Knowledge Hoarding: The real impact of being an information junkie…
To be a successful leader in 21st Century workplaces, we need to find ways for ourselves and our team to get comfortable with the uncomfortableness experienced during learning new things… to continually adapt, learn, and grow. After all, the opposite emotions of elation, joy, and awe are the result of the success that comes after pushing through The Groan Zone to acquire new skills. You can read my eBook which explains the learning cycle in detail, but essentially, by understanding the functions of the Thalamus and Amygdala, we are able to know what to say to our employees to help them overcome the hard-wired responses and engage the Executive Function (the front part of the brain) to see the learning as a positive. This part of the brain enjoys active learning, decision-making and problem solving. This is also the part of the brain that lets you know when you are bored and that you need to find a new challenge.
Has there ever been a time where you observed one of your team, working on an unfamiliar task that they may not have done much or even ever before and you see this adverse reaction – feelings of discomfort, awkwardness, anxiousness or self-doubt? Or it may have been later on and they came to you to express the new task they were trying to complete made them feel uncomfortable and they just wanted to give up. The good news is, your team member is NOT faulty… they were in fact learning something new and their brain was reacting naturally!
For anyone to stay relevant in today’s fast paced work environment, it means constantly learning or as a leader, encouraging learning within your team to avoid being left behind. The ongoing issue of remaining relevant is multifaceted, let’s go into this a bit deeper.
Hurdle 1: Our brain
When we are learning something new, our brains are hard-wired to make it an uncomfortable experience for us between the space of knowing we need to learn something and actually learning it. I call this in between space “The Groan Zone”. I walk you through the science in my eBook, Leaders in Learning, which you can download by clicking here.
Hurdle 2: We are knowledge hoarders
As a leader, we often see “The Groan Zone” in our employees and we help them work it through and encourage them to keep going and push through that uncomfortable feeling as we know the outcome will be mutually beneficial. They get the satisfaction of learning a new skill and we have an upskilled employee – it’s a win-win situation! But what about us as leaders? Who is there to help us through this feeling? Actually, take a step back… When was the last time you actually felt the uncomfortable feeling of learning a new skill?
There’s a good chance it hasn’t been for a while… Even though you may be able to see it in your direct reports all the time, watching them struggle and helping them come out the other side, you as a leader need to experience this as well. If at this point, you are sitting there reading this and saying “But Kelly, I love learning, I am learning all the time! I read all of the latest recommended leadership books, I am up to date on my HBR articles and regularly read Forbes’ latest online case studies!”. Does that sound familiar? If so, you may just be a knowledge hoarder. An information junkie. This is not real learning, this is passive learning. When I talk about when was the last time you actually learnt something – when you actually felt the uncomfortable, prickly, awkward feeling of a true learning experience? The main problem here, is as leaders, we have actually forgotten how to learn. Don’t worry – you’re not alone – there are so many leaders out there who think reading the latest NY Times bestselling book in the Business & Leadership category is considered professional development.
Hurdle 3: YOU.
You would have noticed in your team, if you have tasks or projects that only come up occasionally, your employees will struggle picking it up again if they haven’t done it for a while. The same goes for leaders, just with different things (like new business direction, or strategy). Research shows that it actually takes a considerable amount of repetition and practice to commit something to your memory. When learning something new, the first step is to push through The Groan Zone, but if after that, if we go onto the next thing and don’t take the time to try again a few times, when we do finally try the task again, we are right back into The Groan Zone again. If you are seeing this problem in your team, make sure you give them enough space to repeat the task and complete the learning process. If you are worried you may be at risk of experiencing this yourself, then dedicate yourself enough time to set aside to properly learn your new skill.
So, it’s time to put the HBR article down and get out there and really learn!