The Learning Leader: Overview




Complexity and change are rising. Managing effectively in the midst of this reality is challenging at best, disastrous at worst. Entire industries and academic institutions have been established to cut through this noise and make life easier for leaders. But the evidence shows they aren’t working. Why?

The quality of business strategy, performance and people solutions aren’t improving as fast as the business world is changing. In fact, we believe that the fundamental thinking about how to succeed in business hasn’t changed significantly in the past 100 years. This situation makes being an effective business leader increasingly difficult.

Talentism exists to change the way people think about business. As such, we would like to introduce a different approach into the mix. Our thinking starts with you, the business leader. Our goal is to help create a business that works best for you and your people.

To convey the principles we are going to discuss, let’s start with two concepts: the “Learning Cycle” and “Speed of Change”, as represented by the following graphics.


The “Learning Cycle” describes the optimal way to learn and improve: you start with your reality, which clarifies your goals, which structures your design, which dictates what and who you manage. Managing your design will lead to learning about reality, and that will start the process again.


The “Speed of Change” says that the rate at which you sustain improvement is a product of three factors. All three need to be present in order to learn and improve.

We will publish every week discussing each of these elements. Once completed, you will have an overview of our basic beliefs about how to achieve business and life success. This will also form the foundation to introduce our thinking around concepts like the Behavioral Labor Model and Talent Architecture.

A quick overview of each element:

LEARNING CYCLE – You are your most important business tool. The only way that tool gets sharped is through continuous improvement. Without this sharpening you become dull. You likely already know that. But what you likely don’t realize is exactly how effective your improvement efforts are. You read a lot of books, check in on the TED talks, share ideas on social media. You should be getting smarter much faster. Chances are you aren’t. Your brain can take in a lot of information. But it can only work with a small fraction of that information. And to make matters worse, you aren’t really in control of what information gets accepted and rejected. In order to sharpen yourself most effectively, in order to evolve as fast as you want to, you need to think differently about the things we are going to be talking about. All of it is common sense. But most of it is rarely dealt with effectively. This includes:

REALITY – Everyone has three realities: the reality of themselves (you), the reality of the world around them (your circumstances), and the reality they want others to accept (your behavior). Each of these realities both enables success and limits your options. You have nothing to fear from reality: the three realities exist and are happening regardless of whether you deal with them or not. Leaders who eagerly embrace their realities have better lives and more success than those that don’t.

GOALS – Realities create goals. Not the other way around. You cannot be exceptional at something you are bad at and loathe doing. Your goals need to flow from your realities. Your brain is actively limiting you every day. There are literally thousands of things happening around you every day that you can’t absorb and perceive. You can’t form a goal based on something you can’t think.

DESIGN – We are each the designers of our lives and our businesses. But most of us are passive, letting our intuition and instinct haphazardly pull together elements that we hope will get us what we want. Designing is the most important responsibilities you have as a leader. You cannot get what you want without purposeful, evolving design.

MANAGE – Managing is amongst the most widely used yet least understood terms in business. We propose that managing is simply helping the people in your design accelerate the speed of their learning cycle. The faster they improve, the better your design works. The better your design works, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

As you manage you are going to learn about reality: about you, your circumstances and your behaviors. Thus the cycle begins again, but at a higher level than the last cycle.

This learning cycle can happen fast or slow. Its all up to you. It isn’t luck, and it isn’t determination that motivates the speed at which you learn. There are three “speed of learning” factors :

MINDFULNESS – Your mind is a massive computer: it takes in information, sorts it out, calculates and responds. Mindfulness is the way you increase the effectiveness of your computer. It is the way that you turn yourself from a computer to a programmer.

OPENNESS – Your mind’s most important job is evaluating reality. It makes sense of all the information it is absorbing, even when you are paying attention to other things. Without the brain’s powerful ability to do this you couldn’t get through your day. But this power has it’s downside: information and options you need to consider in order to improve get discarded before you can effectively process them. Openness is the way to ensure that you don’t discard the important things while working with the easy things.

DRIVE – Drive is what keeps you moving forward. Filling your mind with information and openly evaluating it is great. It is also tiring and difficult. Something has to keep you going: drive. Drive and determination and grit are not the same things. There will be times in your life when you push through difficulties by sheer force of will. But most of the time your forward momentum is driven by compulsions: instincts, beliefs and habits. Understanding and harnessing your inherent drive increases the speed of your learning.

We hope that you will leave comments with your questions and observations. We look forward to working through this “Learning Cycle” with you.


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