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Vegetable Garden

Learning Loops

Learning is to business as adaptation is to natural selection. Just like a bird evolved the ability to fly through millions of years of adaptation, your organization evolves through the single most powerful trait that determines who soars the skies and who goes the way of the dodo: learning. The ability to hypothesize, execute, and then learn how effective your organization is in solving customer needs is even more fundamental than your solutions themselves. Repeat: having a process that enables you to learn and adapt is more important than the things you create.

 

Just ask Kodak.

Like evolution, you are playing a game of probability. You cannot possibly predict the future with 100% certainty and you have zero control of a mind-numbing amount of external variables. In this game, you can improve your odds of success through simple processes that promote constant and incremental real-time learning.

Why It Matters

Creating learning loops throughout your organization is like connecting sensors on your rocket to Mars, relaying real-time information back to mission command. The best sensors not only relay information but adjust the rocket's trajectory the moment they learn something that will improve the outcome of the mission.

Learning isn’t a nice to have. It isn’t a training program, a poster hanging in the company corridor, or a perk the organization provides. It also shouldn’t be hoarded among management or the teams closest to the customer. It is a renewable resource that should be broadly shared. Learning is the fuel of an organization, specifically learnings about your customers’ willingness to use your products or services. It is the gold you excavate after planning and executing the dig, whether it’s delivering to the market or trying a new internal approach to deliver an outcome. Learning holds a sacred place in any organization. It is the truth that you didn’t know before you started and the truth that can guide you in your next attempt at delivering value to your customers.

You're Doing It Right If...

Every team at every level of the organization spends dedicated time every month (or more frequently) talking about what they learned and what they will do differently in their next cycle.

Management shares its learnings broadly throughout the organization and, most importantly, highlights the learnings drawn from failures. It does not shy away from exposing what went wrong.

Products and services are built using the scientific method, allowing for rapid, intraday testing of solutions backed by a statistically-sound data collection process (i.e. results are statistically significant instead of flashes in the pan).

yOU'RE DOING IT WRONG IF...

Decisions that cannot be unwound without ditching the solution entirely are made too early. Teams aren’t gradually de-risking their approach to the customer but are making wild, unproven assumptions that will constrain the outcome.

Products and services are rarely shelved and there is always a “Phase 2” planned. There are no failures in the organization and the talk track is always optimistic.

Responsible attempts to solve a problem that fall short are penalized by peers or management. These learnings are never harvested and, therefore, repeat themselves.

Key Practices

wHERE TO sTART

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