Back in early 2000s, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and go for the Prince of Wales Award. It’s an award where one Defence Reservist is selected to spend time in a host country to explore a project of interest in their field, research their topic and share their findings. At the time, I was in Learning and Development in my corporate 9 to 5 job and a Naval Reservist in the Military Public Affairs Branch all other times (once a week in the evenings, some weekends and 2-week postings per year).
I decided to meld both by exploring how social and virtual technologies could be used in both fields with an emphasis on the use of online communities for knowledge sharing and practice building. At the time, I was dabbling with LinkedIn Groups, Facebook and I also saw how IT people were using Outlook email groups to connect with each other across industries, share knowledge and build their skills in their topic area. Something told me that this was an area I wanted to explore and research because “it may be big in coming years”. That was my first introduction to ‘social or peer-led learning’.
So I submitted a detailed application, sat the selection panel interview at Randwick Barracks in Sydney and pitched a presentation where I put forward the case of the value of online technologies that enabled people to work and learn together from all around the world; and the potential impact to the future workplace.
Did I win the award?
No, I didn’t.
In fact, feedback was that they simply didn’t think social technology would play a part in our work and lives.
They didn’t see my research as serious enough because they never anticipated that the workplace would change. They thought my project was irrelevant and pandered to the “new frivolity that were social networks”.
At the bar, later that evening, while I was standing around with a drink waiting to go into the dinner hall, they even joked about my presentation saying that they simply couldn’t see how networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn would ever be significant in how we communicated let alone, be considered for business applications. I was peeved listening to them joke blatantly about my presentation while I was standing there in front of them but part of me wasn’t at all surprised.
After all, we mock things we don’t understand. I sipped my gin and tonic and made a mental note that I didn’t need their award anyway.
Behaviours that Prevent Us from Being Open to Learning New Things
In this post, I’d like to share a behaviour that I’ve seen and experienced – but also one in which I have done to others – that doesn’t serve us anymore when it comes to our personal and professional and development. It may even help our understanding of a lot of things, not just our work but in life too.
This behaviour prevents us from being self-aware as it closes our minds from possibilities. It hinder us from finding a way to co-operate with each, consider new perspectives that others bring and bring new insights to our work.
This year we have seen many changes in a short period of time and for me, watching, talking and helping people to use social and virtual technologies (not only for their work but in their lives in ways they’ve never used it before COVID), was an eye opener. In the past, some of these people may have discounted these technologies in their work because they didn’t see any value or application however the virus changed all that because it forced them to change. In some way, I’m glad it did.
Now we can start to talk without the mocking and get down to the business of:
- Listening to What Others Have to Say
- Asking Open Questions
- Experimenting & Trying Out New Ways of Doing Things
- Speaking Up When You Have Different Views, Experiences, Insights and Results
- Helping Others
- Promoting and Sharing Other Peoples (not your own) Talents, Skills and Abilities
- Showing and Sharing Your Knowledge Transparently and Openly
- Making and Creating
- Evaluating Where Your Information Comes From
- Participating in Networks and Communities Beyond Your Work or Close Knit Community (‘Act Local, Think Global’)
- Learning Continually
I’d also like to add: showing a bit of your true self now and then (rather than a professional facade); showing some humility at times (don’t claim you know everything) and be like a kid at times (trust me, it’s quite liberating).
“If there is doubt, don’t claim you are certain. It’s amazing how relaxing it is not to pretend to know more than you do.” pic.twitter.com/DlSQvSt1dT
— Christopher Hitchens (@Hitch_Slapping) September 26, 2020
So here we go. Here is the behaviour that seems to rear it’s ugly head every so often and it’s time to nip it in the bud.
Not Wanting to Listen and Learn What Others Have to Say or Demonstrate To You
“I don’t work that way”“That’s fine for you, that’s your area but it’s not mine”“I’m clueless in this area, it’s not for me”“I prefer to do it my way”“I’ve been doing it this way for many years and I see no reason to change”“Don’t bother showing me how to do this differently because my boss/IT manager will never accept it”“You’re just wasting your time showing me this”“Really, I’m fine doing it my own way, it’s not an issue!”“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say/demonstrate” (while constantly interrupting you)
How does that make you feel when you’re at the end of it?
Not good, I bet. You may feel that what you have to share isn’t valued, important or acknowledged.
It’s shot down in flames before they’ve even tried it for themselves!
So What Can We Do Instead?
Let’s think about it from the point of view that every individual has something to share and offer regardless of their experience, knowledge, background or education.
Next time someone wants to show you something, it’s time to give them the benefit of the doubt and meet them halfway. Hold back from your personal judgements.
Take some time to instead keep an open mind, listen to what they have to say, let them show you what they’re demonstrating and then ask some questions to yourself to explore further.
- “What can I learn from this?”
- “How can it work for me?”
- “What assumptions am I making?”
- “How can I apply this (or even elements of this) to my own work?”
- “What’s the REAL problem underlying why I think this is not/will not work for me?”
That is, stop yourself from jumping into a conclusion about the subject matter before you try it out. These questions force to you be self-aware in the moment and question the real reason why you may not like to listen to the other person.
The last question is the clincher because in my experience, people are less likely to be open to changing their habits and behaviours because there’s some underlying reason which is usually, a fear that that it will make them uncomfortable to learn something new – or that it will take more time which they mistakenly believe they don’t have.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Do you think this behaviour has helped or hindered you in your work and life? Has there been something that stands out that if you didn’t take the time to learn and be shown it that you would have been prevented an opportunity that you see and value now?