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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Want your employees to learn faster?

Do want your employees to learn faster? Well have them do things the wrong way first. Taking a queue from some research with youth athletics back in 2009 by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork at U.C.L.A.

They found that kids learn faster from mistakes rather than from repetitive correct practice.

It’s a finding similar to that of PCA National Advisory Board member, Carol Dweck, who notes In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that athletes who have a “growth” mindset -- and therefore love a challenge and learn by making mistakes -- are more successful than those athletes with a “fixed” mindset who rely on innate talents and fear failure.
Create an environment for mistakes? Seems a bit counterintuitive doesn’t it? But when you actively foster an environment where people can make mistakes and learn from them, performance soars for both individuals, teams and organizations.

So how do you create a space for mistakes?

1. Tell your employees you want them to make mistakes. Yep. You heard right. Let them know that if they are not making mistakes, they aren’t learning. Let them know that you are happy when they make a mistake and proud of them for challenging themselves to get better and risking making a mistake.

2. Give them space. Mistakes happen when employers give employees the space to make mistakes. When you let them test their limits, try new things, and experiment.

3. Analyze mistakes. Don’t just let mistakes happen and assume your employees learned from them. Sit down and talk with employees about their mistakes. Have them analyze what went right, what maybe didn’t go as planned, and talk them through a strategy for doing it differently next time. But don’t overanalyze here. People know when they have made a mistake. They don’t need criticism – they need positive reinforcement and a game plan.

4. Practice a mistake ritual. PCA Founder Jim Thompson loves the “flushing it” mistake ritual. Players, coaches and parents alike make the motion of flushing a toilet when mistakes are made, reminding players to just ”flush it.”. It might seem silly at first, but that little hand motion helps re-center the mind and focus on what’s ahead instead of the mistake that just happened.

5. Watch your reaction. How you handle yourself as a manager or mentor when people make a mistake is a critical part of creating an environment where they can make mistakes. You need to model behavior that is positive in reaction to both success and failure in order to give your employees the courage to fail.

6. Reward failure. Some top companies do this: a best mistake competition. An award for making a mistake where the best lessons were learned. Let employees nominate themselves (don’t have anyone else – including you – point out the mistake). Then let them explain what happened and what they learned. If you’re committed to promoting both successes and learning from mistakes, then reward both equally.

The ability to both bounce back and learn from our mistakes is one of the greatest gifts that you can teach..

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