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A Culture of Learning

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  That makes a lot of sense, you know, you are faced with a challenge, and you have a choice: you can give up and succumb to the “facts,” or you can challenge conventional wisdom and create a solution.  Which type are you?  And if you are building a team, which type of person do you want on your team?  I cannot imagine anyone seriously answering that question with the person who succumbs to the status quo.  But do you think we practice what we preach?  I dare to say that the answer to the question is a “no-brainer” but when it comes down to brass tacks, do we encourage people to actually innovate and be creative?  Or do we put them into a system of rules and processes that stifle creativity?  And are you really an innovator, or is that someone you used to be?

I do not think there is any one thing you can do to create a business “culture of learning.” Instead, I think it is an attitude that permeates virtually all aspects of daily work life.  Of course, you need to hire people who are curious.  But that is only a part of the equation.  Far more important is to ensure that innovation and opportunities to speak up are not relegated to the water cooler. Does everyone who works at your business know its history?  Does leadership tell stories of how they overcame challenges to get where they are?

Do you use language that communicates receptiveness to new ideas?  For instance, in a meeting do you hear phrases like “what are me missing?” or “how could we do this differently?” Encouraging these discussions is a great way to foster an innovative culture.  A recent article from McKinsey & Company brings that point home very clearly: “the real difference between an effective vision that drives the business and one that flounders is often leadership—more specifically, leaders who are able to see past their own agendas or biases, and communicate a clear, compelling “why this, why now” to all stakeholders. These leaders need to be great role models, because without role modeling and inspirational leadership, people across the organization will not change their behaviors to support the vision. People need to see senior leaders “walk the talk.” Otherwise, their words lose credibility, and their ability to inspire, influence, and transform is restricted.”

If you want your business to be innovative, you must allow the people who work in your business to be innovative.  But more than that, they need to be active learners.  The body of knowledge is ever increasing, even in O&P!  New technologies may challenge the patient care paradigm.  What impact might that have on your practice management?  Who in your company is thinking about that?  Or better yet, who is not?  What can you do today to help you be ready for the changes that will come tomorrow?

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