When we chose
Leader Learning as the Fall 2001 topic, we could never have
foreseen or anticipated the new meanings associated with this theme.
Who could? Yet, in a world that seems to be upside-down, we need
leadership—and learning—more than ever. But it’s not clear to anyone
I have spoken with how we should proceed. What now?
These past few
weeks, I’ve spoken with many of you trying to answer fundamental
questions about your purpose and your work. While some have asked
broad theoretic questions such as, “What is my role in all of this?”
and, “Can my business survive?” more have asked practical questions:
“We need to get back to work, but should my company offer training
that requires people to get onto planes to learn about something
that frankly doesn’t seem all that important anymore?” and, “eLearning
seems like a great idea, but if it hasn’t helped my employees before,
how can I expect it to work now?”
as best I can to these questions and many more. I know that even
when we mentally go back to work, it’s a new type of work. It requires
a new type of learning, and we face a new normal (if, in fact, we
can describe anything as normal ever again).
I do know that
we need to take time to find strength, to create new ways of learning,
and to establish new ways of being in this truly different world.
That doesn’t mean taking a macho, “I won’t let any of this affect
me” stance, denying that fear and safety have a profound effect
on how people work and how people learn. Abraham Maslow, nearly
50 years ago, wrote, “Learning can only take place when basic needs
have been met.” After decades of research, he had identified those
needs as physiological requirements, safety, belongingness, esteem,
and in his later writings, needing to know and understand. Maslow
also reminded us, “How we emotionally view the world- sets the foundation
for learning.” We now emotionally view our world in a very new way.
Now we need to
realize and remind others that optimal learning can only take place
if people feel they are safe, that their contributions are valued,
and that the learning they are pursuing has value in their lives.
As you find your new routine, your new pace, don’t ignore your emotions—gut
feelings, hunches, and very human fears. As Leonard Pitt’s said,
“Normal [is not a] safe spot on the map, a fixed or physical place
from which we were snatched, but with sufficient determination,
we can return to again.” Not until we work through these changes
can we find normal. Until we work through our fears, real learning
cannot begin again.
who we are and flourishes when we make that change from a place
of safety. Of course, we do learn in times of fear, but what we
learn in those moments is avoidance, manipulation, and suppression.
Because we’re in crisis, we don’ know how to do the right thing,
that which is in our best interest, and that creates something better
than what we did before.
This issue of Learning
in the New Economy Magazine (LiNE Zine) brings forth those themes
in fresh and captivating ways. Jim Collins tells us what his newest
research has uncovered about how leaders learn. Gil
Gordon challenges us to not to let the convenience of technology
become the downfall of our personal lives. Mike
Useem helps us lead upwards. Jeannine
Sandstrom and Lee Smith point
out the best practices of Legacy Leaders. Dori
Digenti helps us build a learning strategy for leaders. Peter
Henschel closely examines the manager’s new work and reviews
the conditions for learning. Margo
Covington tells us about her day on September 11th and how the
learning she’s been doing these past years offers some new ways
to work. David MacKenzie
asks us to take some slow-motion moments and wonder in order to
live leadership now. Bette
Price reminds us not to treat learners like dirty dishes. And
Andrew Willis addresses
what we can all learn from military leadership.
As if working
with these authors and tending to these issues hasn’t been enough
to keep me occupied these past weeks—after all, I am in search of
my rhythm and routine, too—I have also cordoned off time to directly
address the questions I have been receiving each day from readers
like you. To answer those questions, I first revisited my work on
how adults truly learn (that many of you know from my years at Microsoft,
Wave, and PeopleSoft). Then I began to work with a small team of
educators and business leaders deeply committed to finding models
that could be used to help people learn at a distance, with a strong
connection to other people, and that would be easy, affordable,
and quick to implement. I believe we’ve found an answer. To that
end, we are looking for a small number of organizations interested
in piloting some of these models this fall, without asking anyone
to get on a plane. If you are interested, please contact
this means I’m no longer looking at the questions. Much of our work
going forward—yours and mine—will lead to more conversations about
the future of learning in turbulent times. Let’s make those conversations
an opportunity to reclaim our lives, our workplaces, and our homes
as safe, caring communities of learning.
It’s far too
late to be pessimistic, resort to simplistic thinking, or avoid
thinking at all. Every one of us has to go beyond just facing our
demons, putting on a brave face, or weathering through. We must
create space for ourselves and those around us—around our dinner
tables and around our world—where we can be supportive compassionate,
insightful, and brave people who will be able to look at our challenges—economic
uncertainty, travel distress, technology malevolence—and respond
with our whole selves. To find what we are to do now, in spite of
and because of our fears, we must be strong, we must be reflective,
and we must be truthful.
I welcome your
thoughts and concerns, insights and reflections on our new world.
regards and blessings during this difficult time,
Editor in Chief, Learning in the New Economy Magazine
the Learnativity Alliance
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