's also part of the process by which we compress and then absorb.

0:36:36.9 Junior: Part of the angle that we're taking in this series, Behave until you believe, is that we need to generate confirming evidence, and I generated some confirming evidence for myself just a few weeks ago, had the opportunity to go into a formal learning environment and participate in a workshop, and I took physical notes. So I have a small leather bound notebook that I like to use, and I pulled that out, I had a pen, and here's what happened, I didn't even intend for it to happen this way on the front end, but it ended up working really nicely. I took the physical notes. Now, what's interesting here is that this aids in compression because you can't write quickly. You can type fast, you can't write fast, so it forces the compression even more. Then what I did is I took my physical notes after the fact, a day or two later, I'm like, I wanna hang on to these, and so digital is better for hanging on to, right? You can search stuff, you can do all of that. So I took them from the physical notebook and typed in into, we use Notion, and put that in Notion, and was able to then go back through the information, re-live what were, in my opinion, the most important pieces of the workshop, which I had written down.

0:37:56.2 DC: Yeah.

0:37:57.0 Junior: And helped with that absorption process, and then moved into application and there were some practical things that we could go apply from that workshop that we did. And so to me, after that, I had this confirming evidence, it's like, Hey, you know what? Note-taking is a good idea. So am I more or less likely to take notes the next time I'm in a similar environment? I'm more likely to do that. I've moved past the threshold of conviction, and now no one told me to take notes on the front end, but if they had, and they said, Hey, it would have worked the same way. I would have been able to go through the same process and say, Hey, this is a good idea. Now, in note-taking, I moved through that threshold of conviction a long time ago. In formal education, because, Hey, you gotta take notes, you got to take notes, take notes, and after that, it's been something that I benefited from tremendously ever since.

0:38:50.5 DC: Great example, Junior. And by the way, you should also mention that you came back and you debrief the team.

0:38:57.4 Junior: Yeah, yeah, shout out Cujo Teschner. Debrief to win. That's awesome. Okay, number three, identify and share what you unlearn.

0:39:05.1 DC: What you unlearn.

0:39:07.9 Junior: So this is different from the first one, share what you're learning, identify and share what you unlearn. Now, this was so important and different enough from the first that we decided that it needed its own, and so that's why it's here, and I've heard a lot of quotes along these lines, but here's the gist of a quote that I really love, knowledge is learning things, Wisdom is unlearning things. I've been trying to unpack this for a long time, knowledge is learning things, Wisdom is unlearning things. What does this mean? To me, the way that it makes sense to me is that knowledge is accumulation and wisdom is reduction, so how do you become truly wise, how do you get the best leverage? You unlearn a whole bunch of stuff because you've accumulated, you've tried things and you've gone out there, you've got this big amount of stuff you're trying to do and trying to understand. And over time you start to see, Oh, that's not important. Oh, okay. Actually, that's not true. And then you end up with this reduction, the synthesis, the essence of something. And that's where the wisdom comes. And that's where the leverage lies.

0:40:21.8 DC: I love this Junior. This is a difficult process. It requires a lot of mental energy and effort to go through your store, your stock of knowledge on something, synthesize it, distill it out, reduce it and say, Okay, what really works? What do I need to hang on to? What doesn't, because the process involves challenging assumptions maybe up-ending conventional wisdom, challenging the status quo of the things that you've learned, so you're exercising... You're challenging the status quo within yourself based on your own experience, and you're coming to some new conclusions, and so this requires some moral courage as well, Junior, because you may have to walk something back, you may have to change your mind, you have to be prepared to be wrong. Are you willing to do that? That's not easy for most people. So think about what it entails to be able to identify and then share. Those are two different things. They're related, but identify and then share what you unlearn, that means that you've undergone a personal transformation or at least some kind of realization or epiphany to get you to that point. It means that you've been challenging yourself, you've been disrupting yourself, you've been up-ending yourself and you've come to a new conclusion, it takes moral courage, and then you're going to share that? 

0:41:58.9 DC: Well, think about the risk associated with sharing something that you've unlearned. You may think to yourself, Well, I'm risking losing my own credibility, my own stature, my own reputation, what are people gonna think about me? I've changed my mind. I'm walking something back. I was wrong. I've learned a better way to do something. So there are risks associated with doing this, both step one and step two in this process, but when you do it, wow, talk about powerful and talk about empowering and enabling your colleagues, right? 

