Friday, March 7

3 methods of learning for professional services firms 

By three methods may we learn wisdom: First by reflection,
which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third, by experience, which is bitterest.

-- Confucius

Let's examine these three methods a little more closely.

Learn by reflection: My friend and consulting colleague,
Michael Ray, believes that the question, "What should I
do?" is not really a question of action - it's a question
of information.

There's something else you need to find out: it could be
about yourself, your capabilities, your desires, your
goals, your resources, or your intention, but there's some
piece of information that is missing.

When you have all the information, you will know exactly
what to do.

The best way to access this information might be to take 10
steps back from the problem - zoom way, way out - and spend
some time on a mental "retreat." The retreat could be as
short as an hour, or as long as a week, or even more if you
have the time.

Take the time you need to really reexamine the situation
and your relationship to it. Look inward and explore your
intuition and your feelings. If you need more external
information, go find it - talk to people, do some research,
get out and about.

But always bring that information back and examine it
introspectively and holistically to put all the pieces of
the puzzle on the table.

Then, allow what you see and feel to help you decide what
to do.

Learn by imitation: Best practices are dead. So that's not
what I mean by imitation.

But if you see something that works in one company or
industry, see how that might apply in a cross-pollinating
way to your organization - and specifically to the business
challenge you're trying to acquire wisdom about solving.

For example, what can you learn from:

Southwest Airlines flies to a limited number of cities that
are profitable for them. They choose where they want to

AOL sends out countless millions of subscription CD's for
people to try their service firsthand.

Sony prides itself on the speed with which they can take a
new idea and prototype it in order to get feedback from
internal groups. Their average time to prototype: 5 days.

As composer Igor Stravinsky put it, "A good composer does
not imitate; he steals."

Learn by experience: People sometimes make the mistake of
assuming that learning by experience is the same as
learning from your mistakes. That's only part of it.

Perhaps more important is learning from your successes.
Look for what went right in the past; what successes were
easy, effortless, and enjoyable? What did you put into
motion that "just clicked" and turned out even better than
you expected?

It is these successes that are some of your most powerful
teachers in business.

I'm not suggesting that you try to replicate past successes
- you can't.

But you can replicate the conditions under which those
successes came to be. You can look back and recall the
tools, the skills, and the resources that you mobilized.
You can start to inventory your strengths, personal
preferences, and your own best ways of working.

And those things, if used intentionally and with clarity,
are much more likely to serve you well in the future.

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