March 2020

Learning Leaders | Briljent’s NNIs

By Angela Nichols

You live, you learn; you love, you learn;

You cry, you learn; you lose, you learn;

You bleed, you learn; you scream, you learn.

— Alanis Morissette, You Learn

I relate strongly to Alanis’ lyrics in this song. Life is a learning process and every experience we have is an opportunity to either retreat or to grow. At Briljent, we choose to grow. We take on opportunities that are a little outside our reach. We tackle problems our customers haven’t been able to solve on their own. We stretch ourselves in ways that, at times, are uncomfortable; maybe even a little painful. But the discomfort is the fertile ground on which growth occurs. We are learning new things every step of the way.

In yoga, we have a concept called Beginner’s Mind. It is the practice of coming to a pose as though you’ve never done it before, even if you’ve done it 1,000 times. The idea is to let each experience of a pose teach you something new; something you didn’t notice before, a more effective alignment, a calmer space, a balance between effort and ease, or how you “talk” to yourself. It requires approaching the pose with an open mind and an open heart and being willing to begin again, each and every time. It requires dropping our preconceived notions of whether we like it or hate it, whether we’re any good at it, and even what “good” looks like.

The reason for this practice is that it keeps us in learning mode, present in the moment and open to the experience. It puts us in a mental space where learning can occur. Often, when we go through the mechanics of our day, we switch into mental autopilot. It’s a protective mechanism of our brain to preserve mental energy. While this serves a purpose, it can lead to moving through your life without much thought and without noticing what is happening around you. Have you ever had the experience of driving somewhere in your car and having no recollection of the ride? That’s mental autopilot in action.

Briljent team members begin again every day. For instance, we currently have a client that struggles to provide systems training to their new hires because they do not have any training systems where employees can practice. They had developed some very complex simulations in Captivate with some additional XML programming. These simulations have to be updated all the time as the system is maintained and enhanced, and it is very difficult to edit them in the current format. The client asked us if we could update the simulations and also help them find a better way to address their problem. Instructional designer, Kurt Thompson, stepped outside the traditional e-development tool set and came up with a way to quickly produce a software simulation using Adobe XD, a software prototyping tool. He had to look at the problem, not as an instructional designer, but as a programmer. The client loved the end result so much that they are throwing out the Captivate modules and having us convert all their simulations into Adobe XD. That’s a Learning Leader at work!

As Learning Leaders, it is important that we are present in the moment, noticing what is happening and dropping any assumptions we may have based on past experiences or our personal biases. (We all have them!) We need to be willing to take some calculated risks when trying new things and learn to “fail fast” so we can adjust our approach based on the new knowledge we have acquired. Failure is your friend because it teaches you what doesn’t work and leads you to what does.

Being a Learning Leader means that you are comfortable being uncomfortable, have an insatiable curiosity, and possess a passion for acquiring new skills and abilities. The opportunity to try something new excites and energizes you, even when it also feels a little scary. And the feeling of success—solving the big hairy problem, learning the new tool, or rocking that arm balance for the first time—is better than __________ (You fill in the blank!)

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