Learning or competence building is a cyclical process. All of us go through it and almost all of the time.
Where does it begin?
Let me explain using the example of ‘cycling’ as a competence. When we are born or in early childhood, we wouldn’t be aware that there is something like a ‘cycling competency’. This stage is called the unconscious incompetence, where there exists a competency and I am not aware of it either. Once we grow enough to see the world around us and learn more about it, we find people cycling around. That’s when we realize or become ‘conscious’ about the competency of cycling, however in this stage we are not having the competence yet to cycle ourselves. This stage is our conscious incompetence stage. Once we are through this stage and decide to acquire the necessary skill sets or know how we go about learning the process of cycling and start to do it ourselves. You might have felt or observed, we are however very conscious of the way we are holding the handlebars , the time to up-shift or downshift a gear and very tight in the way we ride our bicycle. This stage is what I call the conscious competence stage. Here we have the necessary competence but are tentative.
When we have done it over and over again for many days and months, it becomes part of our sub-conscious or natural. We just pick up our bicycle and start pedaling away as if it is an extension of our body. In this stage you are so conditioned to the act that you are not really conscious about the how, and might be thinking of several other things in your mind. You still take the right turn, avoid obstacles without really concentrating much. This stage is our unconscious competence.
Therefore its important to understand that when ever we take up a new skill or competence it goes through the whole cycle of learning up until it reaches the last stage. Mind you it is cyclical as well. Maybe after you see a circus artist perform some stunts on his bicycle, you will again reach a stage of conscious competence and then if you so decide go through the entire process once again.
I always therefore tell my students to not expect miracles at the end of a course. It takes time and the cycle of learning to reach a state of unconscious competence.
So keep pedaling !
As with today’s education system, most of organizational learning seems to be designed to buttress the existing order or what we call as normal. There are pre-defined conditions and templates which are called ‘expectations’ and ‘norms’ and the educationists seem to channelize the student towards those norms. All the while calling it a workshop where you can reflect and learn by experience.
While this approach helps in maintaining a social order replete with high levels of repetition and redundancy, the question we need to ask is “Is the normal good enough to ring in new discoveries; new ways of thinking; a lateral approach?
Nah! Most of the learning systems have an agenda to condition the subjects a.k.a students to norms and condition them to day-in and day-out perform actions which will ensure a pre-defined goal. The irony is; all the while the stated expectations is to enable a paradigm shift (a much abused term in corporate circles).
I’ve observed this forced approach when I interacted with organizational leaders while designing a program, even on a topic like ‘Creative Thinking and Problem solving’. They seem to drive the agenda and want creativity in their employees as they perceive or want it to be. Isn’t it ridiculous? At times the sponsors remain present in such programs and keep a close watch on the proceedings so that their agenda is achieved. The problem is that the employee or the student is not naïve as they believe and can easily see through that they are being driven towards meeting a particular social or organizational agenda.
This is the reason why they resist external interventions or help from experts and have internal learning and development departments which help them control the process of education.
The problem with such an approach is that the whole learning and development or educational system loses credibility. The student senses and calls out the ‘hypocrisy’. Sadly, people end up being conditioned as machines whose assembly line approach to life doesn’t greatly contribute to quantum growth. So much so that even organizational culture and values are created to buttress the existing order or the normal.
The fact is that quantum leaps have always happened when you steer clear of the ‘normal’.
Is your organizational learning buttressing the existing order? Can it provide you with a platform for quantum growth?