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No time for Learning

Article posted 15th Aug 2017Engagement News

In a world where our perceived value can be largely driven by our visibility in the office, the number of hours we are working, or from the number of meetings we attend, is it any wonder that productivity is suffering? The frustration for many employees is that activities in the workplace are taking them away from actually getting things done. Attending meetings can be very useful, when well-planned and organised with a definitive outcome - but how often do you get to attend meetings such as these?

Often, the biggest frustration is getting time to think and reflect. Innovation and creativity is not generated from doing the same things day after day - but, when are we supposed to get time to think whilst being so busy delivering the same things every day or having to attend a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting? In some workplaces, anyone seen breaking from the usual routine to undertake activities such as researching or reading at work might be mistaken for slacking, with raised eyebrows from passers-by indicating ‘you’ve got time to do that?’.

It is our ability to be creative and innovative, that allows us to solve the hugely varied challenges in the workplace. But if we never get the chance to stop and think, when are we going to come up with these wonderful ideas that could be potential game changers in making organisations successful?  In a recent Forbes article, Simon Casuto explains how “potato chips, Post-It Notes, pacemakers, penicillin and Silly Putty” were all created out of mistakes – the inventors trying to create something completely different. In each case, the inventor had thought they had failed with their original product. 

Mistakes or failures are very often penalised as we are encouraged to ‘get it right first time’. In this environment, the risk is that we create risk-averse colleagues, who are fearful of trying anything new – after all, who wants to be the one who got it wrong first time? Yet mistakes and failures when reflected upon, could be the foundations for potential game-changers such as penicillin. Henry Stewart in his blog ‘8 Companies that celebrate failures’ shares examples of leaders across organisations that celebrate failures knowing the critical value this will add to their organisation. Stewart explains how we need people to make mistakes ‘because people recognise that this is how we learn and discover new ways of doing things’².

Many colleagues will say that they have no time for reflecting, to take learnings from their work. I’m not talking about formal classroom learning, but learning from the failures, from the mistakes and from the unintended consequences of change. How do you sit and learn from events or mistakes? What are you supposed to be doing to ensure this is successful? This is not an easy concept to undertake. Recognising this, we have created Reflective Journals, to support colleagues with a structured approach to taking time to think, allowing for learning from mistakes, failures or every day events. These journals are part of our ‘In Good Company’ Leadership & Management development programme, aimed at creating more engaging leaders.

Learning has always been an on-going process – we are learning all the time. The challenge for employees in the middle of running to meetings, completing deadlines, and staying on top of their emails, is whether they are cognisant of the learning going on around them – good or bad, and how to apply this learning to future events. ‘In Good Company’ – a ten-part TV series following the journey of four characters in an office, has been created to develop more engaging Leaders and Managers. Leaders and Managers who learn from everyday events, help create cultures where celebrating mistakes and failures, is seen as a critical process to creating ground-breaking and innovative products or services, resulting in more successful organisations. 

To find out more about our new ‘In Good Company’ leadership and management development programme, please visit or watch the video below.


Posted by Amrit Sandhar

Amrit Sandhar is the founder of The Engagement Coach. He has an Advanced Certificate in Leadership and Executive Coaching with the Bristol Business School and an ILM Level 7 in Executive Coaching & Leadership Mentoring. He is a Walmart Accredited AIM Change trainer, a Birkman Assessment accredited consultant, NLP Master Practitioner and has a CIPD Advanced Level Diploma in HRM/HRD.