I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not the most technical nor the most social. I’m not the most athletic nor the most sedentary. But I enjoy helping people learn. Helping people grow.
In my view, there are two types of learning: structured and unstructured. Structured being the classroom setting with a set curriculum and standards which those goals are measured. Unstructured is the learning that happens when the teacher turns their back the smart kid next to you helps you understand a concept. Unstructured learning is equally as or more important than structured learning. Allowing groups to self teach has benefits far greater than the butts-in-seats environment corporations often try to emulate. A sense of community is born out of unstructured learning.
When I formed the Co-Op Community at my college internship I wanted to connect my fellow students and to provide them chances to explore their skills. It was important to me that the community members benefited not only by recognition but through personal growth. With monthly meetings, a co-op could present skills or topics they were passionate about. This allowed the group to learn from a peer and for our peers to practice their presentation skills. I remember one meeting where a programming co-op presented about Linux. This guy could talk Linux all day but he wasn’t comfortable in the spotlight. The presentation went OK. He was a bit shaky but I delighted in it. I understood I had fostered an environment where he felt comfortable to try something new. Now the next time he presents Linux to a group, I know he’ll be more confident and will perform at a higher level.
“Give them enough rope to hang themselves.” What a freaky saying but one I think presents an important message. It’s about fostering an environment which allows people to fail. Through failure we’re taught many lessons and learn more about ourselves than when we succeed. I have a failed plenty of tests – most of which never made it to the kitchen table – and through that I learned how I learned best. The same idea can be applied to the work place. If you never let your employees get into a little trouble every so often then they’ll never grow personally or professionally which means your business will never grow. Where’s the fun in that?
*I’m pretty bad about staying on topic and fully developing my ideas but I’m running out of WiFi on the plane.