Weeknotes 34 – Failure to learn

I am moving back into weeknotes somewhat cautiously. I had expected that writing a weekly reflection based on some aspect of the experiences of the past week would be easy, and beneficial, to do. Instead, here I am, about 20 weeks overdue.

The catalyst for today’s note was an interview with Michael Raynor in Inc. magazine. The interview focused on Raynor’s claim that it might very well be possible to predict which innovations might be “disruptive” and thus deliciously valuable. While I am very interested in the subject of innovation, what caught my attention here was his comment on the frequently referenced adage of innovation, to “fail fast.”

Raynor retorted that it was instead much more important to learn fast, to ask the question, “what are we trying to learn here?”

This resonated with me because earlier this week I had sat with a couple of colleagues in a session updating our thinking on how to find more success in this economy which seem uniquely unfriendly to our core practice. There was the natural step of looking to the list of those with whom we’d done business in the recent past. In reviewing the list, several waves of dread washed over me. This was a list that had no relevant information as part of it, only contact names and numbers, and most of these were woefully out of date. Then, I realized that, if making tracks in new territory was of interest to us, almost nobody on this list represented people or organizations who were interested in or capable of catalyzing innovative action. That critical observation, however, brought the realization that my assumption was not valid because we had not had recent conversations with any of these entities.

The entire effort was a “fail” in the sense that we had not developed and sustained a disciplined practice of “learning.” We had not engaged our friends from the past in a continuing conversation about what concerned or interested them, and we had not taken to them the learnings and thinking we’d been doing in our own context that might have relevance to them in their own context.

I challenged my partners on the concept of the adequacy of our CRM system. What really matters, however, is the importance of respecting and appreciating every contact we’ve had, and being generous with valuable information for them that could keep the trust high and the conversation open and robust.

It is time, now with summer past, to get out and restart those conversations…to learn fast!

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