Learning: the key to continuous improvement – Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From MIT SMR Custom

Certain companies continually deliver more value to the market. They do so with greater speed and ease than their rivals, even when they lack the classic elements of strategic advantage: locked-in customers, dependent suppliers and barriers that keep competitors at bay. Absent such structural advantages, you would expect parity. There are, however, still those companies that regularly outscore the competition. Toyota, Intel, and Apple are among them, as are many lesser known but no less disproportionally successful ventures.

The source of uneven outcomes on otherwise level playing fields? Learning, at which the very best organizations excel. They are far faster and better at discovering what to do and how to do it, as well as at refreshing the set of problems to be solved and solutions to be delivered faster than the ecosystem can render their relevance obsolete.

For sure, learning is not simply training. Training involves accepted skills with an accepted application, and then using an accepted approach to deliver those skills to the organization. Learning, on the other hand, involves converting ignorance and a lack of capacity into knowledge, new skills and understanding. It requires recognizing what you do not know and finding new approaches to solve new problems. This, in turn, requires critical thinking and a willingness to challenge accepted practices, even when those practices are perceived as successful.

Challenge—even respectful challenge—is not a natural act. When something has worked well, complacency and inertia accumulate and interests get vested in sustaining what is familiar, even if it is not optimal. Challenging historical approaches goes along with challenging the emotions, status and prestige associated with those approaches. That is not typically welcome.

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Ready to win: What police, companies and the rest of us can learn from the Patriots — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From The Conversation

More than a week after becoming football legend, the Super Bowl’s last-minute interception continues to prompt second guessing: did Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll make a bad call when he ordered Russell Wilson throw the ball? Did the quarterback pass poorly?

Or are we focusing on the wrong things altogether?

First, let’s look at the now (in)famous play.

Running the ball, like many Monday-morning quarterbacks have advocated, would have resulted in a massive pileup at the line, and the receiver Wilson spotted in the end zone didn’t appear well covered.

That is until Patriots defender Malcolm Butler emerged as if out of nowhere for the game-saving and Super Bowl-winning interception.

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