A Celebration of Failure and the Epic Misconception of Teaching and Learning

November 6, 2008 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

stuart-meyer2In looking back upon my unlikely Gump-esque path to my present-day life, I recently paused in reflection taking into consideration the relationship between teaching and learning.  Beginning with our parents and formal education, the world attempts to teach us, mold us, warn us and protect us from the perilously alluring risks lurking around every corner as heavy doses of well-intentioned directional influence is administered to us as we attempt to write our own life’s prescription. 

As we move into our professional lives, the misconceived promise of management and the illusion of leadership hinges on the thought that all we have to do is somehow operate as social pharmacists prescribing the ideal visionary path for our staff teams to follow and we will all live happily and successfully ever after.     

Back in the real world, the truth is lessons cannot be taught, they can only be learned.  While teachings help us rationalize the world around us, only personal experience can truly transform our reasoning and reshape our behavior.  The implication for association executives is we must focus less on teaching and more on fostering learning. 

How do we do foster learning and how is it different than teaching?

Teaching assumes that all we have to do is dispense knowledge which results in learned changes in behavior.  But just because you teach somebody something utilizing your own knowledge and experience doesn’t mean anybody is learning anything.  Teaching may very well plant a partial seed of knowledge, but experience is the soil, sunlight and water in which learning grows.  What this means is the discipline of management and the art of leadership is a combination of timing, judgment, freedom, intervention and ongoing cultivation. 

In life, our best experiences are often a by-product of our worst experiences.  While success is undoubtedly a good feeling, it is a far less effective opportunity for learning than its distant cousin, failure.  Could it possibly be said that the road to failure just might be paved with the complacent bricks of success?  While success skews our self-perception, failure is the humanizing force which inspires transformational learning.   

For these reasons, I encourage you to consider the positive implications of failure and focus on skillful art of learning in not not only guiding and influencing the actions of your staff, but more importantly, inspiring their personal development.  After all, within every failure is a success just waiting to happen.  SM        



Entry filed under: Human Imperfection, Managing Change, Organizational Management, people.

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