More Learning from an Elementary School

Learning without fear of consequences is what lean thinkers expect from their environment.  At a traditional workplace, this does not happen a majority of the time.

When I spent time with my kids at their elementary school this was the foundation of how the school operated.  The school provided a very large learning zone.  The learning zone is the amount of room or flexibility a person has to try new things and learn without the fear of repercussions.  The larger the learning zone the more a person can stretch their ideas and try new things.


What impressed me about the school wasn’t the the learning zone for the academic part of learning but the size of the learning zone that is given for the behavioral aspects.  The librarian stuck out in my mind the most.  During the kids’ time in the library, she would gently correct the child if they weren’t following the rules.  At the end of their time in the library, the kids would line up and the librarian would then go through an exercise of evaluating their behavior.  She would give the kids a scale of 1 -5 and explain what each number meant for effort.  Then one-by-one she would ask each child to rate themselves.  The honestly that came from the kids was incredible.  Some saying they honestly gave a low effort  and rating themselves at a 1 or 2.

The librarian never criticized them.  She just asked if they would give a better effort next time and the kids always said yes.  She tracked the number the kids gave in a book to compare to each time to look for a pattern or trend.

The kids felt completely safe to be honest and by asking if they would give a better effort next time helped the kids become accountable for their behavior.

This does not mean they can do whatever they want.  This would be an infinite sized learning zone.  But the learning zone she provided was large enough for the kids to explore their own behavior during their time with her in the library.

When do we lose that learning zone?  When do we switch from learning being the most important to execution being the most important and forget all about learning?  How can we create safe learning zones at work as we ask people to change behaviors of a lean leader?


Posted on May 31, 2012, in Culture, Learning, Misc, People, Respect for People and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks Matt — plus when I’m learning at work, I think the associated excitement snowballs into better output. Should we line up when leaving work and rate ourselves the same way — food-for-thought.

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