Learning as a Way of Being
One of the advantages younger workers feel they have in the workplace is being teachable. If you master nothing else, master learning. Liz Wiseman says that getting on the learning curve is more important than having experience in today’s world of information overload and faster-paced work.5 Aim to be on the learning curve not just through your professional formative years but your whole life; don’t let your life stream go dry. Peter Vaill defines learning as the changes a person makes in himself or herself with respect to the know-how, know-what, and know-why.6 We humbly add know-how-to-be to the list.
Organizations are not becoming less complicated. Every day they bring new learning challenges. Vaill explains, “Today’s complex, interdependent, and unstable systems require continual imaginative and creative initiatives and responses by those living and working in them.”7 He is known for comparing management to maneuvering whitewater rapids. Here is what he has to say to anyone who wants to get into the management raft:
- Permanent whitewater conditions are full of surprises.
- Complex systems tend to produce novel problems.
- Permanent whitewater conditions feature events that are “messy” and “ill structured.”
- Whitewater events are often costly.
- Permanent whitewater conditions raise the problem of recurrence.8