Learning From Experience

There are many executives who are exposed to positive organizational scholarship (POS).  They get excited for several reasons.  One is the field provides language for things they already learned to do.  Recently a senior executive reflected on some of the elements of Positive Leadership, including entering a higher state of personal performance and learning from experience.
First he speaks about a condition similar to what we call the fundamental state of leadership.  He observes it is not a permanent state.  We have to lift ourselves into it over and over: “I have entered the highest level optimized state several times in my life.  Each time, the result was extraordinary.  Each time, it took a team flowing in the same direction.  It is hard to stay in this optimized state.  Even while in it, it is hard not to experience a bit of a paradox–achieving extraordinary results in one aspect of life, but sliding backward on presence or other factors in other aspects of life.  The depth that comes from experiencing it is remarkable.”
The word experience is important to him.  He has always been a believer in learning from experience: “I often invited other decision makers into meetings so that they could experience the impact of a conversation directly.  This led to action and congruence.  When I heard the old saying, ‘Hear and forget. See and remember. Experience and understand,’ it made perfect sense to me.  When I was young, I heard the statement, ‘Listen to the person on the shop floor.  They know more than you think.’  I always embraced this thought. It served me well and, by intuition, turned into practical principles such as the ones we find in POS.  We now have a vocabulary in POS to describe the extraordinary things that come from this kind of learning.”

  • What have you learned from your most extraordinary experiences?
  • Why is high performance a dynamic state rather that a permanent state?
  • What are the implications of the words, “experience and understand?”
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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