In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few
– Shunryu Suzuki
If a successful founder-leader is not willing to invest in learning & development (L&D) even after the organization has a settled look, this unwillingness can be traced to one’s own life-experience. These leaders successfully built an organization from the bottom-up and a full-fledged L&D set-up had nothing to do with it. As a result, the leaders reason thus : “If I could learn by doing, isn’t that the best way to learn. The results are there for all to see. What is the need for L&D”
Such founder-leaders miss two important points.
First. As business founders, they were explorers in virgin territory that held all the potential in the world to experience learning. An explorer in an unknown land goes about acquiring skills one by one using whatever the environment provides. They learn to identify a trail & plan their route. They learn to look at the stars and know their direction. They learn to map the territory by seeing it with their own eyes. They build a fundamental skill-set because conditions of an uncharted territory & new environment allow no other way to survive and flourish.
Are such conditions at hand later on for those who join the organization later? Those who join later are handed a map,a GPS & a destination. How will they get to build a fundamental skill-set like the leader expects them? They have been deprived of the challenge of foundational experience. In any case, wouldn’t the needs of a habitated territory require a skill-set of a different order? The founder-leader should pause to ask these questions.
Second. One does not learn by doing. One learns by reflecting on what one is doing. This is lost on the founder-leader. They have learnt by reflecting on what they did. But they assume the ability to reflect and learn is built into the experience just because they could do it. It is not. The opportunity is built-in, not the ability. The opportunity is there to step back, take a little time-out, and pause and ponder on what really happened and what is there to learn. The conditions of an uncharted territory & new environment enabled the founder- leaders to do just that. They reflected and learnt and this became a part of their fundamental skill-set.
Minus those conditions, the ability to reflect is not seeded into the present environment. And this is where learning and development (L&D) comes in as it creates a learning opportunity not just for the doing but also for the reflection. In fact, it can be argued that human and fallible as they are, even the founder-leaders have selectively reflected on their own doing! For all that we know,they might have wilfully or otherwise, refused to reflect on what made them uncomfortable. Or their mental and emotional filter would have focussed on select actions and zoned out of other equally valuable experiences.
Arent’ these two points applicable not just to L&D, but any field or function of organizational endeavour?!