The hard truth is that if you want to take your organization into the future with innovations you’ve got to have 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 introduce new products than the others.” (Peter Nielsen and Bengt-Åke Lundvall, Aalborg University).

One of the critical ingredients for creating a learning organization is ensuring you’ve got a feedback culture.  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:

1.  Has your leadership identified and communicated the most important competencies needed for the future?

ice hockeyYes, it’s important to have 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 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 then monitor how good you are by getting feedback on them.

2. Does Your Leadership Regularly Ask for Feedback on these competencies, 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.  And 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 by Deloitte already explained to leadership that making employees’ opinions count, actually drives their engagement. That’s what we call a win-win!

3. Do you have an easy mobile tool for getting continual feedback?

The days of the surveys with 40 questions are over.  In our mobile device lifestyle we handle 65% of our emails on our mobile device.  That means that if your request for feedback can’t be handled in several seconds on a mobile device, the chances that you will get recent and accurate feedback are very low.  Get the tools in place that enable continuous feedback, such as CouncilWise, Katch and TellMe.Tips.

Evidence also shows that firms seldom learn and innovate alone.  Innovation requires open cooperation and communcation with external organizations and this includes getting feedback from them.  Make sure your tool enables employees to get feedback externally just as easily as internal feedback. Customers drive top-line growth, and learning is very much an outside-inside process.

4. Do you embed feedback into your business processes and then enable growth in an easy way?

We’re in the learning economy now.  That means that globalization, de-regulation and information technology has created an environment with more intense competition, rapid transformation and change.  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.  Put the necessary enablers in place: embed feedback into development processes, training, performance coaching, mentoring, team collaboration, repetitive project evaluations….and I don’t mean performance appraisals!  One of our customers: “embed feedback and personal growth into processes where your employees feel safe, and performance metrics provide clarity to measure progress and improve continuously”.

5. Do you have a way to enable the sharing of knowledge and insights to improve collaboration?

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Organizations can learn only as fast as the slowest link learns. Change is blocked 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. If teams learn, they become a microcosm for learning throughout the organization” (The Fifth Discpline, Peter M. Senge, MIT). 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, is to evaluate the feedback culture in your organization by engaging your employees in a series of pulse dialogues. Collect their feedback and thoughts, and make them rethink again, about matters such as “What’s the main obstacle in the organization we could take away together, to open up 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, etc. This will clarify how, when and in what context to introduce feedback and recognition, and to identify what work needs to be done. Don’t just think rolling out a feedback app will do the trick, others have tried and failed. Feedback is worth more, and more complex.  Together, we will work out the steps to introduce a sublime feedback culture.

Maurik Dippel, co-founder of CircleLytics and CouncilWise.

+31 (0)85 401 11 61

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