Rocks and Sponges – Teachability and the desire to learn
According to one expert, people are either Rocks or Sponges when it comes to learning.
The most powerful thing that leaders can do to help Knowledge Management succeed is to drive that desire to learn as part of the corporate culture. If the drive to learn is there, the drive to share will follow. The desire to learn makes Knowledge into a valuable commodity, and where a commodity has value, a market inevitably arises.
But how do you instil a “desire to learn”?
Sir Clive Woodward, the sport coach and Elite Performance speaker, calls it “Teachability” – another word for a “Learner Mindset“. He says
“To have a great team you need great individuals, but you also have to have Teachability … In business or in sport you are a sponge or a rock. A sponge has a hunger for learning and taking on new knowledge … building a team full of sponges will lead to an exciting and vibrant environment where new ideas flourish and the norm is challenged”.
You cannot teach someone something if they think they know it already, and you can’t share knowledge with someone who doesn’t want to know. They are like a Rock – the knowledge just bounces off. The sponge however is thirsty for knowledge and will soak up all they can find.
We talk so much about developing a “culture of sharing”, but that will achieve nothing without a “culture of learning”, and without turning people from rocks into sponges. It is only sponges that turn into high performing teams. Having just one rock on your team is enough to vastly reduce your chances of winning.
Turning people from rocks into sponges.
When Sir Clive took over the England Rugby team, he was faced with the challenge to turn a group of rocks into sponges. He did three things;
- He built the desire to be the best
- He showed people, through data and statistics, how far from The Best they were, and
- He bought laptops for the whole team, so they could study and learn about themselves and their opponents.