Permission to learn


Yesterday I mentioned how much I love Harvard Business Review, and I was reminded of how true that is today after reading Amy Edmonson’s article, The Competitive Imperative of Learning, in this month’s issue. Her article contrasts those organizations focused soley on executing business strategies and those that execute with a conscious desire to learn throughout the process. She used two eighties-era mega-companies as examples (GM as an example of the former and GE as an example of the latter). She points out what most of us know but so many managers are blind to see – that those companies which build opportunities for feedback and learning into their processes win over the long haul. In effect, they give permission to their employees to spend time learning (and not necessarily in a classroom) and they create, as she calls them, “psychologically safe environments.” These are places where people don’t work in fear of punitive reprimands, but are intentionally encouraged to try new things (which will often fail), learn, and share.

What a wonderful lesson for the Christian and the Church. For us Christians in the workplace, it’s up to us (particularly those in leadership) to reinforce what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:16, that “every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” Not every idea will be successful, but failures can produce invaluable knowledge. We have the power to create environments where learning and collaborating is not only safe, but deeply valued, and where rank and status take a backseat to dedication and thoughtfulness. Likewise, this is one of those arenas where the Church (the Christian church as a whole) can learn from it’s own mistakes and that of the marketplace. Like a company too rigidly focused on a tactical business plan, faith is not a series of tasks to be executed by legions of minions, but rather a dynamic and inspiring process during which we, as God’s precious creation, learn more about him through our shared experiences following Jesus. As Paul told the church at Rome (now, somewhat ironically, the Vatican) in Romans 3,

“But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight – not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.”


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