Back to School
Throughout my career, I have found that effective team dynamics trump individual performance when it comes to delivering great products. While heroic efforts may get the job done and can be the stuff of lore, the damage to relationships and corporate risk with such an approach are not sustainable. That stated, there is one area where personal focus is imperative: learning.
There are a few certainties about knowledge. One is that nobody knows everything they need to know: we need to be open to discovery of new ideas. Another is that any team will have more knowledge and experience than any individual on that team: we are better served to work together to solve problems. A third is that the body of knowledge within any domain is incomplete: some of the things we assume to be correct today will be discredited with better understanding. There is, and always will be, room to grow. Arguably, if you know these, you have some wisdom.
Let’s look at these from the outside in.
There is danger in taking any current body of knowledge as gospel, particularly in light of evidence to the contrary. While being able to recite line and verse may be a prerequisite to passing an exam based on any body of work, this is a far cry from being able to resolve any issues that you might confront in the real world. There will continue to be advances in knowledge and techniques in any domain, and problems that appear difficult (or are stated as unsolvable) today may yield to innovative approaches in the future. Remember that the masses believed the earth was flat in the past, and new ideas are often laughed at as heresy. What ‘givens’ that you are working under today will prove to be wrong in the future?
In many domains, there is a constant search for ‘the expert’ to resolve challenges on projects. Consultants will come in with the message that they have the right approach, Individuals all have their preferred way of doing things (based on what worked for them in the past), and we often run into the “not invented here” syndrome as someone new looks at a body of work. Working together, sharing ideas and appreciating the perspectives of others, is critical for sustainable success. The more complex the problem at hand, the more different perspectives are necessary to see the complete picture, and this is a burden best shared by the group. What unique insights can someone else bring to your challenges today?
There is the adage that you learn something new every day. I’m heading back into the classroom this week as facilitator in a certificate program on project management, and I have no doubts that I will gain different insights into areas that I have been designated as a professional in. I have no illusions that certification, graduation or any other form of qualification means that I should stop learning. Indeed, with a goal of trying to understand the subtle nuances of a problem that I may have turned over dozens of time in the past, I continue to pick up new ideas. I don’t need to be a student: with an attitude that any interaction can provide new insights, even a role in the front of the class affords me great opportunities to learn.
School is always in session around here. – JB