In most organisations, nearly everyone is doing a second job that no-one is paying them for – namely, covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people's impressions of them. There is no greater waste of a company's resources.' Kegan and Lahey.
Next Jump is a pioneer of workplace culture; an organisation which has made it their mission to change the way businesses are run by advising and providing training on company culture, based around experiential learning and honest feedback. In the book 'An Everyone Culture', Harvard Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey identified Next Jump as one of three DDOs (Deliberately Developmental Organisations) – companies that have taken a conscious decision to put culture front and centre of their strategy and focus on the development and growth of their people.
The Next Jump breakfast series started running about a year ago, as a confidential space for organisations who attended Next Jump's Leadership Academy to present back their findings, after having implemented NJ's teachings in their own organisation.
As a business for which culture has always been at the centre of strategy, La Fosse was delighted to be invited to one of these breakfast meets. Here is what we learnt.
The power of active learning
Since the twentieth century, we have shifted from a society where many roles were structured around manufacturing, to a society where the majority of roles are structured around information, explained Tarun Gidoomal and Kevin McCoy, co-MDs of Next Jump in the UK. Whilst previously the majority of learning was classroom-based, now we have the need for much greater levels of higher quality education, particularly 'active' or 'experiential' learning, which enhances the faculties of judgement and decision-making – qualities of good leaders. "Even reading a case study depends too much on the benefit of hindsight," explained Tarun. Real, effective learning, can only come through experience: do something, get feedback, reflect on it, then do it better next time.
Don't hide from your mistakes
High performing teams discuss their mistakes and share their feedback openly. If your manager teaches you a lesson individually, you gain from it. But this is a one-off event: if you expose the learning to the rest of the group, everybody benefits: you have made the educational model scalable.
This was the thinking behind the Culture Breakfast: the presenting organisations were open about their mistakes as well as their successes. However, the atmosphere wasn't one of pressure to have done well. Rather, it's an acceptance that everyone makes mistakes, and being open and honest about those will make you more resilient and over time builds trust in a team or company.
Teams need to shift from a performance mindset to a learning mindset, whereby mistakes are genuinely opportunities for growth. Tarun cited 'it's not about the perfect plan, but the perfect adjustment.'
Is Radical Candour the new frontier?
One of the key tenets which Next Jump build their culture around is feedback. High-performing teams crave feedback, and managers who themselves have engaged in consistent feedback infrastructure have been proven to be better leaders. Next Jump are heavily influenced by Kim Scott (former Google and Apple Exec) and her TEDTalk, 'Radical Candor: The Surprising Secret to being a Good Boss.' In the talk, Kim explains that the kindest thing you can do is to give others honest, kind feedback (she cites when her former boss Sheryl Sandberg advised she see a speech therapist to stop her 'um'-ing her way through pitches.)
Accordingly, Next Jump put these ideas in action at the Culture Breakfast. Participants were asked to download the 'Feedback App,' and anonymously rate speakers on a scale of 1-4, along with leaving anonymous comments. In addition to this, each speaker was assessed verbally by a judging panel. Next Jump have used this model internally for several years, and now help their clients adopt a similar structure in their organisations. They apparently – and amusingly - copied the model from X Factor.
Whilst this may sound intimidating, it was striking how supportive yet constructive the tone and quality of the comments were. Next Jump's three rules for offering feedback are 'be honest, be kind, be specific', and the judges comments reflected this attitude perfectly: when offering criticism, they often drew on a mistake or experience they had made in the past. Meanwhile, it was impressive how naturally the audience fulfilled the three requirements: comments on the app included 'Good bias to action and honesty. I'd have liked to see more analysis to inform the insights, there seemed to be quite a few assumptions being made...Well done for trying and for retaining the motivation to try again.' All contributed to foster an atmosphere of openness rather than scrutiny.
Whilst downloading the app was part of the event's novelty, Kevin highlighted that it was the theory's icing rather than its cake, emphasising that "the technology doesn't work without the ritual." A culture of feedback is something you have to keep practicing, and which may take a few tries to get right.
An organisation's role and responsibility to its people has evolved considerably from when Keegan and Lahey originally published their book: people expect organisations to be invested in and take responsibility for their development. What's more, several organisations – of which La Fosse is proud to be one – are proving that investing in people development is the most effective way to grow a high-growth business.
If you'd like to learn more about La Fosse's Learning and Development culture, please email Lily Senior or call on 020 7932 2083, or, if you'd like to learn about how La Fosse can advise on your Learning and Development Strategy, speak to Andrew Richardson via email, or call on 02079321648.