The ability to maintain intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn from experience
What is it?
A learning orientation is an approach to life in which we believe that all experiences have something to teach us. Successes, failures and everything in between can give us important insight that improves future performance.
Why is it important?
Much of our learning comes from trial and error. We try something, step back, evaluate the outcome, and then make improvements. If we don’t learn from experience, we are destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. Employees who possess this learning orientation are inherently productive, allowing themselves to use error to their advantage and use experiences as a learning tool.
Reflect on Experience
First of all, get into the habit of doing after-action reviews. Every experience, good or bad, has something to teach us. Ask the question often: “What can I learn from this?” No experience is wasted if something has been learned. Most plans and solutions are imperfect. Therefore, we need to always be learning in order to improve our problem solving skills and performance.
Learn from Experts
Second, we must learn from others in our field. We can read case studies and biographies of the companies and leaders we want to emulate. This type of vicarious learning can be very helpful to us as we transcend our own limited experiences and broaden our knowledge base. In addition, learning from the mistakes that other people have made can help us avoid the common problems that derail careers.
Find a Mentor
Finally, mentors can be an invaluable source of feedback and guidance. Identify potential mentors in your personal and professional circles and connect with them. Ask for 15 or 20 minutes of their time for a brief phone call so you can ask for their perspective on something of interest to you. If the phone call goes well, ask for a 20-30 minute face to face meeting. You are the student, so show some interest in what they are saying. Be prepared to ask about their experiences and the wisdom they’ve acquired along the way. Be appreciative of their time and, if the meeting is beneficial, ask if you can meet again. This might lead to occasional meetings or it might develop into a formal and regular mentoring relationship. Either way, you will reap tremendous benefits.