Always Improving

By Brian Remer

"Are You Grading Us?"

That was a question from one participant in a recent workshop that I was leading. This was a surprise. What would a "grade" mean in the workplace? I assured all the participants that the only "bad grade" would be if they never improved at their job. However, if they could think about what went well and what could go better, then make a plan to do things differently next time, their work would certainly improve.

This is the essence of continuous learning: reflecting upon experience and trying out a plan to do something differently. It becomes a cycle of action and reflection that leads in an unlimited series of small steps closer and closer to a better way of doing things.

Sometimes, learning is equated with knowing facts and being able to recall information. Sadly, facts and figures by themselves are not always useful out in the field. No one could memorize all the possible responses to every customer service complaint. Facts alone won't enable someone to invent a new use for an old product. And try diagnosing a squeaky engine or a patient with pain without active investigation and experimentation. Many times, a person must learn about the situation while in the middle of the situation. And since every situation changes moment by moment, learning must be flexible, evolving, continuous.

I like to think that if I've really learned something, I will view the world differently and my behavior will change. When that happens, I give myself a grade of "AI" which stands for "Always Improving!"

Tonight's Dinner Menu

Want to try out your continuous learning skills and focus on always improving? Here's your assignment:

Ask this question of each person at tonight's dinner table: "What is something you learned today and how will it change what you do tomorrow?"

We aren't looking for Nobel Prize-winning learning here, just something that will make your work or life a little better. And don't let yourself off the hook if you dine alone. Call up a friend or talk to the waiter.

And what if you've got nothing to say? Great, you just learned something! Now act on it. Ask yourself, "What can I do tomorrow to make sure I learn something new?"