I am a learner. Not saying I am a good learner…or even a quick learner. But I do learn eventually. I look to learn from what works well (most fun) and from what works not so well (most value). I like to get better and to grow. I dislike staying the same. I vehemently hate ever making the same mistake twice.
It matters not whether I am looking to learn at work or at home. The key is to learn. The good news is that we are all the same. We all learn from our own experiences. Not so well from someone else’s…but still.
It is inherently more complicated when we learn from someone else – learning being when we change our actions based on what someone else says. Not many of us just do what someone tells us to do – outside of the military we are just not good at taking orders. ‘Take this action because I am your boss’…‘or because I am your Dad’…nah – not so much.
And that is the mistake we make – whether consciously or subconsciously – we try to change outcomes by telling others what to do. Best case? Even if it works once it will only work again if we are able to tell someone what to do every time. There is no learning…only obedience.
This all came to mind yesterday. I had used my 5-year work anniversary gift to buy an exercise bike. It was sat there in a big heavy box. I was looking at it…thinking…planning. And there was my wife looking at me looking at the box. She was worrying.
I don’t realise of course…I was focused. And the she told me her story. Her story of watching me putting together anything that came in a flat pack box. How long it takes. How much I sweat…and swear! And how at the very end I always tell her that it only really worked when I started to just follow the instructions!
She was more subtle than that of course. She started by asking me how good the instructions were. What they suggested I needed, should do and where.
She knows me very well. And of course it worked. I set about following the assembly instructions to the letter. It was done and ready in minutes (maybe tens of minutes).
As I sat there pedalling I found myself thinking again (and sweating but not swearing) about how my wife had changed my actions based on her experience. I had learned from her. But she had not told me what to do. She had told me her story – the story of her experience.
And that was – as always – such a helpful set of learning. Both immediate value – exercise bike up and riding in record time; and future value – we can learn from each other very well if we share our stories. When we share our experiences and how our experiences changed what we believe and how they changed our actions.
The more engaging the story. The more amusing, impactful (and short) the stories we tell each other…the more the learning and the more the benefit.
And storytelling works just as well insides and outside of work. The stories tend to have to be punchier and more obviously relevant inside work. But storytelling works. And value and importance are bigger, important and impactful at times of change and challenge.
Times when we all want and need better decisions and outcomes…times when we can be tempted to act more unilaterally…times when we all need to learn more from each other.
Times for more stories