Building Community Through Better Relationships

Only Test Me On What I Know!

A bright, but arrogant student loudly complained about the senselessness of studying in the new course. After all, the student had easily scored an “A” in the prerequisite. Consequently, the foundational review at the beginning of the new class bored him. The rants continued as the student ridiculed the basic topics’ simplicity, as well as the instructor and the other students. “Only test me on what I know”, the student cried. Fortunately, the instructor maintained order and focus during the course. Eventually, the class progressed beyond the foundation and found common ground in the later complexities. In fact, some students took mean-spirited delight in belittling the arrogant student when he stumbled with the more complicated material.

Whether teaching adult learners in college classrooms, or seasoned professionals in seminars, many students focus their discussion toward past accomplishments and away from new material. When learners struggle to grow, because small-minded, influential members disrupt education for their individual ego satisfaction, then the whole organization suffers. Ultimately, it is up to the leader to choke efforts to limit learning and nurture a community that is fertile for growth, improvement, and stretching beyond the established knowledge base. Here are three reasons to value better learning.

New Knowledge Results in Growth
Inside an organization or a classroom, knowledge is the foundation of value. Whether the focus is innovative new products for competitive advantages, best practices in quality improvement, or knowledge expansion to elevate individual thinking, new information must be acquired and applied on behalf of the group and individual. Optimally, group learning is the most powerful because it allows multiple ideas to circulate and build upon each other. The Know-it-All who seeks to control the pace or voice of instruction only serves himself. Again, leadership must intercede from the lectern, or a position of authority, to keep new ideas exchanging for all parties’ benefit.

Collaborative Growth Exceeds the Individual
Growth through learning is not singular; it is collaborative. To apply an athletic example, the fastest sprinter cannot outrun a relay team. Even factoring the relative inefficiency of handing off the baton, the collaborative effort is superior. Likewise, professionals and experts across academic disciplines come together to jointly solve complex problems. In short, a successful learning environment requires bringing ideas and perspectives together so that the best solution emerges. Not the loudest solution, but the best solution must emerge.

Growth Results from Overcoming Challenges
A student who dominates a lesson because she arrived with more information is bad for organizational and individual growth. From an organizational perspective, a competitor with more information and a learning culture will eventually emerge and defeat the contribution of the environment controlled by a limited and selfish ego. To elevate above the ceiling imposed by a loud and insecure individual, each participant must be willing and able to contribute to the learning experience. Even “simple questions” often reveal nuances or faulty assumptions that result in knowledge-based breakthroughs. Furthermore, the learning community must be positioned to accept input, encourage discussion, and accept healthy conflict. This convergence of thought ultimately targets the best solution, not the validation of a rogue ego.

The individual who only wants to be tested on what he knows is a detriment to the health of any organization or learning community. That participant only wants to validate a fragile ego, not the growth of the learning community. Ironically, the acceptance of errors and faulty assumptions must be tolerated and encouraged. The process required for developing knowledge leads to real success. Otherwise, try convening a class room of huge egos interested in being tested on what they already know. Then, watch them reminisce on their brilliance as they proceed straight to obsolescence!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond


March 11, 2014 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , | Leave a comment