Weeknotes #5

A big theme for me this last week has been learning. If you’ve seen Sport Wales’ new strategy, our pledge is  to ‘learn together, deliver together’. As part of this, we’re exploring what a ‘learning organisation’ looks like. There are multiple definitions and typologies of a learning organisation. Peter Senge popularised the concept through his book, The Fifth Discipline. In it, he proposed five characteristics of a learning organisation:

  1. Systems thinking (collaborative learning culture).
  2. Personal mastery (lifelong learning mindset). The commitment by an individual to the process of learning.
  3. Mental modes (room for innovation). Assumptions and generalisations held by individuals and organisations.
  4. Shared vision (forward-thinking leadership). This provides focus and energy for learning.
  5. Team learning (knowledge sharing). The benefit of team or shared learning is that people will grow more quickly.

I like this.

A learning organisation is continually involved in an iterative process of planning, doing, reviewing and reflecting. And the thing that knits it all together, the thing that enables meaningful learning to occur is culture. If learning is the norm, then people will just do it.

Although culture is intangible, Rob Abercrombie and colleagues, in their publication, Systems Change: a guide to what it is and how to do it, suggest that there are a few concrete things that can be done to create a learning culture, above all demonstrating that the generation and application of knowledge is valued:

  • Encourage the generation of ideas, experimentation and problem-solving at all levels of the organisation;
  • Insist on time and space for individuals and teams to reflect on what they are learning and how they need to adapt;
  • Be open to the external world and learn from what others are doing, whether they are peers, experts, or academics; and
  • Adapt your approach in response to what is learnt, both little and often, and through major re-alignments where called for.

Embedding learning was a topic of discussion at the Art of the Possible team 100th Day Meeting. If you haven’t heard of a 100th Day Meeting they are aimed at anyone new to the organisation, or has moved or been promoted to a new role within the organisation with the intention of reflecting, with a clear-eyed perspective, what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are for the organisation. For our purpose, as a team that was seconded from various public and third sector organisations to work on the Art of the Possible, our 100th Day Meeting was more a space for reflection and joint coaching around transitioning back into our own organisations and how we’re sharing our knowledge and understanding to help our organisations further embed the Well-being of Future Generations Act. Within this, we explored embodying learning – being it, seeing it.

If you have any experiences of what a learning organisation means to you, how your organisation has embedded learning, and importantly, the tangible benefits of doing so, I’d love to hear them.

A big shout out to my Art of the Possible team mates – Elen, Ceri-Anne, Alison, Steve, Beth, Helen and Carys – who are, and continue to be an important part of my learning journey! And to Diana Reynolds from Welsh Government for facilitating our reflection sessions and to the wonderful Julie and Christian for their positivity and inclusiveness.

I have to also mention the Homeless World Cup… The 17th Homeless World Cup took place in Bute Park in Cardiff with more than 500 players representing over 50 countries for a week-long festival of football. We went as a family for the opening of the event and it was amazing. A wonderful atmosphere, full of such inspirational people. It had everything – camaraderie, community, competition, compassion, respect, friendship, fun, support, sport, emotion.

A female player from Holland gave our 4-year-old daughter her whistle. Two male Egyptian players offered their hoodies and one offered his baseball cap to her when it started to rain. They said that they wanted to make sure she was ok. She was. She was happily singing whilst watching the football! Many players, all from different countries, waved and high-fived our children. These are people who have experienced such adversity and were so, so generous in their behaviour and actions. This really touched me. This sort of thing absolutely typified the Homeless World Cup.

We often talk about the wider benefits of sport. This was never more obvious and apparent than at the Homeless World Cup. The power of sport in bringing people together, giving hope, respect, purpose, friendship. I’d recommend reading Laura McAllister’s article in the Wales Online about unleashing sport’s real power for good. Sport is a wonderful tool that can help with many of our public policy challenges. Laura argues, however, that “sport’s impact being under-utilised and will continue to be as long as it lacks proper support from all agencies, aligned with better investment.” This is certainly true. I am hopeful that with the implementation Sport Wales’ new strategy supported by the Well-being of Future Generations Act that we will see a notable and positive shift in the right direction.

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Things I have learnt and/or reaffirmed this week:

How amazing sport is and all that it can do (this is definitely in the reaffirming space!)

What am I committing to do:

Asking more open questions

Podcasts that I have listened to:

More or Less: behind statistics. The things we fail to see

More or Less: behind statistics. The economic impact of mega sporting events

More or Less: behind statistics. Two World Cups – football and cricket

More or Less: behind statistics. Missing women from drug trials

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane. Rabbits, Hermits and Round Red Cheeses with Jacqueline Gold

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane. Live Show at the Hay Festival

Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. Treedistribution: shrubtastic reasons to plant

Akimbo. A podcast from Seth Godin. The new modernity

Profile. Megan Rapinoe

Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. The Secret to a Long and Happy Life, with Dan Buettner

Useful resources:

Academi Wales have produced a really nice suite of learning guides – quick tips. Topics include:

How can we lead successful strategic interventions at a local level?

How can we break the ice?

How can co-production contribute to good governance?

How can I facilitate better?

How can we work effectively as a Board?

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