0:42:36.1 Junior: Think about how infrequently you probably see people do this. That is evidence of how hard it is, you don't see a lot of people doing this, especially in positions of power and influence, authority, you rarely see people change their minds. If you do see them change their minds, it's because of something, some extenuating circumstance like, oh, I was oblivious to this really important piece of information, it was someone else's fault, now I have it and I change my mind. That's how it often goes. So what if you could do it differently? What might that look like? And what effect might it have. Hey, I saw the report that you sent over yesterday, and I know we had discussed that issue at great lengths and I was really strong about the direction I wanted to go, but now I see this a little bit differently. I've been wrestling with it and I think you're right. In fact, I'm convinced you're right. So thank you for sending that over. I appreciate the new information, and I'd like to move forward with your point of view and see what we can do, right? 

0:43:52.7 Junior: How far does that go? It goes really far for people because you're saying, Hey, look, once again, it's an admission of ignorance. I don't know everything. There are some things out there that if I knew I would change my mind. Right? There might be some data out there, there might be some perspective, there might be an opinion from someone, and all of that is reasonable grounds to change your mind. Now, you have to be careful with this and you wanna do appropriate due diligence on the front end before you give an opinion, but it's okay to get new information, to change your mind, it's okay to change your mind with existing information, you may not even get anything new, you just may think about it a little bit longer and decide that you were wrong. But our tendency is to double down. To dial in the hill.

0:44:44.7 DC: That's right.

0:44:44.8 Junior: And I've seen this in myself many times before, where I took a pretty strong point of view, and so, it may not look good if I turn, so I better just stay right here and stick to my guns, even though I'm not entirely sure that that's the best thing to do.

0:45:07.4 DC: That's exactly right. So it is a moral capacity to identify and share what you unlearn, but when you do it, it's very powerful, and then when it becomes a pattern or a habit at an individual level, it becomes an accelerator to your own learning and an accelerator in generating stage two learner safety for those around you.

0:45:32.5 Junior: Yeah. Just to be even more explicit, there's a way not to do this, there are several ways not to do this. One of them is to be disingenuous about it and pretend like you knew the whole time and that... No, actually, that's what I was thinking too. Oh yeah, right. No, people see through that in two seconds and you just look stupid, so just own it and square up to it.

0:46:01.3 DC: Be genuine, be sincere.

0:46:04.6 Junior: Yeah. Hey, you know what, I changed my mind. I changed my mind. And if you publicly change your mind and you own that, I think that your team will be more likely to do the same thing and maybe in the future, it will be in your favor because they're willing to acknowledge, Hey, your point of view, and maybe they think that that's the right way to go. And they'll be less humiliated, they'll see it as less risky if you've done it before.

0:46:30.7 DC: Well, they're gonna be more willing to approach you and challenge you because you've demonstrated the ability to do this, you have the humility to do it, and the moral courage to do it, so think about what that opens up for the team because you've demonstrated a real openness, right? Yeah.

0:46:57.8 Junior: Yeah. Okay, so those are the three. So to summarize where we've been today, I think we've had a good conversation, learning and growing is a fundamental human needs, we all have it. And in order to learn effectively ourselves at a personal level, and in order to help others learn effectively, we need to create an environment in which learning is valued, in which life-long learning is valued, both personal and professional. An environment where we can make mistakes, an environment in which each individual takes responsibility for their own learning, and yet that learning is encouraged by the group. So there are three ways to do this, share what you're learning, take notes, identify and share what you unlearn. If you do those three things over the next coming... Over the coming days, over the coming weeks, I'm convinced that you will generate confirming evidence that says that those three things are good in isolation for you and your learning and that it will affect the group and that you'll be able to increase your collective learner safety. Tim, final thoughts.

0:48:04.9 DC: No, I would just underscore what you just said, it's going to send out a ripple effect throughout the team, and you will shift the prevailing norm on your team when it comes to learning. Yeah.

0:48:17.5 Junior: Alright. Thank you everyone for your attention, we appreciate your listenership and hope that today's content was valuable. Thank you for all you do. If you found value in today's episode, please like the episode, leave us a review, and if you haven't already, share it with someone you think might find it valuable. Take care everyone. We'll see you next episode. Bye-bye.

0:48:43.9 Freddy: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at leaderfactor.com/podcast, and if you found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share it with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about leader factor and what we do, then please visit us at leaderfactor.com. Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at info@leaderfactor.com or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design not by default.

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

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