I’m a big fan of Ian Thorpe’s blog – KM on a Dollar a Day – and I’m not shy about recommending that others take a look. Here’s another opportunity for the rest of us to pick up some good tips, regardless of the industry we work in.
Ian’s latest post, the second of two (although he’s promising more) is about the role of learning, a subject about which he feels strongly (as do I). He’s writing about how aid organizations can make learning part of their brand, and his comments are valuable for any corporate or organizational function.
In brief, Ian recommends that in starting a new task or assignment, it’s a good idea to look beyond the immediate task and try to find some related successes and best practices. Then you share them widely, throughout the larger corporation or organization. In a best case scenario, you’ll get good feedback that will help as you move your project forward.
The next step is what’s different about Ian’s approach: also take a look at similar situations where things didn’t work out the way the planners expected. Were there tasks or assignments that got started and didn’t go anywhere? Or that got started but had to be abandoned at some point along the way? Look at these as well, and think about the why. What were the threats or inhibitors that weren’t predicted? What barriers came up that proved to be “too big” to control?
Ian puts it this way: “… in any case study, even a highly successful one, there are both positive aspects and less positive ones – and for a full learning it is important to acknowledge and learn from both of them.”
I agree. Recognize and give some attention to both sides of the coin and think about how these apply to the activity you’re dealing with. The extent to which you share the negative aspects will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, of course, but even if the not-so-successful are not shared, you’ll gain new learning that can impact your original goal. And looking at the complete picture certainly positions you for, as Ian advocates, reflecting on wider experience and continual improvement and building that reflection into project design and monitoring.
Well said, Ian. Thanks for sharing.