Why Do We Resist Learning?

I am quite proud that my guest post over on the SocialFish blog on whether your organization is human enough for social media got so much traction that it is third(!) on their post ranks. I'd like to unpack the post a bit over here.

The first point I want to explore is the idea of parallel processes. From the original post:

So even if you figure out the tools, the complexity of organizational implementation can be overwhelming. The big problem with “overwhelming” is that it translates into inaction. It translates to slow. And that’s a problem for social media (and for associations in general, if you ask me). Social media is fast. The game changes quickly, and it doesn’t wait for you to figure everything out first. Yes, you have to figure things out, but you’ll have to do it as a parallel process to the implementation.

The basic notion here (that I think is foreign in too many organizations) is that you can (a) implement something, (b) learn from it, and (c) apply that learning to what you're doing all more or less at the same time. Now obviously it can't all be simultaneous–you have to have DONE something to learn from it. But why is it not more normal to have your implementation and your analysis/learning happening at the same time?

In short, we don't value learning as much as we value doing. We are a doing culture and that's what we reward. That's what we measure. That's why we hire and fire people. Did it get done. It seems we have a strange resistance to learning. People talk a lot about resistance to change, and certainly that's there (it shows up in the "applying what we learned" part). But what about resistance to learning? Why is it somehow uncomfortable to get together as a team and talk about what we learned? And I mean really digging into the analysis, not just a "the participants gave it a 4.1" conversation. 

Turns out those are tough conversations. Egos are on the line. People worry about blame. People fear they might not get resources they used to have. There's one set of reasons why your organization may resist learning: fear, blame, and ego. They stop your learning conversations and people safely focus on implementation instead. 

I think that's a problem. If your organization cannot handle challenging learning conversations like that quickly and efficiently, then I think you'll get left in the dust. You won't be able to implement, learn, and shift in a short enough cycle to stay competitive. There's more to it than better conversations, but that's certainly a good place to start.