If there’s one thing we’re learning from the coronavirus debacle, it’s that the slow-to-adapt are likely to perish. And fundamental to adapting to any situation is the ability to learn.
Whether it’s watching a few YouTube tutorials on how to video conference effectively – boy, have I seen some sad Zoom meetings! – or re-inventing your business to sell entirely new products to an entirely new audience, learning is the starting point.
This is not about the luck of a crisis boosting demand, or bad luck if you’re in a “wrong” industry. E-commerce companies are predisposed to thrive in a lockdown –illogical government limits aside – while most manufacturers, retailers and small businesses are suffering.
But unless your business really is at the extreme “unlucky” end of the continuum, there’s a lot you can do to avoid shutting down and maybe even limit downsizing.
Here are 4 principles we use that are not only good for long-term strategy, but can be applied tactically for quick solutions:
1. An intrinsic culture of learning and striving for self-mastery is paramount. This is integral to our philosophy at Growth Surge and how we choose our clients. Tolerate and even encourage acceptable mistakes and risk-taking. This shows up in agile principles of short development cycles, trial and error, and continual feedback. Review key events and decisions. Then make it explicit – see #2.
2. Systemise both individual and organisation learning. E.g. share personal on-the-job learning in master class-style forums. Keeping track of work and progress is a learning function e.g. a central dashboard of key goals for the week. Share and retain institutional knowledge through collaboration tools like Slack, MS Teams, and up-to-date job descriptions, policies and procedure for important processes.
3. Integrate learning into key functions and decisions. E.g. regularly survey customers after each major interaction to learn what worked and what needs fixing. With this, pivoting out of a crisis is more likely to succeed not only because of better market intel, but because you’re certain and confident.
4. Lastly – though there are many more points! – I’ve written about Learning To Learn (Feb. 2020) and I think this applies perfectly here. Budget the time and investment for at least 5 days every 3 months for continuing professional development. Lead by example: don't take a course and keep it secret. Apply point 2 e.g. talk about it, update your business systems.
If you’re trying to keep your business alive and survive the new normal, how is learning supporting this?