The hard truth is that if you want to take your organization into the future with innovations, your organization needs to be a learning organization:
“On the basis of a unique data set covering 2000 Danish private firms, it is demonstrated that firms combining several of the organizational traits of the learning organization are much more prone to introducing new products than others.” (Peter Nielsen and Bengt-Åke Lundvall, Aalborg University).
One of the critical ingredients for creating a learning organization is ensuring that there is a feedback culture. Because let’s face it, how do you learn without asking for feedback?
Based on our experience we’ve compiled 5 questions you need to ask yourself to evaluate if you’ve got a feedback culture:
- Has your leadership identified and communicated the most important competencies needed for the future?
Yes, it’s important to have a vision. Steve Jobs, ex-CEO, of arguably the most innovative company of this decade, Apple Computer, has been quoted saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be”. Having a vision is knowing where that puck is going to be. But getting to the puck requires identifying those competencies you need in your organization to get there. Identify your most important competencies and monitor how good you are by getting feedback on them.
- Does Your Leadership Regularly Ask for Feedback on strategy, obstacles or ways to accelerate progress?
Do your most senior leaders continually ask for feedback? “Walk the talk” and demonstrate that without feedback you don’t learn. This starts at the highest level (McKinsey). Leaders who don’t ask for feedback regularly, are really saying to their employees: “You don’t need to be open to learning to get to my position.” It also works the other way around: people perceive you as more competent when you ask for their feedback and opinion. Gallup and Bersin of Deloitte already explained to their management that making employees’ opinions count actually drives their engagement. That’s what we call a win-win!
- Do you have an easy tool for getting frequent feedback, askingopen questions that matter most?
We believe that the days of just-a-survey-and-a-dashboard are over. In our mobile device lifestyle, we handle 65% of our emails on our mobile device. That means that your request for feedback, ideas, solutions, will be handled safely on any device, at the employee’s most convenient time. Make sure your employees can take their time to respond; slowing them down will crack your puzzle faster.
Evidence also shows that firms seldom learn and innovate alone. Innovation requires open cooperation and an inquisitive mind (read for example the book “A More Beautiful Question” from Warren Berger). Learning is very much an outside-inside process.
- Do you embed feedback into your business processes and easily enable growth?
We’re in a learning economy now, which means that globalization, deregulation and information technology has created an environment with more intense competition, rapid transformation and change. A VUCA world. To compete in such an economy, the ability to identify the competencies you need, and attain them (whether by yourself or by adding others to your team) is crucial to the performance of organizations. Make sure continuous feedback and dialogue becomes a habit, instead of an incident.
- Do you have a way to enable the sharing of knowledge and insights to improve collaboration?
Organizations can learn only as fast as the slowest link learns. Change is hindered unless an organization can enable knowledge to be shared. In feedback and learning organizations, knowledge flows freely, and talent becomes visible and what we call “liquid”. “The best performing teams have talent that comes together in a complementary way. Teams must tap the potential for many minds to be more intelligent than one mind, the collective intelligence. If teams learn, they become a microcosm for learning throughout the organization” (The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge, MIT), or superorganism as others call it. We believe this can only be achieved when social collaboration mechanisms are in place, an ecosystem for people to accelerate their growth, together.
Our first step, together with you, could be to evaluate your feedback culture in your organization by engaging your employees in a series of pulse dialogues. Collect their feedback and thoughts, and make them rethink matters like: “What’s the main obstacle in the organization we could take away together so that it become open to feedback and why do you think so?” or “What’s your best example of compliments in our organization that made a difference for your motivation?”, etc. This will clarify how, when and in what context feedback and recognition can be introduced, and identify the work that needs to be done. Feedback is worth a lot, yet very complex, no matter what others say. Together, we will work out the steps to introduce a sublime feedback culture.
MaurikDippel, co-founder of CircleLytics.
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