Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Peter Principle Evolved

I was reading an excellent article entitled "What Thomas L. Friedman Didn’t Report About Getting Hired by Google" by Gary Burnison, CEO at Korn/Ferry International. In this post he discusses the changed nature of the Peter Principle and the concept of something he calls "learning agility".

"The Peter Principle, which asserts that employees will continue to get promoted until they reach their highest level of incompetence, has evolved. Today employees don’t need to get promoted to become incompetent. They will become incompetent in their current jobs if they don’t grow, adapt, and evolve."

"The net-net is that most successful executives are able to move out of their comfort zone, take risks, learn from mistakes, and begin anew as they encounter new assignments. The successful leaders continually learn, bend, and flex as their work world changed. In other words, they were learning agile."
 - Gary Burnison, Chief Executive Officer at Korn/Ferry International

He found learning agility to be the #1 predictor of success. This makes a lot of sense. When we live in a world where a single tweet from an unverified source can be the catalyst of company skyrocketing on the NASDAQ or falling to be on the verge of bankruptcy adaptability will be the skill most sought after.

Gary's definition of the term "learning agility" includes self awareness and overall mental agility. Working with a mentor very often at a minimum leads to greater self awareness. A great mentor will challenge your established thoughts with targeted questions and personal stories. I've found working with my mentors that I was able to expand my problem solving approaches by learning their ways of framing a problem and arriving at a solution. I was also able to learn from their mistakes and more importantly decide whether their mistake would actually be the opposite - an answer - for me in my own situation. The ultimate achievement is to learn how to continually learn. Because I find continually learning - building a constant feedback loop - is the key to adaptability.

Learning agility is more than thinking out of the box. It's about not having a box in the first place. A mentor will help you make those boxes disappear. This is probably why a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that 75% of executives attribute their success in part to having a mentor.

Good luck on your journey! I hope you find boxes disappearing and being replaced with green fields fertile with answers to your challenges.