So, what is the best way for an organisation to learn? Frankly it beats me. So many options. So many dead ends. The trouble with being an Entrepreneur is that so much is done ‘on the fly’ and often we’re making it up as we go along. Like an asthmatic – daily choking on a lack of oxygen, yet struggling to filter all the information that’s flying around. Particularly in this economy, there are so many uncertainties. So really what would I do?
My particular problems are multi-fold. Let’s begin at one beginning: Traditional education teaches us to pass exams, a right and a wrong way to do things. When we’ve learned these lessons or been crushed by them we’re set loose on the world to demonstrate our creative, energetic and dynamic ability to deliver results in the workplace. The workplace is really nothing like the classroom we’ve all spent hours of our lives in, it’s more like an ocean, beautiful and alluring, but constantly moving and responding to forces like the moon, beyond our control – as King Canute so readily found out.
This then leads me onto problem no. 2: The Entrepreneurial spirit needed at work requires nurturing. Nurturing isn’t something we’re tested on during SATs, GCSEs or any other of our multiple examinations. In addition, particularly us Brits, we are simply not taught to self-promote. Promotion is only allowed via the mechanism of academic results and under certain strict circumstances – no one likes a smart-alec. So then the skills we need to flourish entrepreneurially are by the necessity of our education system generally crushed out of us into homogenised conformity. We leave education either fully conversant with the skills required to regurgitate set texts, in a set marking format that will deliver us the A*s so necessary for a productive working life or with virtually nothing.
What then is a business – entrepreneurial in it’s many formats, to do? Perhaps it’s some lateral thinking. Some lateral action. Some lateral risk-taking? If we think about who we know who are good at doing the things that we don’t learn in school, they would be a) successful entrepreneurs, who can be difficult to find and even harder to harness; or b) those of the theatrical persuasion who have generally avoided the conformance of sincere exam taking and have spent their time interpreting and delivering other people’s ideas through repeated rehearsals and performance. Could, therefore, teaming up with the theatrical community provide the entrepreneurial bods with the self-promotion, lateral thinking and resilience so necessary for success and sustainability. These theatrical types seem to have an indomitable spirit of not getting down despite repeated rejections. This is also something that the entrepreneur really needs to get through everyday life.
In addition, what the theatrical community do is practice, interpret and find a role in the theatre. We as entrepreneurs try to do it all ourselves. We are the playwrights, directors, casting departments, marketers, costume designers and cast in our own plays. We are often our own worst enemies and are regularly told that we’re the ‘bottleneck’ to expansion as we have a tendency to do it all ourselves. Therefore, perhaps if we take a leaf out of the book of the theatrical community and look for how they practice and dissect a piece, we can learn to do the same for ourselves in our businesses. They spend time interpreting other peoples work – we spend our time interpreting our own work.
Could we learn a lot from them? I think so. They live for applause and the chance to interpret someone else’s work; we in the business community work for growth and glory. I’ve often thought that at the end of the day it would be wonderful to have a rousing round of applause for all the work I’ve done, instead of listening to the whining-down of my computer into shut-down and the deliberation of whether or not to wash my mug or leave it at a jaunty angle on my desk for the morning. Simply looking at my bank balance doesn’t give me that trembling feeling of pride a round of applause can.
Since we need to encourage growth to get us out of recession, rebuild our economy and sink deep roots into our national and regional psyche, I would suggest something anarchical – forget about striving for 100% on exams; aim to demonstrate assimilated knowledge by simply passing (surely that’s why there is a pass mark?) and adjust the focus from Trial and Success (Pass/Fail) to life’s true purpose, picking yourself up after the Trial and Error challenges which seem to tread on our coat tails daily.
A rousing round of applause for the person who’s been able to pick themselves up from the floor, or take action despite crippling fear of self-doubt. Recognising that the end result rarely reflects the sheer amount of effort and courage that goes into success would be a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the vast majority of people who will NEVER be top of the class – using the classical ratings system. Praising the small successes of everyday life – tidying the kitchen, when really it wasn’t your ‘turn’; turning into work when really you’d prefer to throw a sickie – all the way up to recognising that the biggest success of anyone’s life is to do a favour for someone who can never return that favour – these things and all opportunities in-between would free us from our national reticence to ‘give it a go’ and help us to build, quickly and effectively an economy rich with the diversity required for a healthy economic-ecosystem.
This approach then, could be an approach to Entrepreneurial Learning. Smashing down and crossing barriers, building allegiances and resilience in individuals to help them help their organisations learn entrepreneurially and to roll the learning out in a funner (as in more fun) more engaging manner; hooking along the way the many good people, brimming with good ideas to take themselves and their ideas forward.
Janet Green, DOC Solar & Electrical