Weaving Learning with Performance for Transformation

Change is happening faster than we can keep up with it. Covid19 has upended the world. Racial unrest, economic dislocation, more remote work, revised forms of social gathering, and unsettled and unsettling politics are all extant. Life in organizations confronts us with not knowing, or knowing for a context that no longer applies or will not for long. At the same time, admitting to not knowing is unwelcome by leaders and organization members and often by consultants even though confessing to ignorance is where learning and new knowing begins. Yet, rather than finding new solutions and risking failure, many of us apply what we once learned, paradoxically proving our ignorance.

Given the need for learning at the ever-increasing speed of change, organizations may intentionally attempt to integrate performance and learning, eg through action-learning. However, participants first need to distinguish between learning and performance to engage these processes well. I became aware of this difference first-hand during the International Gestalt Organization and Leadership Development (iGOLD) certificate program (www.gestaltod.com). In the second of five modules, participants worked with organizational clients. We had the chance to make a positive difference while learning about Gestalt consulting processes and concepts. The session that introduced the client work included a continuum from learning to performance.  We were invited to notice where on the continuum we typically located ourselves, where we were at that moment, and what the implications of that location might be. I naively thought that I was on the learning end. I learned viscerally about the difference between learning and performance, and the relationship between the two.


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